"My own preferred idea of identity rests heavily on George Orwell's observation that above all we are a gentle people. I fear that this land of revolver-free policeman, polite bus conductors, and those old maids on their bicycles, made famous by John Major, as they peddled through the early mornign mists to Holy Communion, was only part of the picture even when Orwell drew it.
"He also noted our bad teeth, British grime, intemperate boozing and foul language. One of Aden'a last British governors, Sir Richard Turnbull, mourning the end of the British Empire, told Denis Healey that when it finally sunk beneath the waves of history, it would leave behind it two monuments: one was the game of Association Football, the other was the expression 'Fuck off'."
What I wrote at Lib Dem Voice
October 22, 2005
Of soccer and swearing
Chris Patten muses on the British national identity in his excellent tome, Not Quite the Diplomat: