Jedburgh Abbey is a seriously impressive ruin; it’s a skeleton with all the soft parts dissected away. No distracting stained glass, no inappropriate Victorian pews or 1950s wooden chairs, no organ loft, no banners or hangings, just the raw engineering of the stone.
I was chatting to one of the blokes who sells you tickets and said how impressive it was, he said “until you English destroyed it”. Now, there is so much more to the Scots than you’d ever think from the whingeing victim status some of them adopt in relation to the English that I get mightily irritated whenever one of them comes over all Braveheart and Bonnie Prince Charlie and Highland Clearances on me. I smiled very sweetly and said “oh, it wasn’t personal you know, we English are just a bunch of football hooligans, we’ve trashed all sorts of things all over the world not just here in Scotland”.
Personally I blame the Danes. Don’t get me wrong, I like Danes immensely: I enjoy their ironic sense of humour, I am awestruck that they have vending machines selling pornography in the street, I admire their elegant visual style, and I love their company.
Some years ago I worked for one who warned me that I should never pick a fight with a Dane because the Danes are descended from Vikings. I pointed out a flaw in his logic: England’s where all the roughtiest toughtiest Vikings went raping and pillaging and Denmark was where the stay-at-home ones stayed at home. (It amazes me sometimes that I’ve never been a victim of ABH. My Grandma used to warn me that I was so sharp I’d cut myself.)
You see, it’s always seemed to me that if you strip away all the padding and propaganda from the English character, we boil down to a bunch of drunken football hooligans falling out of the pub and picking pointless fights and suddenly all sorts of things fall into place from the treatment of the Celtic Nations to Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs to the British Empire.
Personally, I think that “I predict a riot” should replace the Godsave as the English National Anthem. In the words of the Kaiser Chiefs:
Watching the people get lairy
It’s not very pretty I tell thee
Walking through town is quite scary