Current Essays

Land of Glory? Not a Hope! On:2005-05-11 05:11:23

If you happen, by some remote chance, to be an American listening to this, I think it would be kinder to you if you should have someone turn the radio off for you now, or at least stick their fingers in your ears and go "La la laaaa la la laaa la laa la la... " for the next few minutes, because, you see, I'm ...I'm about to demonstrate conclusively how you (you, who pride your selves on your virility, and on the the stern pioneer manliness of even your womenfolk, let alone your menfolk) are really a bunch of gentle, mild-mannered, timid whimps!

Yes (and I really hope this doesn't make you burst into tears) you do show every sign of being a nation of totally nerdy Clark Kents without even the benefit of all that secret-identity Nietzschean stuff to fall back on, and I'm not even thinking of the way that you all move so slowly and cautiously, and gently and mild-manneredly and timidly, that I'm forced when walking down the corridors at work or up at the local mall to shove you violently aside and out of my way (nor how easy it is to do that) nor that the same thing tends happen when I'm driving too! No! No! That may just possibly be something slightly wrong with me rather than you, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt there and concentrate instead on your sports, something that I have absolutely nothing to do with and know absolutely nothing about.

Take football for example (even if it currently seems to be out of season for hunting it). And no, I don't mean the beautiful game, but its don't-think-much-of-yours-ish, slightly less attractive American sister. What we are talking about here is essentially rugger, you know Rugby Football, supposedly started at the English Public School of the same name and played around the world to this day with, for protection, perhaps a simple headband for the sweat and blood and---unless you are Welsh (great Rugby players the Welsh) AND planning to try out for the local chorus (great singers the Welsh, if rather flat) and as a soprano to boot---also a box (or to translate that into 'Mer'can, a jock-strap).

To play your slight variation on this simple, valiant, somewhat mud-soaked game what do you do? Well for a start you play on Astroturf so there 's not even any mud worth speaking of, then you go and strap on 20 or 30 or so pounds of padding and armour, and helmets and God knows what else---and then you can't even just get on and play the bloody game, but every few seconds everyone stops and officials come on, possibly with ambulances, to drag the by now presumably utterly exhausted players off the field to put a new squad of fresh ones in, so that there seem to be hundreds of people on a team only a few of whom actually do anything at any given time. And then, then after all this effort and officialdom---do they go to the pub and sing rude songs like real men? (Especially Welshmen, though the singing is rather flat.) Of course not--I doubt the poor dears would even know what half the words mean! No, I'm sure they just go home for a nice cup of hot chocolate and an early night.
Then take that very popular American game of netball. At least with netball the players do seem to put some effort in and often for the whole game and the netball players run and st.... sorry... Why am I saying 'netball' it's 'basketball', basketball, that was silly of me, however that silly mistake was not too hard a mistake to make, and this is where we see your problem again, because netball is a game played in England that is surprisingly identical to basketball apart from the fact that (I think) they can't run with the ball, oh yes---and that it is played exclusively by schoolgirls. And not very tall schoolgirls at that. So you see that the most virile game that I'm going to mention here today is still merely a girl's game elsewhere.

Then there is the National Pastime: the game that could, if you were man enough enough to enjoy hardly ever winning, be replaced by an actually interesting game like cricket, I refer, of course to Baseball. Now I won't mock you for the way you don't even invite others to what you then proudly call the World Series (I suppose in case they beat you), but I must point out that:
a) like every other sport it was also invented in England, and
b) under its eke-name of 'rounders' it is still played in England, but only by the littlest and whimpiest of infants.


Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton


The title of this one has a purely seminal relationship to the essay---something about the contrast between your use of Elgar's wonderful Pomp and Circumstance No 1 for a rather whimpy graduation and ours, with the words "Land of Hope and Glory" as a (now officially deprecated) anthem of nationalistic fervour, provided the seed and then got edited out.


Early January 2006
Oh dear! I rather got myself into trouble with the NRA over this essay!
And so a nice man from the NRA warned me off in the nicest terms:

> In one of your recent "tirades" I stumbled across on the internet you ranted
> about baseball being from rounders which is correct. However, rounders is not
> played just by little schoolgirls but also by women of all ages in organised
> leagues (there are mixed leagues also). In addition international matches are
> played between England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. In addition foreign tours
> have been undertaken to the Caribbean, Toronto and Florida in the past.I am
> sure you won't correct your previous rant but you will now be better informed
> if you get on to the subject another time.You can also see our website for
> more knowledge.
> Terry Woolhouse - National Rounders Association

And I of course replied:

Dear Mr Woolhouse,
let me apologise unreservedly for denigrating rounders. As a
resident in the US (and something of a Liberal), there is
nothing I can imagine that is more terrifying to me than getting
in the sights of the NRA.
In my defence may I point out that my target was the less-than-hemanliness of
American sport and my description of rounders was tailored to that end: also I
have myself played the game back home in England (as, I'm afraid, quite the
littlest and whimpiest of infants). However, in my role as advocatus diaboli,
I must add that I had actually checked (perhaps even at your site) the history
and standing of rounders and did know, even then, of its less than lowly
Since the piece in question was broadcast last May, and since the arrow of
time is pretty definite in these matters, I can't undo the slight on air;
however, if you would like, I would be happy to add your rebuttal to the
essay---and if you want to add to it or change it in view of its slightly more
general distribution, please send me any changes. I can add a link to the NRA
Again, I did not intend to harm rounders in any way, and I'm sorry that you
were collaterally damaged

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