Britain is a great place to live. We have universal suffrage and equal rights. We’ve got one of the best and most comprehensive healthcare systems in the world. The weather may be crap, but at least nobody has ever been swept away by a tsunami or fallen into a volcano on home soil. Murder is rare here. Our fashion industry is brimming over with talented, charming designers (at least until John Galliano lost his shit in Paris and ruined it for everyone, but that’s sort of blown over now). Although historically we’ve liked nothing better than dicking on almost every other country in the world, we’ve apologised a lot. And we were the good guys in both World Wars, which sort of makes up for it. Our tiny nation has produced some of the greatest artists, scientists, writers, actors and humourists (although obviously it’s not all good. There is no excuse for Mr Blobby.)
We have much to be patriotic about. However, things have gotten out of hand.
Suddenly, people have become obsessed with teapots and tea and having it in the afternoon, which involves paying £20 for a pot of Earl Grey and sandwiches WITH THE CRUSTS CUT OFF (!?!?!?) Union Jacks can be found bedecking fucking everything, and don’t even get me started on those bloody ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ posters. Oscar Wilde has never been so popular. Silly moustaches are rife. Trendy types have been filling their Instagram feeds with picnics and boat races and second-hand bookshops. I mean, great, nothing wrong with second-hand bookshops. Don’t mind a cheapy well-thumbed paperback myself, but Instagramming one so you can tell the world about OMG THE SMELL OF OLD BOOKS is fucking lame. Everyone likes the smell of old books; sod off and grow some originality. Douchebag emporium Jack Wills has been raking it in outfitting these twerps under its clever ‘Fabulously British’ marketing, and who can blame them when they’ve got their ridiculous yellow trousers selling like hot cakes?
And on the subject of hot cakes, why has everyone suddenly gone mental for them? Not to hate on cake, I’m always ready and waiting to take a hit of lemon drizzle to the gob, but these aren’t cakes as we know them. They’re monstrous sugar-swollen beasts topped with two solid inches of synthetic pinkness. Cupcakes are an American invention, but they’ve caught on in a big way here and baking of all kinds has become aggressively championed by almost everyone with both a British passport and a uterus. Bollocks to that; I fucking hate cupcakes. The only reason why anyone should ever make them is for portion control. It’s easy to justify an enormous piece of cake as ‘just one slice’ but it takes the most seasoned of gluttons to not feel like a big fat fuck after scarfing five little ones.
Unfortunately this new nationwide enthusiasm for wearing aprons has spawned a vast number of companies selling every accessory the aspiring domestic goddess could ever want. Some of these are become enormous, like Cath Kidston. In 2008 the brand sold about £20 million-worth of polka-dotted, sugary pastel tat. Yesterday it announced yearly turnover of £100 million. That is some mental growth. Over the last decade it has been almost single-handedly responsible for the almighty twee-bomb that has devastated our nation and made us all look like whimsy-loving whoopsies to the rest of the world. I can only begrudgingly admire its eponymous founder, who has taken the naffest and most generic of designs and converted them into millions, but my God do I hate the stuff. I remember when it first started becoming popular and thinking it was cool in a kitsch sort of way, its vintage-inspired cutesy-ugly prints harking back to a simpler time of pinafores, rosy cheeks and low-alcohol fruity spritzers on English summer days. I even bought a set of Cath Kidston pyjamas that I felt fucking adorable in. But then I realised that in fact I’d just been caught up in the probing tentacles of the Twee Triffid, which were creeping insidiously into everyone’s lives and choking them with nappy bags made of sparrow print and other dainty-ass shit.
Recently my mother came to visit me in London for the day. We had a spare hour in the afternoon, so I took her to Selfridges to look at all the lovely expensive things in their homewares department. Unfortunately I forgot that Selfridges now has a Cath Kidston shop in the basement. I don’t know what it is, but middle-class women of a certain age – and my mother is about as middle-class as a big jar of feta-stuffed olives – are drawn to the stuff like flies around an enormous steaming pile of shit. The place was rammed with middle-aged women cooing over everything from keychains to cake stands in Cath Kidston’s ‘signature’ print (er…dotty). I never thought I’d see a forty year old woman brought almost to the brink of orgasm by a powder blue rolling pin at 30% off, but I have. And she wasn’t even touching it.
“Ooh, look at the cake tins!” exclaimed my mother.
I looked at her sternly. “You hate baking,” I told her, which is entirely true. The only proper dessert I remember her making in the last five years was some sort of tart that she royally fucked up by putting in twice too much gelatine. The result was a slimy confection that went down like a cup of cold snot.
“Well, how about a nice bag then? Look, the purses are on sale. Aren’t they lovely?”
I indicated that I’d rather haul my shit around in a maggoty burlap sack that anything made by the Ms Kidston and her merry band of boring bastards, and dragged her out to look at the overpriced furniture in Anthropologie.
According to Cath and her fellow dot-enthusiast Emma Bridgewater, bunting is now legit décor all year round. You can buy it as a thing to put in your house, indoors, even when it’s not a public holiday. I blame the Royal Family’s recent resurgence in popularity, which has transformed even the most hard-nosed Republican into a boot-licking toady. Now, I actually really like the Queen. She’s as charming a relic from an outdated old institution can be, and works her wizened old arse off pretty savagely for someone who’s nearly ninety. Admittedly there’s no heavy lifting involved, but there is a lot of standing around and trying not to look too bored. I imagine once you’ve opened one renovated railway station you’ve opened them all. It’s lucky she married Prince Philip, who I suspect she chose as Royal Consort because he is the most hilarious. Always nice to have a bit of comic relief at all those otherwise stuffy diplomatic occasions, I would have thought. But while the Queen has always been in the Great British background, diligent and dignified, the rest of the Royal Family have been putting in more regular appearances in the world’s press than fucking Garfield. Since the Royal Wedding, their waning popularity has been perked up with a winning combination of Kate Middleton’s lustrous blow-drys, a couple of bonus bank holidays and Pippa Middleton’s arse. Throw in worldwide coverage of assorted nobility dicking around in antlers and follow it up with Prince Harry’s gingery bollocks and you’re halfway there to getting God Save the Queen to Christmas number one.
Who knows how long this ghastly trend will go on for? There’s nothing wrong with paying homage to times past or being patriotic, but this identikit retromania is really starting to do my head in. The fashion for affected Englishness has created an army of caricatures that spend their weekends rolling around on the banks of the River Cam in foppish waistcoats and replica 1950s circle skirts, “quaffing” their Pimms and braying loudly about how obsessed they are with the Hummingbird Bakery. Almost makes me embarrassed to be British.
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