In all the energetic discussions that we continue to have about Britishness, there is one quality which seems rather overlooked amid the usual stuff about homes and castles, rigid lips and distinctions, deep inhibitions and an excessive need to apologise and eat baked beans: energy.
Which is odd, because we do seem to prize it. Admiration for it, and distrust of its opposite, goes back to at least Ethelred. It's why the British have never really warmed to intellectuals: too much sitting around. Suspiciously foreign, too - King John, far too sophisticated a figure ever to be popular, greatly enjoyed doing nothing and was thus condemned by the Victorians for "French habits".
Always got to be doing something. That's why we invented all these games. Even going for a walk is not enough: you must have noticed that, in the country, walking, without a dog, friend, gun, rod, or bright anorak and map, is treated with suspicion.
Elizabethan exploration, empire building, industrial revolution: busy, busy, busy. Artists are revered for it. Dickens is the model, always charging about. "Scribble, scribble, scribble, eh?", as the Duke of Gloucester remarked admiringly to Gibbon.
What is the hallmark of the way we play our national game? What is the hallmark of the way in which we enjoy ourselves, particularly in pedestrianised areas at the weekend? Exactly. We even shop energetically.
But where it is truly the sine qua non is in politics. Has there ever been such an energetic administration? Bewildering amo-unts of legislation, initiatives, reviews, targets, global, local, so little time, so many photo opportunities, always moving on, energetically. And it now seems to be reaching that pitch which parents will recognise, towards the end of the birthday party.
Please, though, don't think I'm anti-energy. Envious, maybe: the distinguishing mark of the successful people that I have met is an energy so energetic that it seems to suck up whatever small amounts you might possess yourself. No, what I'm suggesting is a more efficient energy policy.
Because a huge amount is being diverted. All these adventurers, for example, following the great tradition of energy expenditure outside the confines of these islands. As has been pointed out recently in these pages, Everest is now so packed with our mountaineers that it's only a matter of time before mini roundabouts are installed.
The limitations of what remains to be achieved are rather demonstrated by Dee Caffari's first female, single-handed, non-stop circumference of the globe "the wrong way". Nevertheless, her doughty effort still ranks some way ahead of fellow British record holders, Scott Day (longest spin of a coin), Jill Drake (loudest scream), Nick Thompson (most baked beans in three minutes) and, possibly, Bill Curtis (85,000 trains spotted in 31 countries). Were you aware, too, that there are at least two rival claims to have left a grand piano on the top of Ben Nevis.
What if we could redirect this energy? There is, after all, as we know, a great deal of water in this country, only mostly in the wrong place. The Home Office could clearly do with some help, too. And what more apt way could there be of filling the energy shortfall without the nuclear option? There will, inevitably, be carping about the limiting of horizons and lack of excitement presented by exotic locations, to which I would point out that, last week, in Essex, they found a 4ft anaconda at Lakeside shopping centre.
Inspiring, creative... my Top 10
Now, then: the most inspiring creative figures, according to a poll of 16 to 25-year-olds are: the Arctic Monkeys, Gorillaz, Chris Martin, Keira Knightley, and slightly oddly, Wallace and Gromit. Don't tell me they weren't taking a poll seriously. We older people always do, which is why I am proposing my own list: 10. Humphrey Lyttelton, returning tonight with the sublime I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. 9. Roy Cropper. 8. Pam Ayres, for her confession of passion for J Prescott: "A man like you is trouble. Just like a row of houses, You demolished me to rubble." 7. Larry David. 6. Ken Livingstone's gag writer 5. Guy Goma. 4. Desmond Carrington. 3. Dan Brown. 2. Lordi. 1. Leonard Cohen, left, despite the Prince of Wales's patronage, for having Norman as his middle name - but mostly for "I ache in the places where I used to play".
* Always eager to stimulate debate, I'm going to share some questions I have been pondering, starting with one prompted by Uri Geller's purchase of Elvis's old house on eBay: is it entirely fair for a psychic to take part in an auction?
Moving on by way of a muse about Scotland's seminal role in both rock 'n roll and country and western (did you know that Elvis and Johnny Cash were sons of the heather, removed?), I came upon the engagement of Nicole Kidman and a country star, Keith Urban.
What kind of a name is that for a country star? Keith!? Then there's this vogue in America for the name, Nevaeh, (heaven spelt backwards). Well. What's wrong with all the good old names like Hannah and Dnuorggnitnuhyppah?
Finally, why all the dithering? Why can't people just make up their minds about Lady McCartney and the film of the Da Vinci Code?Reuse content