“When I was nine years old, my father sent me to school dressed as David Niven…”
So begins, in a roundabout way, the tale of The Old Weird Albion. This blog is an extension, at its essence, of a few other ongoing research and writing projects based around the idea of the “anglo-American”: We here in the U.S. of A. are so often enveloped in concepts of outside ethnic identity, yet those of us whose blood is blue with Englishness spend our youths being taught that “English” is an ethnic identity in as much as “Clear” is a color.
No nationalist or imperialist, for years and years the idea of Englishness never quite appealed to me. The Niven experiment stands out in my mind as particularly telling: Asked to come to school in the typical dress associated with our ethnic background, an exercise in misguided multi-culturalism, good ol’ Dad wrapped me in smoking jacket and cravat – for all I know, in my limited memory, he tucked one of his pipes in my pocket.
But it’s only one example: The history we’re taught is of Kings and Queens, Nelson and Trafalgar, Redcoats and the Thin Red Line.
It took years before I began discovering a different kind of England, and a new way to approach – in a daily more-Globalized world – that all-important American recognition: Where do you come from?
But when it did arrive, it did so in storms rather than drizzles: The Mekons and the Miner’s Strike; Jeremy Deller’s Folk Art show at the Barbican; Hilaire Belloc, Attila the Stockbroker, and the fight for Brighton & Hove Albion; The Copper Family, Watersons and the Winterset; a millennium-old undercurrent of rebellious vernacular culture that had nothing to do with the changing of the guards or a lifted pinky holding a cup of tea.
As part of an ongoing writing project about the discovery of a new Anglo-Americanism, tentatively titled 100 Miles, 100 Years: A Walk Across the Old Weird Albion, I’ve created The OWA as a means for self-publishing bits and pieces from my research, as well as keeping tabs on the currents and threads of Englishness as the Compleat Anglophile might wish to see it – be that Bob Copper’s neo-Saxon “country” books, or Sukhdev Sandhu’s nighttime travels through London’s fair city.
I hope there’s something here for people to read and enjoy, and I thank you for helping with my ongoing obsessions – albeit without knowing you did so!