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The King's Speech

Nick Bryant | 13:51 UK time, Thursday, 3 March 2011


Loved The King's Speech, and was delighted to see it triumph at the Oscars. It was the only film we've ventured out to the cinema to see since the birth of our baby boy, and we had the weird experience of hoping throughout that Colin Firth would speak fluently and that our son would not make a sound. Happily, as the final credits rolled, we could report success on both counts.

I cannot wait for the DVD to come out, if only to listen the audio commentary that provides more texture, context and an insight into what was going on in the director and writer's heads when they wrote the screenplay and filmed the scenes. What will they say of the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue's opening line: "I'm on the loo?"
"Here we wanted to convey that Australians are prime vulgarians with decidedly iffy manners," perhaps they might say.

Similarly, Logue's insistence on "total equality" in his consultations with Prince Albert is clearly intended to underline how the Aussies are far more socially egalitarian than the class-obsessed Brits. Ditto, his demand that the Prince agree to the use of his first name, Bertie, rather than the more formal HRH.

King's Speech actors Colin Firth and Jeffrey Rush

Throughout, the Brits are portrayed as snotty, emotionally constipated and ludicrously formal.

All of this provides a lovely sepia-tinted snapshot of a moment in time when the manners and social mores of the Aussies and Brits were miles apart. A real museum piece, and exquisitely-crafted cinema.

But any portrait of British and Aussie manners today - a Mike Leigh take, for instance - would surely focus on the similarities between us rather than the differences. In the cross-flow of cultural influences, have not the Brits become a lot more Aussie in recent times? Have we not come to share more of the same social mores and manners?

Britain is a far more egalitarian society than it was when I grew up. Class is not such a factor. Post-Diana, we are not so emotionally constipated. In fact, arguably we've become a country of exaggerated emotional responses. Like the Aussies, we love underdog success. The public reaction to the Scottish songstress, Susan Boyle, offer proof of both.

Perhaps there is something of the Aussie influence in the increasingly tie-less workplaces. Certainly, there's a lot of Aussie influence in how we entertain at home, with the success in Britain of Australian cooking and lifestyle books.

Perhaps we Brits use the word "mate" a lot more. Within BBC News, I've long thought that we greet each other with a cheery "mate" all the time because so many of our cameramen are Aussies. Within Britain as a whole, perhaps it is because we all spent so much of our formative years in Ramsey Street.

Tony Blair was sometimes called Britain's first Australian prime minister because of his classlessness and breezy informality. Ahead of the British election, it was also interesting to hear David Cameron's response on morning television when he was asked which he preferred, Coronation Street or EastEnders. "Neighbours" came his instant reply. The King's Speech also provided an illustration of the influence of soaps back home. After all, Mike from Neighbours - aka the actor, Guy Pearce - played the part of King Edward VIII. In recent years, The Sun has even launched a campaign to have Kylie Minogue's bottom heritage-listed.

If ever there were a modern version of The King's Speech, perhaps it would be scripted rather differently. "I'm on the loo" might come from the mouth of the actor playing the British monarch, temporarily indisposed on his porcelain throne.

PS: While we are on the subject of Anglo-Australian ties, a very happy birthday to Claude Choules, who is thought to be the world's last surviving combat veteran from the Great War. British-born, he know lives in Perth, and I had the pleasure of interviewing him about eighteen months ago. He was an absolute delight. It's his 110th birthday today. Well done, sir, or perhaps that should be good on ya, mate.

Comments

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  • 1. At 3:36pm on 03 Mar 2011, Greg Warner wrote:

    Beautiful piece Nick.

    I have detected in your writing, perhaps since the birth of your Aussie/British boy, an extra element of "kindred spirit" with us.

    Felt that in your blog "Loving Australia"...

    Love "In the cross-flow of cultural influences, have not the Brits become a lot more Aussie in recent times? Have we not come to share more of the same social mores and manners?"

