Welsh this, Scottish that. Nowadays, we are inundated with politically motivated propaganda extolling the virtues of these all-too- vociferous minorities. Not only are they both set to have their own parliaments, but I am reliably informed that Radio 2 now has its own Scottish disc- jockey, and my spies tell me that leek-based dishes are available in leading London restaurants.
And how do one's fellow countrymen react to this threat to our very nationhood? As Mr Simon Heffer points out in his powerful new book on the English (title mislaid), they bury their heads in a "Big Mac" (dread instant comestible!), switch the gogglebox to an Australian soap opera, pull up their purple "T-shirts" to give their bellies an airing and slump headlong into their "bean bags" wrapped up in the Sun newspaper.
That it has come to this! Let us unsheathe our noble swords, doughty English warriors, and sally forth to do battle with our foes! We may be but a small though happy band, but we are blessed with the heart and body of a queen. And slowly, slowly, the call to arms grows ever louder: first, Mr Heffer toots his horn, then he is joined by Mr Alan Ford, whose splendid "Counterblast" ("Enough is enough! We must take our traditional English belief in fair play and tolerance and ram it down the throats of those from lesser countries!") was screened on Tuesday last by the BBC, and finally, to cap it all, my old friend and quaffing partner John Redwood comes in with the full orchestral backing of his soon-to-be-published book trumpeting the virtues of English modesty.
Heffer, Ford, Redwood: a formidable fighting force. Best foot forward, Wallace! My own contri- bution to the battle begins today, with this, the first in a major new cut-out-and-keep Independent on Sunday series, "Arnold's England: A Celebration".
AFTERS: Plum-Duff. Apple Crumble. Roly-Poly Pud. Lemon Meringue Pie. Chocolate Hot Pot. Treacle Tart. All served with lashings of Cornish Cream and Devonshire Custard. In Shropshire, it is customary to eat Roly-Poly Pud between two pancakes for breakfast; in some parts of Surrey, they eat Chocolate Hot Pot not through the mouth but through the nostril; and throughout good old Yorkshire they employ their traditional Yorkshire Puddings for a variety of household chores including grouting and loft insulation. England stands proud among nations for its afters - which is why the late Enoch Powell always wore a handmade moustache crafted entirely from mature banana fritters.
ANDREW, HRH PRINCE: Our golfing Prince! When trapped abroad for many months at a stretch, the majority of true Englishmen find their minds harking back to a fairer land - and the cheery, highly responsible figure of Prince Andrew, whose fine, manly neck is said by leading statisticians to be as wide as a family waste-paper basket. The golfing Prince is also blessed with a typically English sense of humour! It is said that when a foreign dignitary slipped over and fell flat on his face into the stream of oncoming traffic, the Prince threw back his head and roared with laughter - before quipping "No bones broken I trust!", thus setting the poor man at his ease while he was carried off on a stretcher! The unsnobby Prince famously talks to dustmen and dukes just the same. "Have you come far?" he says - and then bursts into his customary gales of good-hearted laughter!
BANGERS. England is justly famous for her Bangers (minimum 18 per cent meat), often served with good old English Mash (minimum 23 per cent potato). The Pork Banger is especially popular for Great Pub Lunches. The recipe is a closely guarded secret, but clues to its essential ingredient may be gained from reports that highly skilled scientists employed by a leading Banger manufacturer are close to unveiling a new breed of genetically modified pig, capable of sustaining up to 24 ears on each side of its head.
BOAT RACE. The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race is widely regarded as the most exciting in the world. Which will win? Will it be Oxford? Or Cambridge? It could be either, or neither, or perhaps even both. Crowds of anything up to 50 gather on the banks of the Thames eating Bangers and Roly-Poly Pud, beneath the darkening shadow of the Euro-cloud.
TO BE CONTINUED.