On being British...

Since the Jubilee & now the Olympic opening celebrations, I've been musing on what it is to be British. We're a funny lot. The English, in particular, have real difficulty in expressing pride in our country...we cover it up with jokes & grumbles about the weather and our general uselessness. It just doesn't seem to come naturally to us, the desire to celebrate our heritage or our present and future wonderfulness. Hopefully, this year, we are learning a little!

My Dad was an immigrant in the 1950's....born in the vast, hot, colourful continent of Africa, to South African parents, he came to the cold, dull greyness of post-war England at it's worst. And fell in love. In common with most who have chosen a life here, rather than been born to it, he is so proud of his adopted country and sees all the wonderful things about it. He's fiercely patriotic (and now naturalised to prove it!)

I've always loved the speech that Hugh Grant (as Prime Minister) gives in the press conference with the US president in 'Love Actually'...it brings a lump to my throat because it cuts to the heart of the achievements & attributes of this great nation. And there are many!
Tea, for instance. Nobody does it better than us. And if it's served in a 'Berylware' teacup like this one, then so much the better!

Cider - real, unfizzy, refreshing, hand-pressed Somerset cider. This is the pear version ( Perry) Gorgeous! 
Marmite....love it or hate it, there's no inbetween. I love it - and this quirky celebration packaging is just so....US!!
Beaches. We have sandy ones too, of course. But my particular love is for the shingled 'difficult' ones, surrounded by high cliffs (if those cliffs are white then so much the better!) The sea should be grey & slightly angry for total authenticity...

with rockpools. Full of tiny crabs, periwinkle shells, limpets and fringed with seaweed. To be waded in with wellington boots by small children with wind whipped legs on holiday...

Beautiful bays...surrounded by sea, as this small island is, there are plenty of these...

Green....green everywhere. Verdant fields, jewelled hedges.....the thing I don't realise that I miss when I'm abroad until it hits me again with it's gorgeousness on my return. So much green....
Churches...to me, nothing is more beautiful than our ancient places of worship....from the huge cathedrals & minsters to the smallest country chapel....

Country houses...especially Georgian ones. Beautiful beautiful beautiful....
Our woods and ancient trees.in every season, but particularly in their Autumn glory....

Swans...all belonging to Her Majesty...just that fact makes them so, so British!

National celebrations...particularly Royal ones. No one, in my opinion, betters us in the Pomp & Circumstance stakes!

Our comedy...quirky, often vulgar & quite unique...from the Carry On movies, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers & Steptoe through to Blackadder, The Office & Gavin and Stacey...it may not be for everyone, but it's uniquely & unmistakeably OURS
Wild things - beautiful fragile orchids, hedgehogs, foxes, badgers, red kites & red breasted robins...buttercups, daffodils, jenny wrens & wood-pigeons....

& brave little butterflies, so often battered by the wind and rain...

So, these are some things that are very British...but I still haven't really explained what it feels like....perhaps it's too difficult to define...or perhaps it was summed up neatly by our brave, quirky, eclectic, eccentric brilliant Olympic Opening Ceremony?
It's Chariots of Fire, David Beckham's smile, Mary Poppins, cricket on the green, The Beatles, poor Amy Winehouse, James Bond, Tom Daley, green fields, grey smokestacks, rain, Sir Steve Redgrave & our beloved Queen....actually acting!
Whatever it is....I'm prouder than ever to be English right now.

A huge welcome to new followers of my blog....and the faithful older ones! I hope my recent posting problems are now resolved...I've missed you so much! Look out for a giveaway very soon to celebrate my return!
Happy Tuesday xoxo


  1. Every time I read one of your tributes to England I want to be there and see every inch, so maybe that's something to be proud of. Of course I really loved the church bells video and also the rocky beach with an almost invisible Alice. I like your dad's view of the nation, but don't think it's about England--it's about him and his spirit and ability to see the wonder in someplace new and different. But how can every swan in the nation belong to the Queen? Are there no raggle-taggle independent, non-partisan birdies in a distant pond somewhere? Do they fly? Maybe an expat like your dad, in the country to fall in love with the swan of his dreams. ♥

  2. Lovely post Ray - so happy you're back up:)

  3. Oh Rachel.....!!!!!
    This was such a wonderful post!!
    I can't wait to see England for the first time...and you and Paul and Alice too, of course!
    We are planning on next year. Hope, hope hope...
    You have really put a bee in my bonnet now (doesn't that sound English?). I MUST go!
    Lots of love (I've thought of you quite a bit lately),

  4. We are visiting England the summer of 2014 and cannot wait. One thing my daughters would say you left off the list would be Doctor Who! They are crazy for all things Who!

