Inhabiting A Stereotype

I thought I’d start off the year with something ramble-based rather than sewing-based to indicate my intention of not being a completely sewing-based blog – I seem to have done the opposite of diversify my blog  (whatever that’s called) since I started sewing.

So welcome to the inside of my head.


I read this article on The Grauniad the other day, and as I reached the last paragraph a sense of calm set in as it tends to when someone articulates something that you’ve been feeling for a while but didn’t realise that anyone else had. For those who can’t be bothered to read it, here is the last paragraph-and-a-bit:

..our obsession with this abstract idea of Britishness is actually our most British trait, more aspiration than reality, meta-Britishness. This tweeness doesn’t exist anywhere but in our imaginations, in idealised Tetley ad versions of Britain where the sun actually shines sometimes.

What makes us British is being quietly proud that we could be even thought of as being that fey. What makes us British is wanting to be all village fetes and bone china, but in actuality being a more “clumps of hair pulled out in a fight outside a Poundstretcher, two passersby wounded”. British culture has its own aspirational middle-class complex. In a way, that’s the most British thing possible.

Living abroad, I’m so used to the “Ah, you’re English. The Queen! The BBC!” (or anyway “Ah, du bist Englanderin. Die Königin! Die BBC!” both of which I am rather fond of, by the way, although don’t worship in the way that they expect me to) that I barely even flinch at the stereotype any more (even coming from people who clearly spend their days up to the elbows in a) chocolate, b) nazi gold or c) intricate watch parts..)
And when my boss comes in and says “I’ve read that proper British people never wash teapots” I’ve stopped telling him that my parents’ teapot always go in the dishwasher and denying the existence of my once-white, now white-and-black-inside teapot. Sometimes I’ll ask if he’s heard that Heidi might well have been published by a German author 50 years before Johanna Spyri got around to it, but only to wind him up.

I’ve grown not to mind the stereotypes that some people here expect of me. I can reinforce them, if I want, by insisting on my morning cup of tea, by religiously putting on radio 4 when I get inside my front door and informing everyone when we have won the cricket. I can hide away inside them if I want to, while all the time, inside I’m actually a real person! I haven’t quite worked out if this is a defence mechanism, or just some sort of game that I play with myself. But the author of the article is right. I am sort of proud that people think I’m capable of being as whimsical as the British stereotype, and that gives me the freedom to be as whimsical as I want in other ways.

Happy 2016

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