Varied Surroundings

There is more to being human than travelling around the world sampling its many delights, and recent reading has taken me deeper into subjects like philosophy. Though I am a scientist by training, the humanities continue to appeal to me, and various life events have led me to explore them more than otherwise might have been the case. That is now the main thrust of what you find here, along with other things that have a use in navigating life’s journey.

Nation or Nations?

London, England

The nature of the United Kingdom seems to be a source not only of some confusion but of some political debate too. As it happens, some of that debate could be blamed for confounding things even further.

On one hand, you have a grouping of very distinctive nations that jealously guard their individual identities. Scotland comes to mind as a particular example, especially with its minority SNP government and the desire for its own parliament that was there for so many years before the wish was granted in the end. That independent streak is there in Wales too, though to a lesser extent, and they now have their own Assembly as part of the devolution settlement. Northern Ireland is very different to these two, but the very necessary peace process has yielded devolution for them.

You can think of Scotland, Wales and NI as discrete units (many websites providing visitor information do just that) but England gets split into regions. Labour's abortive attempt at regional elected assemblies followed this tack until the people of the northeast shot down the idea. Appointed assemblies seem to have come into place instead, but they lack visibility.

While on the subject of regional identities, counties come to mind too. Various local authority reorganisations have messed this up a fair bit with the creation of Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cumbria smashing up earlier allegiances to Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, Westmoreland and even Yorkshire. There may be others, but this is a representative selection.

Regarding Cheshire, we were soon to be left with the historical county palatine rather than a real entity. Parts have already ended up in Greater Manchester and Merseyside, but the final straw is the creation of the unitary authorities of Cheshire East along with Cheshire West and Chester. Warrington has had it unitary authority. It sounds as if someone somewhere wants to will the county to oblivion, with only stalwarts keeping the memory alive. The naming of Cheshire Police is another reminder of what is to pass, and I wonder whether Cheshire Fire & Rescue will stay as it is.

A certain method of organisation would have each of the English regions along with the other nations comprising the U.K. relegated to the status of regions themselves. To me, there is a certain ring of One Nation Conservatism (the Tories' official title isn't Conservative & Unionist for nothing) to that, and I am unsure that the model fits or that it ever truly did.

I have heard that England supporters during the 1966 football World Cup were wont to carry Union Jacks, a practice that seems to have been dropped in favour of taking the flag of St. George instead. That might reflect an increasing awareness of Englishness that might resolve the confusion between it and Britishness. The fact that England's capital, London, plays host to British institutions such as the U.K. parliament allows for a spot of confusion to reign. Nevertheless, the greater celebration of there being an England might result in an English equivalent of Scotland's parliament dealing in English matters, resolving the West Lothian question in one fell swoop. Given the problems dominating the political agenda right now, I can see that being a good while away.

What has brought all of this to mind is that one of the predecessors to this miscellany was a U.K. web directory. Organising that proved tricky with there being so many websites deciding to concentrate on a certain nation in the union rather than the U.K. as a whole. That made the national components of the web directory paramount, with the U.K. section playing second fiddle. The fact that England's counties have such prominence made having a standard structure for each nation an impossibility. The miscellany idea dispatches that conundrum to a point. The news and travel website listings apply to the constituent nations to keep repetition to a minimum. The U.K. theme might yet yield more musings like what you find here. Hopefully, they'll be less contentious and in less of a state of flux that the political settlement (muddle?) that is the U.K. Nation-states, like Éire, are so much simpler…