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An Englishman Abroad

Empire was built by improvising - loudly - Telegraph

The Briton abroad has been a uniquely popular figure ever since, clanking with armour, he first blundered through the Holy Land lopping the heads off peaceable Islamic pedestrians with something that looked like a scaffolding pole.

Back when the map was pink, he brought civilisation to the uncivilised, complicated railway systems to those without, and free trade to those who had never even realised they needed it.

Everywhere his solar topee was sighted, the locals would greet him with cheerful cries of "Allez à l'enfer, cochon!", "Could you untie me now, bwana - it's been three weeks and I'm jolly thirsty" or "Aiee! He's back! Run for your lives!"

In the 1980s, his great-grandchildren adorned the Spanish coast with concrete golf courses, egg and chips, and broken glass coloured with lager and blood. In the 1990s, his merchant-banker descendants brightened up Umbria and Provence with their bogus bohemianism, ludicrous straw hats and open-necked shirts.

He may not always have been popular, you see, but he had a certain distinctiveness, a certain panache, a certain - dare I venture it? - je ne sais rien. He was our advertisement to the world - and he succeeded precisely because, knowing nothing whatsoever about anything, he had the freedom to improvise.

And now they want to ruin it for our children...

Comments

Never fear. This Englishman abroad is trying to maintain the proper standards.

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