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About A Week: Restless

"We Brits are possibly the most restless nation on Earth,'' says Peter Hinchliffe. "We have an in-born desire to try somewhere new.''

As I was saying last week, I dreamed of living in the United States.

Chewing my Juicy Fruit gum, regularly reading Time magazine, wallowing in the fiction of John Steinbeck, I imagined a life for myself in sunny California.

A sparkling white house with a veranda offering a view of a bay…a swimming pool…a large car…no, two large cars…an American wife with a winsome smile and a voice like honey…

So I wrote a few dozen letters to the editors of American newspapers, asking for a job as a reporter.

Eventually I was offered work, not in Southern Cal, but in oven-hot, dusty, utterly fascinating northern Texas.

No house with a veranda. No view of a bay. But yes, there were two cars. And I married a Texas lass possessed of a melting smile, a honeyed voice, and much more besides. Very much more.

Settled for life then? A Brit who became a loyal son of Uncle Sam? A you’ll-never-get-me-to-move-from-here resident of the Lone Star State?

No, no, no.

I’m British through and through. And we Brits are possibly the most restless nation on Earth. Oh our tight little islands are OK. Positively beautiful when the sun shines. But we have an in-born desire to try somewhere new. To live in a different part of the world.

Think I’m exaggerating? Then explain to me please how English came to be the everyday language in dozens of countries round the world.

Go to Beijing, Barcelona, Bombay, Brisbane, and there you’ll find colonies of Brits, all of them comfortably using the language of their homeland as they go about their daily affairs.

Those powerful men, the Presidents of the United States of America: Bush, Clinton, Bush Senior, Nixon, Kennedy…right back to Lincoln and Washington. All of them speaking…. Good heavens! They all spoke English.

So what has driven us Brits to settle in every nook and corner of the world, taking with us our language and some of our customs?

Go back a century or two, and it was a feeling of superiority. The British thought themselves the brightest and the best. The world was ours to rule.

A couple of world wars and a whole heap of other turbulent history put paid to that arrogant view.

Yet still Brits go in their thousands, and hundreds of thousands, to live in other countries. In the last 20 years or so 600,00 Brits have moved to Spain.


Sunshine probably has a lot to do with our national restlessness. On dark January-February days, when the gales come lashing in to rip the roofs off our garages and the sun sulks behind black clouds for two weeks at a time, Spanish skies are so attractive.

Yes, sunshine definitely. Persistent black clouds are a sufficient reason to make a family pack up its belongings and move to live a thousand miles further south.

But I also think we Brits have over-ripe imaginations. Imaginations that refuse to be confined and contented in these small islands in the world’s greyer latitudes.

There is a magic rainbow. At the end of that rainbow is the perfect life in the perfect house in the perfect town in the perfect country…

A house with a veranda offering a view of a bay…

What a shock to discover that for many a thousand French folk Britain is now the perfect country in which to live.

Astonishingly, 300,000 French citizens have chosen to live permanently in Britain.

They like our sense of humour, our good manners, our music, subtlety, non-conformity.

Hm. Maybe we Brits have not only succeeded in exporting our language, but also our rainbow dreams.


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