    Yes, also love "The King's Speech"...for many reasons.
    That particular way Aussies and Brits can successfully work together.
    Seeing a glimpse of Good Queen Bess II's dad.
    Thought Geoffrey Rush was a shoe-in for best Supporting Actor at the Oscars...dare I say "we was robbed" : )

    Also appreciate your mention of Claude Choules...as you and many posters know I sometimes have the odd spat with PeterD regarding aspects of the many times British and Commonwealth forces have fought side by side in defence of the noble and the right...we should never forget the brave men who fought and in so many cases gave their lives so that we could be free...and we should never disparage them.

    As we say in Australia "Lest we forget".





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  • 2. At 9:37pm on 03 Mar 2011, Treaclebeak wrote:

    Nick,

    Surely the increased 'Australian influence' is also caused by changes within British society itself which have made it more receptive to the idea of an egalitarian ethos. I suspect that Imperial pre WW2 Britain would have been impervious to Australian egalitatarianism.

    Oz probably doesn't deserve all the credit for any improvements in British society.

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  • 3. At 00:20am on 04 Mar 2011, Bill wrote:

    I hope we can be no credit whatsoever, for anything that happens within the United Kingdom.

    We're guilty of a lot of things but please don't try and lumber us with that.

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  • 4. At 05:24am on 04 Mar 2011, PeterD wrote:

    2 Treaclebeak

    It’s good to be in agreement with you for a change. When two countries such as the UK and Australia have so much in common, it’s inevitable that there should be a certain amount of social and cultural cross-fertilization but I don’t think this has been a major influence in the UK becoming more socially egalitarian. In my view the major causal factors were two world wars.

    The UK was nominally a winner in both wars but was a clear loser in terms of loss-of-life, economic distress and social upheavals. Lloyd George’s famous cry that he would make ‘Britain a land fit for heroes to live in’ caused considerable bitterness among hundreds of thousands of the citizenry typified by my maternal grandfather who, having survived over three years as one of Lord Haig’s shilling-a-day infantrymen on the Western Front, spent much of the next 20 years unemployed or in a sick-bed. WWII aggravated this discontent and led to the ‘Khaki Election’ of 1945 which gave Churchill his marching orders and resulted in a landslide victory for the Labour Party. The 1942 Beveridge report presented a comprehensive plan for what became known as the ‘Welfare State’ which the Labour government vigorously implemented. For all of the criticisms subsequently levelled at it, for the first time ever, it gave the majority of the populace access to higher education, affordable healthcare and many other measures to alleviate poverty.

    It took a while for the social impacts of the Welfare State to become apparent. During the first 10 years the emphases were on post-WWII recovery. Our London home was damaged by a V2 rocket in late 1944 and was not properly repaired until 1949. Hundreds of thousands of others lived in temporary prefab accommodation built in bombed-out areas and some of this was still being used as late as 1960. Food rationing was not fully eliminated until 1954.

    The first major beneficiaries of the Welfare State were the numerous Post WWII Baby Boomers who were not willing to tolerate the hierarchical and differentiating social structures imposed on their forebears. Their coming of age in the sixties marked a clear acceleration in the drive to make British society more egalitarian and more of a meritocracy. I have really noticed this during my periodic return visits to the UK which I left for Canada in 1968.

    Overall, the UK is now easily as egalitarian as the newer countries in the Anglo-sphere. The main reasons I would not choose to live there again are: overpopulation, a grossly unbalanced distribution of that population, inadequate transportation infrastructure, and climate. I also used to find it too expensive but that is much less the case now the pound exchange rates have come down to more realistic levels against the CAD, USD, AUD, etc.

    As to the term ‘mate’, this was commonly used in London when I was growing up in the forties and fifties and was never considered as originating from Australia. On the other hand, the term ‘guys’ was never used but is now in common usage. As to language generally, I think the US vernacular has had the most influence on UK English.

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  • 5. At 06:03am on 04 Mar 2011, Greg Warner wrote:

    Well argued PeterD...but what about Kylie Minogue's bottom?

