The Brits



I couldn't really tell you where it comes from. I didn't even know there's a word for it: Anglophilia. Love of all thing English. (Or British, but let's not get into that just now.)


If I had to guess, I'd probably jump back into my eight-year-old self, hearing my brothers and sister as they were listening to the art-rock of the early 1970s. Sure, sure, there was Led Zeppelin and the Who and the Stones, but I was drawn to the artsy fartsy bands: Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes, Genesis.


Oh yeah, Genesis. Huge fan. Huge huge fan. From the beginning. Dunno why. Maybe because Peter Gabriel, still their lead singer when I started listening, played the flute. I played the flute. I'd pick out the notes & play along.


Maybe it's because they had a double album -- The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway -- about some guy named Rael who trips into a parallel dream world and has all these weirdo fantastic adventures with ravens and lamia and supernatural anesthetists. Maybe because Tony Banks was a whiz on the keyboards and looked like a geeky quiet nerdy guy -- geeky quiet nerdy me was smitten.


Or was it the intellectual tie-ins? "Supper's Ready" was an entire album-side [kids, ask your parents] of a biblical Christ allegory. Something about those Brits, educated to within an inch of their lives, many of them, and not afraid to pour that knowledge into their art. Sting & the Police singing about the Scylla and Charybdis? You don't catch American bands writing lyrics like that.


I dunno. Can that sort of thing make a person love an entire culture, though? Seems like.


Even when I didn't understand the Foundations singing, in "Build Me Up, Buttercup": "... mess me about..." I'd stumble over the lyrics. That can't be right, can it? Doesn't make sense. Mess ... me ... about? And the liner notes' lyrics of "Robbery, Assault & Battery" has someone being thrown in "gaol." What the hell is that? It sounds like "jail"when they're singing, but that spelling....


Somehow it's been a thread weaving its way through my life, even as my head was momentarily turned by four years of French in high school. Still, the French culture -- as I'd later experience -- isn't quite right for me. The French are incredibly confident, in my experience. The Brits are more like me: apologetic, small, modest... Even when you've given offense (queue-jumping -- tsk) and they're slicing you to ribbons with their razor-sharp wit, it's mostly done in a quiet understated way. They might even apologize in the midst of the barrage, as well.


Of course, that was all the younger me. Perhaps the seeds of fascination, planted early. What about now? Older Me?


Well, I don't know. I can't say for sure what it is about the British that appeals to me. If I had to guess maybe it stems from the realization that there are a lot of things about America that bother me -- a lot. Whenever I travel, I can't help but notice my fellow countrymen. We stick out, and we're okay with that, making no real effort to blend in. And we tend to be really loud and abrupt, whether happy or angry. We expand to fill all available space with our boisterous laughter or expansive gestures or wild shouting and gesticulating at "foreign" shopkeepers because "He doesn't understand English, Bob!" (He does.) The British tend to be smaller, quieter. They're private. And polite. And, gosh, so many of them are wickedly clever. And witty. Concise perfect humor. Sure, sure, they're also Benny Hill and Def Leppard and the EastEnders. Yet somehow, whenever I'm trying to find something to watch on TV, I find the American characters too ... "Too TOO," as my mother used to say. Just too much. Then I switch over to BritBox or BBC-America and easily find something there that suits me just fine.


I don't know -- I think sometimes in life, you have to pay attention to where you tend to find yourself when nobody's watching. For me, it has been, for a long time, with the British. I'm not even sure I could pin down the reasons why. I guess that's what I'm here to find out. Meanwhile, I'll have a cup of tea and think on it.


My Welsh friend said to me, just the other day, "I'm not sure they're ready for you." Well, ready or not, here I come -- quietly, and as long as it's not too much bother. Thanks ever so much.





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