October 13, 2017
England in September
September 29 concluded England’s longest ever cricketing summer. England today presents a different picture than it did during the “Paki-bashing” days of the Thatcher era. The sports cult hero this season was the bearded Moeen Ali, with Azad Kashmir roots.
Notwithstanding hurdles, the push toward inclusion seems irreversible. London’s mayor is Sadiq Khan, a rising star in the Labour Party. At the UN, PM Theresa May acknowledged Benazir as the matchmaker for her marriage. Also, Henry Bolton, newly elected head of the UK Independence Party, has distanced himself from its hitherto anti-Muslim stance.
An old Surrey friend triggered my visit to Cornwall, a relatively secluded peninsula on the southwest coast of Britain. Because of it being insulated, it retains a well-preserved, quaint ambiance. Cornwall once was a smugglers’ haven. Its Tintagel area is associated with the myth of King Arthur, his Excalibur sword, and his fabled Knights of the Round Table.
Despite the congested smallness of England, its countryside has been comparably unspoiled from the rapacity and ravages of commercially-driven developers. That can be seen by visiting the Cornish towns of Fowey, Mevagissey, Port Isaac, and St Mawes. The small hamlet of Boscastle experienced horrific flooding in August 2004, which led to mounting of one of the biggest rescue missions in Britain’s history. Boscastle is linked with Thomas Hardy, whose works were once prescribed reading in FC College, Lahore.
Cornwall, along with its sole bordering county, Devon, is the hub of the dairy industry and is famous for its cream tea – tea with scones, jam, and clotted cream. Food police, with its nutrition guidelines, hasn’t made much of a dent there.
At Dartmouth in Devonshire, I visited Britannia Royal Naval College. There is reverence for Admiral Nelson and for October 21, 1805, when he fell at the Battle of Trafalgar. German Luftwaffe bombed the Naval College on September 18, 1942, when they mistakenly assumed it would be overflowing with cadets. At its epicenter is an ecumenical chapel for prayers. It was good to find that mosque amenities are provided.
Brexit is in limbo right now. At September’s Labour Party conference at Brighton, its head, Jeremy Corbyn – disliked by Conservative quarters, but adored by the young and by Britain’s migrant communities – proclaimed: “Let’s give real support to end the oppression of the Palestinian people.”
What binds Britons is their respect for its history and heritage and for those who made sacrifices. In the remote coastal village of Portscatho, Cornwall, it was significant to see at the jetty a memorial dedicated to the more than 26,000 soldiers who had fallen during the brutal Burma campaign of World War II, but were never buried.
Despite its more seasoned exposure to the world, one ungainly feature of British officialdom has been its sycophancy to American adventurism. It has put Britain in the frame of terror-targeting, although, unlike the US over-reaction, it has shown more of an equilibrium in its response.
Back in Washington, it was revealing to pick up the October issue of The Atlantic magazine, which is devoted to assessing the damage being done to America’s global standing under Trump.