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  • 6. At 06:41am on 04 Mar 2011, Butterfly wrote:

    PeterD makes an excellent point regarding government assisted changes in society. Access to education & through that greater opportunities in life is a great leveler in society.
    However I was also of the belief that ww1 was a major turning point in the UK, with many British households having to make do with out servants, or certainly with reduced help, because many people joined the war effort & when the war ended people did not return to that same pre-war working life. Perhaps also when ww1 ended many wealthy & middle class families did not seek the return of staff to assist with the running of their households. These things probably helped in reducing the master/servant relationship that exisited for many years in soceity.
    The 20th centuary change in technology probably assisted this also as it allows many home tasks to be completed in a much simpler manner, requiring less manual labour. Vacuum cleaners, washing machines & dishwashers are just a few examples of appliances that came in durring the 20th centuary that have made looking after & running a home much easier. A middle class family didn't need a servant to sweep the floor, they could clean it themselves with a vacuum cleaner with a minimum of fuss.
    Also in ww2 I am of the understanding that in the British military there was a greater consiousness in promoting people on the basis of merit, rather than on social status or family conections. Sure many people got a leg up that way, but that wasn't the case with everyone. It wasn't just people who were born into the right family, knew the right people, went to a good private school or a top university that got promoted to officer status. Perahps this new found consiousness translated into other areas of society.

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  • 7. At 10:17am on 04 Mar 2011, theboganpimpernal wrote:

    On reading this I thought what a curious piece.. A review of a British film in a blog ostensibly about matters Australian. But of course it's primarily written for a UK audience ( they pay for it after all )and so it discusses matters of interest( hopefully ) to Brits ( wherever they may be resident ) I'm more intrigued by the respondents... surely there are plenty of British websites devoted to the decline of Britain without bringing Australia into it

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  • 8. At 11:53am on 04 Mar 2011, stirling222 wrote:

    Nick these pieces are becoming too transparently aimed at pleasing your Australian readers. That or you had a sheltered upbringing. Brits are using the word 'mate' more because of Australia's influence? Are you serious? It's a British word older than Mrs Mangel's granny's knickers, and has always been very commonly used.

    I was surprised to hear Blair had been referred to as "Britain's first Australian prime minister" as I'd never heard that before so I Googled it and it produced two results, both of them attributable to you.

    As for Tory boy Cameron quipping 'Neighbours' in response to a question that was I guess designed to catch him out (toffs have to be very careful with their attempts to appeal to the hoi polloi), he avoided it well, but do you honestly believe Cameron watches trash that no one has seen since 1989?

    Butterfly #6 You appear to be slipping into typical Aussie generalisation mode. "many British households having to make do with out servants" What in the name of jumping Jehova are you talking about? 'Many'? 'Many'?? How can there be 'many British households having to do without servants' when 95% of the country could barely afford to feed themselves and their families anyway? I know it fits nicely for you to believe that everyone wore a top hat and lived the life of a Jane Austen character but if you are going to comment on British social history then at least research the subject first and don't just rely on your tiresome and boring stereotypes.

    Bogan: no one mentioed the decline of Britain except you, and as I've said before when one small country unfairly dominates the planet there is only one way to go. Britain isn't declining so much as levelling out with the rest of the planet. Jolly good thing too.

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  • 9. At 12:01pm on 04 Mar 2011, pandatank wrote:

    I agree with Butterfly. WW1 saw the end of the rigid class structure. WW2 saw the end of the British Empire and heralded the rise to power of the multi-national corporations. Unfortunately most Americas are only now realising that Multi national corporations owe no loyalty to the country of their birth.
    I should also point out the Australia you (Nick) inhabit is a vastly different Australia to the one I left in 1984. The "digger" has been surgically removed from OZ society and now exists only in (nostalgic)memory. Perhaps both countrys have lost their essential differences in their moves towards a "no mans land" of political correctness and the global market.

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  • 10. At 12:12pm on 04 Mar 2011, stirling222 wrote:

    As for the actual subject of Britain becoming a more equal society, how dare you suggest that somehow kids watching Neighbours or having a few more Aussies in offices has changed British society.

    For centuries normal people have struggled against a system designed to benefit the privileged few and keep the majority firmly in their miserable places. Individuals like my Granddad who worked for Reyrolle in Hebburn (deprived area of S. Tyneside). A very intelligent and ambitious man who worked his way up from the bottom to be Head of Research at the company. Once there he discovered the path to further promotion was blocked because he didn't know the right people, and they wouldn't listen to him.