  5. Heaven Ray . . . thank you, you say it so beautifully! xoxo

  6. I clicked over here from Susan Branch's blog and what a beautiful sight! Love your video with the church bells ringing.

  7. Susan Branch has made me a new follower of YOUR blog. Thank you Susan.

  8. Love ♥ Love ♥ Love this post!! I'm here from Susan's blog, but just yesterday I tried to do a little research on British Lifestyle and such. I do hope to visit one day, but until then I'll enjoy the sweetness that you share!

    Have a great day!♥

    PS....I even tried to watch a few British Soap Opera's on line but they were restricted to British only...Poo!! ;-(

  9. I loved England first, but I knew England first. I now love Rachel, lots! This is beautiful, apt, lovely. PS-I think you'd like my laundry room. The walls are wallpapered--pale yellow with white polka-dots! And I made valances out of bright floral polished cotton. Then there are watercolors of flower markets. And one of a laundry line hung with Hawaiian shirts... I've missed you. Glad you're back! xx

  10. Wonderful post about your heritage. I think, on this side of the ocean, we can be envious of so much in your country, that it was interesting to see how unassuming the Brits are about their nation. Have to agree with you on all your points except beaches: I like them with lovely sand, blue or green water, dunes, and surrounding views of marinas and charming cottages. I am spoiled by living in the "Ocean State" (Rhode Island) and by frequent trips to many east coast beach towns! Susan sent us here so I guess there will soon be an invasion of new followers. Glad to find your blog!

  11. Hi Ray,

    Also here from Susan's blog (been a fan of hers for decades).

    I love all things British, lived there in the late 70's, even got married in London -- so this post made my day -- you've really captured all that is beautiful, inspiring, fascinating and quirky about England. And I love Alice :).

    Off to check out your food blog!

  12. What a beautiful post,,my mom was from Exeter so I love England and all things british,,and your post covered alot..I am also a new follower from Susan Brands blog,,and look forward to alot more reading from yours..have a blessed day..

  13. Rachel, this was so fascinating. Especially the bit about marmite. (Not sure exactly what it is, but will investigate). I hear you might have a cookbook on the backburner. I will be the first at the counter clutching mine!
    I saw your warm , beautiful home on Susan's blog, its gorgeous. I love the way you and Susan bouy eachother~ true friendship.

  14. I'm prouder than than the Mr Proud, Proudest person from Proud Land on National Proud day! I am so PROUD to be British. I think part of why we were all so amazed and impressed with the opening ceremony on Friday was because we are so used to slating ourselves, to see our history played out like that made us think 'well, actually, we are pretty good!'

    There is so much I love about being British. I get so fed up when I read nasty stuff about us. I know someone who is from another part of Europe but living in the UK, and does nothing but moan about eerything - our weather, lack of flowers (that they are used to!!!), how we can't cope in snow.... blah, blah, blah, and it makes me so furious. How dare they say that? This is a beautiful place to live, and yes, there may be things to grumble about, but is anywhere perfect?

    Love that your dad chose to live here, and loves it so much. That makes me so proud too!

    beautiful post.


    p.s I love marmite. On toast with a smattering of peanut butter is my favourite way of eating it.

    p.p.s loved Susan Branch's post about your home. Made me want to cry, it was so sweet !

  15. Dearest Rachel,

    I've missed you too! I loved reading this post and your take on being British. There's just something about England that makes it so irresistable to me. It's a mixture of all of these...the British Monarchy (watching Princess Diana and the Queen as I was growing up), the world's best china, a proper tea (that's a BIG one), Beatrix Potter (Peter rabbit) and of course, my two darling English friends (Rachel & Morwenna). You should be proud! It's so plain to see! I feel blessed to have been able to visit London, if only for one night, and to have been in your company. Have a wonderful week, dear one! xo

  16. Hello, I'm here via Susan's blog, yes I love your wallpaper but I love Alice even more. Your list of 'things to be proud of' is spot on (except tea, I really dislike it even though I am completely English!) Love your beautiful photographs too.

