It's what made the English grate

BBC: Australia retain the Ashes
Australia secured the Ashes series on Sunday, after coasting to an innings victory at the Waca inside three days. England have now lost eight series in a row against the old enemy.

So, it's official: England are crap at a crap game. Don't get me wrong, I'd have liked us to have won (if only to stop the Australians being so unbearably smug about it), but am I the only person in England who isn't particularly bothered by this supposed catastrophe? We're a cricketing joke. So what?

Personally speaking, I think my countrymen should be far more concerned about the impression we give to strangers to our country, as expressed by Iqbal Ahmed in this week's edition of the London Review of Books:

Where I come from, people believe that every Englishman is an intellectual. I was shocked and demoralised to find the intellect of the same Englishmen feeding on tabloids. I hadn't thought that intellectual activities meant a quiz night in the pub or a quiz show on the television. Englishness means self-centredness and unsociability. They would do a crossword rather than engage in a conversation with someone. It is not the weather which has made me feel cold in the Englishman's country after ten years, but the indifference shown by its citizens.

But hang on a second. Aren't taking part in quizzes, doing the crossword and being unsociable as quintessentially English as drinking warm beer, and being crap at cricket? Take that away from us, and we stop being English! And it's all well and good bemoaning the lack of English intellectual activities (whatever they are), but we can't all be as cerebral and erudite as Julian Date.


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