    Instead of accepting his lot, he saved and saved and sold and sold and bought as many shares in the company as he could afford and went to the meetings where they HAD to listen to him, after that he could influence the future of the company and gain the respect of those who previously wouldn't have given him the time of day. I do not believe my Granddad was an anomaly.

    So yes, barbeques are a welcome import, Kylie has a fantastic backside (though her music is dubious) and we all have mates from many countries who help us gain a more rounded view of the world, but do not tell me that Neighbours is changing Britain for the better. To do so is an insult to to the work of millions of working class heroes like Bill Stirling.

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  • 11. At 1:18pm on 04 Mar 2011, Mick wrote:

    I've just seen the film and I think it is marvellous. However, I suspect it is a fairy tale. Lionel Logue was from Adelaide - surely Australia's most Anglophile and snobbish city (see the way third generation 'Aussie' Alexander Downer speaks) - and he taught at posh schools in Perth at a time when Australians still firmly believed they were part of the British Empire. I suspect that in real life he was one of those Australians drawn to London who were 'more English than the English' in the mould of Nigel Dempster. The notion that the British were a 'stuck up' rigidly class bound nation in the 30s is a myth. I recently heard a great anecdote about a puffed-up RAAF 'chair crew' Air Commodore who was greeted by an Englishman at a bus stop in wartime London. "You seem to know a lot about Australia" said the senior officer, stiffly. "Yes, Lord Gowrie's the name, I used to be Governor General ..."

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  • 12. At 1:41pm on 04 Mar 2011, Greg Warner wrote:

    #7 bogan:
    I believe "The King's Speech" is a British/Australian production rather than a "British film"...more erudite posters than myself may wish to define that.

    Kylie's bottom...why not consign it to posterior-ty?

    Actually I believe Nick is reaching for something quite profound in this blog...apart from the well argued POVs of PeterD, Butterfly and stirling222 et al...I believe it would be impossible to replace "Australia" with...South Africa, India, Canada etc in what Nick has hypothesised.

    You just have to envisage all those cricket Tests at the height of so many Australian summers, the images of all those Aussies basking in the sunshine, on Sydney's "Hill" as an example, being beamed back to a shivering and freezing Britain to understand how Australia has come to be seen as "a place in the sun".

    And with those images the concept of a more equal, egalitarian and harmonious way of life.




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  • 13. At 1:47pm on 04 Mar 2011, Cassandra wrote:

    Nick - interesting ideas. I think, however, that you have been out of the UK too long.

    All of the debate here in the last 6 months has been about how Britain became more egalitarian after WW2 but that in the last 20 years or so the trend has been decidedly in the opposite direction.

    The inequality in wealth increased markedly under the Blair government. The current British cabinet is dominated by men who went to the 3 or 4 elite public (i.e. fee paying) schools. The upper echelons of business, the professions and the media are also dominated by those from fee paying schools.

    Less than 100 kids from poor families (i.e. those entitled to free school meals) made it to Oxbridge last year. There are also vast disparities in health statistics between the rich south east and the rest of the country.

    Your BBC colleague Andrew Neil even had a one hour documentary last month highlighting the growing inequality in Britain.

    Of course I can't comment on whether similar trends are evident in Aus. Maybe growing inequality in fist world countries is a global trend - certainly there has been much comment about the shrinking of the middle class in the US in the last year or so.



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  • 14. At 1:52pm on 04 Mar 2011, Cassandra wrote:

    BTW - I was always told that mate was introduced into Australia by gold miners from California and that the true Aussie word was "cobber". But I am very happy for someone to correct me.

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  • 15. At 2:25pm on 04 Mar 2011, mac72 wrote:

    I agree with stirling222's 11.53am post. You're getting worse Nick, this is an extraordinarily poor article. Lower your standards any further and you may as well work for the australian media. "..the success in Britain of Australian cooking and lifestyle books", "Tony Blair was sometimes called Britain's first Australian prime minister", "Perhaps we Brits use the word "mate" a lot more", "Perhaps there is something of the Aussie influence in the increasingly tie-less workplaces". What??!! Dreadful.

