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Keep on being British

Column by Jonny Birch, university graduate

I’ve just had my world shattered before me, leaving me in an anxiety-ridden mess.

I was happily strolling down the street when I saw someone I know, but not that well.

Jonny Birch (15568640)
Jonny Birch (15568640)

I knew the drill; I had about two seconds to decide whether I was going to stop and talk to them, or just say hello and then keep going.

I commit to the latter option. We smile at each other and I say, ‘Hi, y’alright’ but the other person responds ‘not too bad, you?’

My brain goes into overdrive; being British has taught me to never answer ‘alright?’ with how you are actually feeling. This actually means ‘hello, please don’t bore me with your life and I won’t bore you with mine.’

I quickly mutter a ‘yeah, good thanks’ and dash off.

As soon as I’m round the corner, I crumble to the floor a broken man.

Is this it then? Have the unwritten rules of being British that I’ve grown up with been discarded like some used underpants in a lost property box? Maybe this is what post-Brexit Britain will be now; a lawless land of people with no hope – kind of like ‘Mad Max’ but less entertaining.

I soldier on down the street, when a gleam of hope came out of nowhere. I had been so lost in a world of my own troubled thoughts that I’d walked straight into a woman.

But my hope for Britain was restored by one word that she uttered: ‘sorry’. Despite it being me in the wrong, this woman had apologised for me getting in her way using the unwritten British rule of apologising for everything, just to be safe, no matter whether you’re in the right or wrong.

Maybe I’d got it wrong; maybe things will be okay. Maybe the future for Britain after Brexit was bright with everyone dancing hand-in-hand in all creeds and colours, safe in the knowledge that these rules of being British would still apply.

Brexit is being talked of as the death of Britain, but I know now that everything will be alright. We’ll still talk about how bad the weather’s been, inflation will still be measured in relation to when Freddos were 5p, and when crossing a zebra crossing, it will still be mandatory to break into a mini jog whilst chucking in an apologetic wave.

The EU can take away free movement within Europe but they can’t take away what it means to be British. Where other columnists will continue to keep the British public divided, I want people to embrace our rules and unite under the common banner of Britishness. Either that, or we just awkwardly mutter ‘sorry’ and walk on.

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