Out of deference to some of my more demanding readers I am going to attempt to adumbrate some of the things I like about England, most of which were the things that I have always been most nostalgic for when in Sydney and that I would most often cite when asked to say what I most missed about England.
Things I Like
The first and most obvious would have to be the English countryside in all its many and delightful manifestations. Although we are focused mainly here on the South West, wherever we go in the country there is usually beautiful countryside with each region having its own different attractions.
What I really love, though, is bowling along the English country roads in a motor car with the hedgerows and fields, the trees and dappled sunlight, the twists and turns on open car free roads to the narrow one car’s width lanes.
Second to that are the country pubs. There is nothing like the genuine old English country pub. This does not have any kitsch old tat hanging on the walls or fake wood or any such thing. It is at least three to four hundred years old with the original wood beams low enough to knock your head on, the original brick fireplace with iron grate and probably inglenooks on either side. It probably has a beautiful beer garden out the back with proper wooden tables and benches and quite likely a gorgeous view over perfect, rolling, English hills and woodland. It is not wallowing in fake, England as an historical theme park history – just its own authentic history embedded in a local village community with centuries of continuity. Probably doesn’t exist but that is what I like anyway.
Third of all I love the long summer evenings and the special kind of soft light that develops from late afternoon to early evening and then stretches on until it is fading later in the evening. But then the light just lingers and lingers so that it is not properly dark until 10.30pm or 11pm.
So what you will have surmised is that really what I miss about England are its physical characteristics rather than anything to do with the culture or society.
Things I Dislike
There is nothing worse than when you are having a great time enjoying the thing you like most about England and some farm vehicle, “granddad” or “district nurse” appears in front of you and then insists on driving at 35mph regardless of the road conditions or the current speed limit.
Perhaps a little less flippantly, I dislike the still pervasive sense of class to be found in England. I grew up with it and it is impossible not to be sensitive to it even now. I realise that things are not as obviously as bad as thirty, forty or fifty years ago and social mobility has improved but some things just don’t fundamentally change.
I am not too keen on the winters but they are bearable. I don’t like the long dark nights and the way it doesn’t get light till late and then becomes dark again before the day has barely got going. Climate definitely, in my experience, affects culture. It is easier to be bookish in England than it is in Australia.