One of the things we discussed was Bill Bryson's version of Englishness.
Marmite, village fetes, country lanes, people saying ’musn’t grumble’ and ‘I’m terribly sorry but’, people apologising to me when I conk them with a careless elbow, milk in bottles, beans on toast, haymaking in June, stinging nettles, seaside piers, Ordnance Survey maps, crumpets, hot-water bottles as a necessity, drizzly Sundays….What other nation in the world could have given us William Shakespeare, pork pies, Christopher Wren, Windsor Great Park, the Open University, Gardeners’ Question Time’ and the chocolate digestive biscuit? (Bryson 1996, p.351)
What do you think? I like most of the things listed here and eat/do/visit/listen to most of them, but I also think it's a very middle-to-upper class imaginary England, rooted in a past that never was: virtually nobody lives in villages for a start. It excludes so much: popular music (and most other music), curries, urban excitement, invading everyone, doing whatever America tells you, moaning about the railways and so on.
So let's hear from you, English, British or Other: what do you think of when asked to enunciate Englishness? My students' responses included queuing, pessimism, fish and chips (an East End merger between Irish and Jewish cooking), Sunday lunch and many more.
I had the great joy of introducing them to Radio 4, of which they'd never heard, and trying to define a crumpet to a Chinese student. It wasn't listed in her electronic translator! Best of all was playing them the theme tune and a couple of minutes of The Archers. Bliss!