Now We Are 28: On Nationalism

I’m not a big fan of rampant nationalism or of nationalist politics. The Nigel Farages and Alex Salmonds of this world, with their clarion cries about the greatness of the nation-state, leave me cold. Nationalism values people because of where they come from rather than who they are or who they might become which is pretty much anathema to everything I believe in.

You see, in the words of Scroobius Pip, I’m from a little place called Great Britain but I don’t know if I love or hate Britain. There are lots of things that make being British wonderful – incredible landscapes; the national obsession with tea; the amazing diversity of our language and culture; the prevalence of social liberalism; our rich sweep of history; and Doctor Who to name but a few. But then there are lots of things that make Britain absolutely awful – our political system; ingrained sexism; casual racism; the M6; the bloody weather; the ability of the England cricket team to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory; flags on cars during football tournaments; the Daily Mail; the EDL… You get the idea. There are days I love living in the UK and days I loathe it but I’d never really say I’m proud of being British. How can you be proud of something that’s an accident of fate? It’s like saying I’m proud of having green eyes – I had absolutely no say in the matter!

People are though, aren’t they? Proud of their little strip of land, of their English (or Welsh or Scottish or Irish) descent and scathing about anyone who isn’t from these shores. Given that the UK is essentially an island of incomers this always seems to me a rather hypocritical position to take but whatever. I don’t get it, how does love for one’s country become hatred for other countries and other people? Surely you can have affection for the place you were born or where you live without using your nationality as a weapon to oppress others? And if your strip of land is that great why don’t you want to share it with people and attract people from all over the world who can add to it’s greatness? After all, this island would be pretty empty if it weren’t for immigrants…


30 Day Music Challenge: Day Twenty Five

Day 25: A Song That Makes You Laugh

British music is full of quirky silliness that makes me chuckle – Village Green Preservation Society by the Kinks, anything by Lemon Jelly, the Darkness or Goldie Lookin Chain and so on. As is British culture – from the Goonies to Black Books our comedy is by turns daft, dark, deeply human and utterly hilarious. The apotheosis of all this silliness is, at least as far as I’m concerned, Monty Python. The credit for my love of Monty Python has to go equally to my dad – I remember watching Python sketches with him when I was younger – and friends in my first year at University. I must have watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail about a million times during that year – I can still quote great big chunks of it from memory and it’s undoubtedly one of my all-time favourite films. In fact, I slightly judge people who don’t like it…

The Pythons were also brilliant at bonkers songs and of all their music there is one song that will always make me laugh out loud – however much of a terrible mood I’m in. My friend Jodie used to play it to me whenever I was having a crisis and although I’ve become much less melodramatic over the years it still works. So a little bit of laughter for a Tuesday morning – the Galaxy Song!

“The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that’s the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space,
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.”

30 Day Music Challenge: Day Eight

Day Eight: A Song That You Know All The Words To

My first thought upon reading today’s question/challenge thing was how do I narrow this down? As I’m a bit musically challenged I tend to remember words better than tunes anyway. Also, all the words?! Will there be some kind of test at the end? Anyway…

When I was 15 I somewhat pretentiously decided to “get into music” as opposed to listening to Now That’s What I Call Music compilations for ever more and the first band I turned to was of course┬áThe Beatles. I knew Beatles songs of course, it’s impossible to avoid them, but my knowledge was limited to When I’m 64 and Yesterday. So I stole the One album from my parents and listened to it on repeat for about six months straight. As a consequence I know a lot of Beatles lyrics off by heart… Everyone waxes lyrical about The Beatles but I always think that’s justified – every time I hear a Beatles song I’m struck by how fresh it sounds, despite the fact that these are songs written over half a century ago and still played a lot. I love their lyrics as well – from the breezy poppiness of She Loves You to the aching melancholy of Eleanor Rigby to the psychedelic drug inspired lunacy of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. My all-time favourite Beatles song and the one that I know I know all the words to is Penny Lane.

I can’t really explain why – maybe it’s all the quirky little anecdotes (I’m a sucker for a daft story) or maybe it’s because I can really paint a picture of Penny Lane in my head. Maybe it’s just a damn good song!

“Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he’s had the pleasure to have known
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say hello

On the corner is a banker with a motorcar
The little children laugh at him behind his back
And the banker never wears a mac
In the pouring rain…
Very strange

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
In Penny Lane there is a fireman with an hourglass
And in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen.
He likes to keep his fire engine clean
It’s a clean machine

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
Four of fish and finger pies
In summer, meanwhile back

Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout
A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
And though she feels as if she’s in a play
She is anyway

Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer
We see the banker sitting waiting for a trim
Then the fireman rushes in
From the pouring rain…
Very strange

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies…
Penny Lane.”