There are some striking cultural similarities between this nook-shotten place and Blighty, which struck me as being relevant.
The 1200 inhabitants of Sayalonga (the aforementioned village) share with us a love of tribal isolation (we as a rainy island; them through being difficult to find and smoking in bars). Both are cursed with “keeping up appearances”, and are proud to belong to an oppressed minority.
Unlike the Spanish, however, we adore eccentrics and worship celebrities, before disowning them when they get away from us. Their vital role, so far as we are concerned, is to provide a foil to the uncomfortable UK characteristic of expressive constipation.
Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand and, to a lesser extent the BBC, are all victims of this and a need to be distracted from the unpalatable economic intrusion by the outside world into an Englishman’s castle. We can no longer be smug from the sidelines, and this is culturally unsatisfactory.
In Spain, as in other Latin countries, communication via shouting, kissing, gesturing and talking is as natural as breathing, and so they do not get as attached to such substitutes. Their next door neighbour’s affairs are far more interesting than those of our celebrity scapegoats.
Figures released last week from Ofcom reveal the UK to be a nation of technology early adopters, addicted to high-definition cameras, mobiles, texting, social networking and anything digital.
How can this be explained, given our reserved, bordering on down-right anti-social behaviour? Perhaps we find it a release to share our feelings through a buffer such as the written word or recorded images transmitted via the airwaves?Fifty per cent of us enjoy access (second only to Canada), and we have increased our internet usage from 385 minutes a week in 2004 to 839 minutes each day today.
Just observe any aeroplane journey to see why we love to communicate through a third party. We usually start to chat with fellow passengers only seven minutes before we land, and occasionally spill our innermost secrets to a stranger, knowing we will never meet him or her again.
Texting is designed for the UK, and even the most reserved, middle-aged Englishman will post his status on Facebook with revelations such as: “I have finally cleared the boxes out of the loft” or “I am feeling quite peckish.”
For generations, we British have spent our time in our gardens, or erecting fences and gates to keep everybody else out. I know families who have called their parents by the titles Mr and Mrs, and have shaken hands at Christmas with their siblings.
As a result of property investment replacing the pension, we have developed a thirst for interior design, the relentless accumulation of wealth and a neo-colonial passion for buying second homes. In Spain, Italy or France, life is about sharing food and drink with the family. We simply want to work to stockpile bricks and mortar assets – at least we did until recently.
Imagine the impact of the property slump upon our confidence and, still worse, the realisation that being an island is no longer any defence against the effects of a global recession.
It is in our nature to refocus on comforts such as “Strictly Come Dancing” and the plight of John Sergeant. It is easier to bolt the front door and to make use of those thousands of hours of celebrity-chef instruction by cooking exotically at home, but holidaying in Devon.
Our destiny is to look for safe choices and pull together in times of crisis. Texting and Facebook have brought us closer together as a result.
It is going to be a bleak retail sales period and, tragically, it will not snow on Christmas Day either.
According to Government National Statistics Online, only 48% of English people describe themselves as “British,” followed by 35% of the Welsh and, unsurprisingly, a mere 27% of Scots. This week, Leicester became the first truly multi-racial, multi-cultural city in the UK where no single colour, creed or religion is numerically dominant.
I wonder if a latter-day Blitz mentality will pull the UK closer together culturally? The adoption of social technology is very timely. It can only be positive for our country’s quality of life, and may even offer a better place for marketers to ply their wares.