I’ve been so lost in typing my latest romance that I’ve only just realised today is St Georges Day! Funnily enough, I’m currently working on a traditional English ‘cozy’ – a small-town, quintessentially British romance stroke mystery with some salt-of-the-earth characters. It started as a request from my agent, and has quickly grown into a full blown series. (Number one is currently being reviewed by an American publisher, so fingers crossed it will be on a bookshelf near you soon!!!).
Anyway, it got me thinking, what does being English typically look like these days? In my newest story, and in the imaginations of American readers of British cozies, it’s a small town girl baking cupcakes and contemplating our famous rolling green hills. But it could just as easily be an inner-city mom eating fish and chips, or a football fan having a pint at the local boozer, or Kate Moss in a Rimmel London advert, or JK Rowling meeting the Queen, or a soldier coming back from Afghanistan.
Englishness (is that even a word?) is made up of many facets, many different ever-evolving streams of culture. The favorite British dish is no longer fish and chips, it’s chicken tikka masala. I love this. Love the fact that being English is an ever fluid, ever evolving identity. It helps me with my writing – I’ve set stories in the English Regency, in inner-city Coventry (my home) and now in a picturesque Derbyshire village (I lived in one for two years). So wouldn’t it be great if on this St George’s Day we could celebrate not a narrow view of Englishness, but one that accepts and embraces all who live here and make this country what it is?
It all reminds me of the following poem by Birmingham poet Benjamin Zephaniah
Take some Picts, Celts and Silures
And let them settle,
Then overrun them with Roman conquerors.
Remove the Romans after approximately 400 years
Add lots of Norman French to some
Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Vikings, then stir vigorously.
Mix some hot Chileans, cool Jamaicans, Dominicans,
Trinidadians and Bajans with some Ethiopians, Chinese,
Vietnamese and Sudanese.
Then take a blend of Somalians, Sri Lankans, Nigerians
Combine with some Guyanese
And turn up the heat.
Sprinkle some fresh Indians, Malaysians, Bosnians,
Iraqis and Bangladeshis together with some
Afghans, Spanish, Turkish, Kurdish, Japanese
Then add to the melting pot.
Leave the ingredients to simmer.
As they mix and blend allow their languages to flourish
Binding them together with English.
Allow time to be cool.
Add some unity, understanding, and respect for the future,
Serve with justice
Note: All the ingredients are equally important. Treating one ingredient better than another will leave a bitter unpleasant taste.
Warning: An unequal spread of justice will damage the people and cause pain. Give justice and equality to all.