  17. Hey, glad to see you blogging again! I am not a big fan of the Olympics in general, but I LOVED how the country pulled off the opening ceremony. It was smart and with a healthy dose of pride, without being arrogant (as it often is).

    I will try to come back to this post and comment more. I love a lot of things about my adopted country, except milk in the tea and the monarchy.

  18. Terri from Swansboro, NC31 July 2012 at 23:52

    Rachel, this is my very first time replying to your blog... found you via Susan Branch and I loved her 30 July blog about your beautiful home! And yes, the tea is wonderful. I am hoarding the tins of tea I got from Harrod's last year when I was in London. It is wonderful! Hugs!!!

  19. Hi Rachel,
    Enjoyed seeing England through your eyes. Also loved seeing your home on Susan Branch's site, with Alice in her element. Loved her comment about Alice: "It takes about two minutes for anyone who enters this house to understand who is really in charge . . ." Susan knows just how to put it!
    Looking forward to visiting here often.

  20. Rachel I'm so happy to see you have resolved your computer issues! Your post actually made me tear up. My husband and I must plan a trip to your glorious homeland. Thank you for sharing all of your beauty with us who have never visited England. xoxo ♥
    Martha Ellen

  21. When I had a short vacation there, I wished I could have gone out to more of the countryside. I so enjoyed the ancient buildings and history. I wanted so much to see a hedgehog but never did!

  22. Hi Rachel! I met you Nd your husband over at Susan Branch's blog and just had tort you know how much I love your home and your blog! Thanks! Oh, good luck with your cookbook, too!

  23. I love this post! On my first date with my husband he made me watch Nuts in May and Carry On Camping. I've been in love with him and all things British ever since. ��

  24. Dear Rachel,
    We are moving back to the US (Maine) after 21 years in England. It breaks my heart, I love it so. Your post was the perfect love letter I wish I had written. Thank you so much. And thank you for this special blog, I am now a devoted fan (thank you, Susan Branch!)
    Leslie Freeman

  25. Loved your post Rachel. England is at the top of my bucket list, hopefully someday my dream will come true. What beauty you have everywhere, and you describe it so beautifully, too! The video with the church bells pealing was wonderful. I am a big fan of British comedy, too. Here in the states we get to see some 1/2 hour to 1 hour British comedy shows aired on PBS, and of course Masterpiece Theatre which is a favorite of mine, too. Thank you so much for refreshing my day Rachel and I look forward to your next post! Hugs from Sharon in Maine

  26. Hi Rachel, your post is lovely and your photos are beautiful. I've enjoyed watching the Olympics and seeing all the various historic sites and learning about some of your customs too. I watch all the English programs on our PBS station, I really enjoy British humor! I love tea, and I'd really enjoy curling up with that cup.

  27. O Rachel love this blog update! You are sooo right about us British folk. (On the whole we don't know how to do pride) but this year is different! This year there is something in the air, something on the wind that just sweeps you away and you can't help get caught up in it all! I for one, hand on heart can honestly say, I have never been so proud to be British! For so many resons but yours are probably the best reasons of all! Love Nina xxxx

  28. Wonderful post! You have made me even more proud of my English heritage, from my father's father (Grandpa) who was born in London to all of my mother's ancestor from Cornwall.
    One day I would love to visit again. Next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of my first and only visit in 1963 when I was a girl:)
    Oh, and I love a cup of tea!

  29. Dearest Rachel,

    So happy to see you back dear friend; I've been quite absent myself. As always, the pictures are lovely, but the video is most loved as I get a snippet of your adorable voice...

    You're such a trooper to allow all the pictures of your home...so darling, so cosy, so quaint...and yes, so English...love it all...and especially YOU!

  30. Hi Rachel,

    My dear friend in England told me about your site this morning and here I am. I have lived in New England for fourteen years now but still miss good olde England so much. America is my home now but my heart will always be there..............Good friends help you see the simple things that are so important like Susan Branches site and May all seasons be sweet to thee. After a busy day teaching third graders I often visit these sites (yours included now) to help me see that life really is about "picking more daises!'


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