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  • 16. At 3:29pm on 04 Mar 2011, stirling222 wrote:

    In addition to the points I raised above I also have a wee issue with this type of British film that does well in the States. I don't want to take anything away from Mr Darcy who I'm sure acted very well (I haven't seen The King's Speech) but I feel much of the success of the film - as with The Queen in 2006 - is down to giving the Americans a feeling of superiority because they do not have a British-style aristocracy (we all know they have a pronounced social hierachy) and while enjoying the movie on its merit, it also helps them feel better about their own country. I have a feeling this is the case in Aus, too.

    As for Greg's assertion that Australians enjoy a more equal, egalitarian and harmonious way of life, there speaks a comfortable white man (am I wrong Greg?) Ask an Aborigine on the wrong side of the digital divide if he agrees with that statement. What about women in Australia? Would they agree they live in an egalitarian society? I thought it was common knowledge that Aussie gents are a way behind when it comes to adopting a 21st century view of their role in society. Big generalisation, I know, but it appears that's what we deal with on this blog.

    I have no doubt that no Australian here will have any sympathy with my comments as refusing to question the concept of their country being unequalled in almost every aspect is ingrained into their psyche, but 'egalitarian' is not a word many people who've done their own research would use to describe Australia.

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  • 17. At 3:52pm on 04 Mar 2011, Sharon wrote:

    4. Peter D

    I have no doubt the Welfare State was crucial to modern Britain's developement today. But one could also argue today's version of the Welfare State is entrenching a new type of class segregation and north - south divide defined by the prevalence of either employed or unemployed households. Growing up in these households has a large influence on the outcome of a child's development and future as an adult.

    6. Butterfly

    UK households employing domestic labour has made a re-appearance, although it may have taken a dip with the recent recession. But the opening up of eastern European labour markets has lead to a resurgence of hiring nannys and cleaners. Also the popularity of booking regular mini-cabs can be considered effectively having your own driver. Increased migration from Asian, Middle-eastern and African countries means in London and south east England it is no longer unheard of for households to have a live-in maid or nanny.

    13 Cassandra

    I agree. The accents may have changed - probably more to do with globalised media rather than Aussie influence, but the underlying inequality in Britain is still very similar. It's always been a case of the haves and have-nots.

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  • 18. At 7:38pm on 04 Mar 2011, Yenta wrote:

    I am an American and absolutely loved this film. People clapped at the end. I can't remember the last time that happened.

    Good on ya, as the Aussies say, for your column. I doubt, however, that Logue would have called the Duke/King by his first name in real life. We don't really know because Logue was very tight lipped about as he should have been. While he was not a medical doctor a licensed speech therapist (licensed speech therapists did not exist in those days) he should be commended for being tight lipped. Any therapist treating anyone is bound by the doctor-patient privilege and I assume that is why Logue was so tight lipped about his relationship with George VI. Also, if he "blabbed" as many royal intimates have done in recent years, he could not have been the King's real friend. I am so glad the film won the Oscar. It just brought tears to everyone's eyes.

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  • 19. At 8:09pm on 04 Mar 2011, AArdvark wrote:

    My mum is Scottish and Dad is Australian. We moved to the US when I was seven but I go back to both the UK and Australia every few years. What I have noticed over the years (and no one is going to want to hear this) is that both countries are becoming more American. Still closer to each other for the most part, but there is a definite culture creep going on.

    Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?

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  • 20. At 11:06pm on 04 Mar 2011, Euloroo wrote:

    Nick, charming as the kings speech is as a piece of theatre, "museum piece" suggests some historical integrity which I think is dubious to say the least.

    really though, i don't really get this blog. it feels like you're running low on news items and are trying to fill with some ramblings. you should think about covering the new south wales election which really will impact on the direction this country. labor are at the lowest ever (in history) rating for an incumbent government in australia. there is a tidal wave coming and i can't believe you're not covering it...

