I might as well put these in the same post, since I suppose they're both broadly about "native" traditions vs. cosmopolitan ones.
1. Journeys along the A31/A35 always used to be enlivened by the "Great Wall of Dorset," which always caused me to say "what on earth is behind it? I must look it up one day." Several journeys later, I actually remembered to do so, so then the cry became, "Agh, I looked that up. What was its name, again?" (Answer: Charborough Estate
, bounded by "one of the longest brick walls in England", and home of the wonderfully-named Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax family.)
Anyway... in recent years, the great wall has been gradually supplanted by the excitements of the western end of the Dorchester by-pass, where every journey seems to bring a new wonder. There's an Italianate campanile, a Romanesque or Byzantine basilica and a Greek temple, just for starters, and new things have appeared every visit. "Is it a theme park?" we wondered. "What next in this tour of world archicture? A ziggurat? The hanging gardens of Babylon?" After several years of failing to remember to look it up when we got home, this time we remembered, and apparently it's Poundbury
- a large new town built on principles set forward by Prince Charles.
Now, it does seem to me a little bit odd to see an Italian campanile rising above the fields of Dorset. Should
it seem odd? The landscape is littered with eighteenth-century great houses inspired by Classical designs, after all, so such things are hardly new. But Prince Charles condemns modern buildings and modern archicture for being blots on the landscape, so should he perhaps be advocating the building of houses that fit in with the landscape, being built with local stone and in local styles? (This isn't a rhetical question; I really don't know how I feel about it.) Should the buildings at least have a unified feel, rather than being a random mish-mash of European styles from all over the place? And if, as the Wikipedia article says, they're building houses with bricked-in windows, so they look like old houses that had their windows bricked in to avoid window tax several hundred years ago, can this be seen as taking things a little too far? I bet the Victorians didn't build their neo-Gothic churches pre-dirtied, with chipped-off bits of statues, to make them look centuries old.
2. Secondly, I was interested in this article
about songs by folk musicians being used by the BNP. The thing is, I saw the song Roots as being very contrary to the view that the BNP presents. To me (and, it seems, to the writer) it's all about wanting to rediscover and celebrate English traditions, in the same way that pretty much every other country in the world happily celebrates their own... but without it having any hint of xenophobia, racism or jingoism. The key lines to me are the ones that I've always heard as "We've lost St George and the Union Jack / It's my flag, too, and I want it back," which I see as a protest against the fact that these things have become appropriated by racists. I see the song not just as a wish that the English wouldn't scorn their traditions, but as an attack on those who use those traditions for racist and xenophobic purposes. Not, of course, that one would expect the BNP to see things in the same way, but, still...
EDIT: It was, perhaps, rather foolish to make a post on a contraversial issue when feeling ill. My cold's gone solidly to my chest and head, and I'm getting emotional about silly things. Don't feel you have to hold back in comments on my account, but my ability to make coherent replies might be hampered.