Sunday, April 12, 2009

Six of the Best

Time to go to bat for the away team.

Every bus/train/pub conversation will inevitably turn to the credit crunch and listening to the “we're doomed” brigade launch into a “bring back Maggie Thatcher chant”can be irksome and tiresome; so, it's time to promulgate the six best things about the UK and see if anyone agrees.

Number One

The Sunday Times – don't forget - despite the profligate number of Red Tops which are not actually newspapers at all, Britain still boasts some quality newspapers and a readership that is second to none – The Sun, The Mail and The Mirror are all in the top 13 selling daily newspapers in the world. Most of the really big sellers, of course, are from China, India and Japan.

The Sunday Times makes my Sunday. Any description of a perfect Sunday starts with reading the paper. The roast beef comes much later.

Number Two

The NHS. President Obama had health care reform as part of his electoral appeal and it worked. Unfortunately, the prospect of him persuading Congress to come up with anything like an NHS is very remote. Why? The vested interests in the United States just will not give up the milch cow that is the present system.

By contrast, Britain's NHS is the envy of the world – or most of it at least. It is far from perfect, but it does work. And it is genuinely free at the point of need.

People in Britain take it for granted and every paper has at least one story of an NHS failure on a daily basis; but it is so much better than any alternative; it would be easier to get the turkeys to vote for more Christmases than it would be to devise a better plan to cover a nation's health care needs than the NHS.

Number Three

The BBC. I never watch ITV – perhaps that's why they are losing money and advertisers faster than a man going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. I would watch ITV if there were any programmes worth watching, but since there aren't and we all pay for the BBC through the license fee anyway – why bother? ITV is full of soaps and naff game shows. I never watch it.

Number Four

Liverpool Street Station. Not the present station, the old one – before they tarted it up and added the glitzy shops and the arcades full of designer sunglasses. It was smoke encrusted. It was dingy. It was dirty. It was uncomfortable. In short, it was everything that represented the best of old England. Now it's gone – sold out to the bean counters and the advertisers. Shame.

Number Five

Stratford-on-Avon. I know it' daft, but I get a thrill visiting Stratford. It's almost all modern stores and houses by the bits that are “preserved” make it worthwhile. If you can't get excited visiting Holy Trinity and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust – then you are probably immune to nostalgia and reverence for the Bard. More fool you.

Number Six

Trent Bridge. There must be nothing like a Test Match at Lords – though I have never been and I like the Oval – especially on a really hot day when you can drink a hogshead of beer and sweat it out so fast that you don't get drunk, but Trent Bridge is my “home” ground (that is to say the nearest one to Norwich with good rail communications). It really is a great place to watch cricket. The crowd are rowdy but very good natured and they don't take the cricket too seriously. Sitting in the New Stand and gazing at the old pavilion is a joy. Visiting the Trent Bridge Inn is a glory. And, you can get the train home. Magic.

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