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  • 21. At 00:01am on 05 Mar 2011, Treaclebeak wrote:

    #4, Peter D,

    Interesting.I hadn't really considered the effects of WW1 on the transformation of British society later in the 20th Century,I should have remembered history is a continuum.


    #19, AArdvark808,

    I've often wondered how deep the Americanization of Australian society really is,after all,there are significant differences in social attitudes between the US and Australia. Certainly years of neo-liberal policies have increased inequality in Oz and shifted income disribution towards the relatively unequal US pattern. Whether the process of Americanization will continue indefinitely is open to question.


    #16 Stirling222,

    We live in an imperfect world,every society has its flaws,however, some are more egalitarian than others,so simply pointing out social problems in Australian society really proves nothing.

    Your last paragraph is a rather lame attempt at creating a straw man-this Australian doesn't have that attitude.

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  • 22. At 00:40am on 05 Mar 2011, Chris90210 wrote:

    Uhhh, WHAT was the point of Australia and New Zealand getting involved in WWII Europe let alone WWI?

    Were Australia and New Zealand in danger from the Germans?

    Are soldiers from Australia and New Zealand who fought in WWI and WWII Europe heralded as having defended freedom and democracy in Australia and New Zealand from the Germans?

    The Japanese threat I understand but I really don't understand why Australians and New Zealanders fought and died in WWII Europe. Involvement in WWI Europe makes absolutely no sense at all unless the purpose was to defend England or just fight in a jolly good war.

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  • 23. At 01:47am on 05 Mar 2011, stirling222 wrote:

    Phew. I just got in from the NBA match at the O2. Free courtside ticket and I was near Monty Panesar!! Free beer too...

    Treaclebeak: I am of the opinion that if Australians aren't reminded of their country's flaws now and again they will continue to love it like a son loves his mother - unable to accept criticism without crying. Britain takes regular flak here without anyone even noticing. In fact this column is half about criticising my country. It also gets a little tiresome reading people's smug self congratulation, so forgive me. :)

    Chris90210: either you are of primary school age or you haven't thought through your comment. Or, perhaps, you believe Aus and NZ would have thrived in a nazi world. Lots of blonde folks in Aus, I suppose. You may have a point! The dark fellows indiginous to the country may have had trouble, but then they haven't exactly lived the life of riley since the allied victory so...

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  • 24. At 01:47am on 05 Mar 2011, Greg Warner wrote:

    One of the things I enjoy about Nick's writing are words like this...

    "It was the only film we've ventured out to the cinema to see since the birth of our baby boy, and we had the weird experience of hoping throughout that Colin Firth would speak fluently and that our son would not make a sound".

    Beautiful, in both word and thought.

    This really is an excellent film...great acting, direction and script...great lines...Colin Firth's "short tailed albatross"...his reaction to Geoffrey Rush's question about jokes...and his note about whose head is on the shilling he is finally able to give Rush are delightful.

    Helen Bonham Carter plays the "dear Queen Mum" perfectly.

    Stirling, suggest you see it : )

    As far as egalitarianism goes, and using the Oxford Dictionary definition "of, relating to, holding the principle of the equality of mankind" yes, I do hold to that description of Australian society in general, as someone who has lived it rather than being based on research...yes, your description of me is correct.

    FWIW Ken Follet's most recent book "Fall of Giants" gives a clear and brilliantly portrayed picture of life in the UK leading up to and during WWI...especially relating to class, class perceptions and opportunities, the struggle of labour and the fight for women's suffrage.

    I also note how empires of the past adopted many of the ideas and mores of their "colonies"...taking Rome as an example I would point to the adoption of a great many principles taken from the Greeks, and of course...Christianity.

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  • 25. At 03:50am on 05 Mar 2011, RSH wrote:

    stirling222 @16

    "I thought it was common knowledge that Aussie gents are a way behind when it comes to adopting a 21st century view of their role in society. Big generalisation, I know, but it appears that's what we deal with on this blog."

