Britain, or more specifically England, is a tricky country for foreigners to enjoy. The food, at least since the sixteenth century when travellers began to comment on such things, has been a continuing problem. Too greasy, say some, too stodgy, say others, and too lacking in imagination, says everybody, with regard to our various ways of preparing it. Then there’s the inimical weather, so changeable and so damp, against which our wretched attempts at central heating are consistently useless. The hotels are dirty and overpriced, the countryside is too green for its own good, the towns lack charm and their sepulchral atmosphere is enhanced every week by the leaden imposition of the English Sunday, a sort of communal vacuum symbolised by the drawing down of blinds on shops and houses. The English themselves emerge as a kind of alternative life form: snobbish, graceless, undemonstrative, pugnacious and emotionally stunted semi-humans.
Do we care? Not particularly. One of our chief strengths as a nation is an almost complete indifference to what others may think of us, a quality which merely exacerbates the frustration and annoyance among visiting aliens. Now and then, however, one of them grasps the point of