    I believe it's common knowledge among certain dinner party sets in North London frequented by Germaine Greer and her ilk...outside of that, not only are you talking in gross generalizations but you're also talking utter bunk. For those interested in facts it's worth acknowledging the presence of females in the current offices of the Australia PM, NSW and QLD premiers as well as the vice regals for all three governments. Oh, and South Australia being the second democracy in the world to grant women the vote might also be relevant (technically the British would claim that as it was their colony at the time).

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  • 26. At 04:23am on 05 Mar 2011, Smudge wrote:

    As a kid in the coal mining villages of Cumberland - that's before it became Cumbria - I had lots of mates and pals, or in the local dialect "marras". Consequently I've had no problems calling or being called mate in Australia over the last 30years. Do have major issues with being called buddy though !!

    Accents may have changed "down south" but not in Cumbria & Newcastle where I was a couple of months ago - give me a northerner anytime !!

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  • 27. At 04:58am on 05 Mar 2011, DoomOnYou wrote:

    Stirling222,

    You need a soapbox, because you sure sound preachy.

    Your above post's are impassioned about the British peoples plight and your Grandfather and his struggle, I found that very admirable such a story is not that uncommon in Australia and you would find many people who would admire such a man. Nick's rather limp piece doesn't make any mention of the British Peoples own efforts for equality post WWI and II and it was right of you to point that out, but you completely ruin any sympathy you engender from an Australian POV with comments like:

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I have no doubt that no Australian here will have any sympathy with my comments as refusing to question the concept of their country being unequalled in almost every aspect is ingrained into their psyche, but 'egalitarian' is not a word many people who've done their own research would use to describe Australia.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    For a person that has from what I understand never even been to Australia you claim to have a lot of knowledge about our psyche. Your comment above about Aboriginals is a cheap shot, contrary to popular overseas opinion Australians aren't sitting around patting ourselves on the back about our country's obvious superiority whilst watching sport, drinking beer, whining about the motherland, hating Aboriginals and throwing another shrimp on the barbie.

    Your 23 post is without much thought and your arguments sound like an abusive relative, who later claims you only said it for our own good and then expects people to take you seriously. Accusing other people of smug self congratulation is laughable.

    You say that Australians don't like criticism, more like don't like criticism that comes from you. If you wish to criticise fine but make it constructive and without your penchant for unnecessary put downs. If other commenters like Euloroo and Cassandra can manage it I'm sure you can.

    Finally in attempt to stay on topic, Australia and indeed the U.S. and New Zealand as well as many other former colonies are constantly forced to acknowledge the cultural heritage given to them by brits (and we are grateful). Is it so insulting to believe that that goes both ways? If anything I feel insulted that Nick uses examples such as Neighbours and Kylie Minogue's bottom, as if that is all we have to offer the world.

    I don't know about anyone else but I find it painful when trying to sum up Aus we see the obligatory shots of beach, the outback, maybe Sydney harbour and the MCG and some kids with zinc on their nose (with an Aborigibal thrown in for good measure). Australians have contributed much more than tourism adds to the world.

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  • 28. At 11:10am on 05 Mar 2011, jaction wrote:

    #12 Greg: "being beamed back to a shivering and freezing Britain to understand how Australia has come to be seen as "a place in the sun"."

    Such comments make me laugh, Greg! You may not believe this but in England we do not wear shorts and T-shirts in winter! If you dress for the season you do not 'shiver in freezing Britain’. You people who get used to having practically only one season all year round (which must be pretty boring) seem unable to understand that some people actually like to have 4 seasons. I have been to Oz several time and friends I have made down there complain via regular emails during their summer months of 'melting' in the high summer temperatures. One of them cannot use his computer during the day at such times because his den does not have air-con! To use your terms, I suppose you could say they are 'sweating in boiling Oz.' In really hot weather you can do little but scramble for the air-con whereas in cold weather you can dress for it and, outdoors, merely keep active to lead a very comfortable and enjoyable life.

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  • 29. At 2:11pm on 05 Mar 2011, stirling222 wrote:

    RSH: Don't take my word for it, I'm only sharing with you the 2009 findings of Dr Almudena Sevilla-Sanz of Oxford University after a study of 13,500 men and women, aged between 20-45 years old from each of the 12 countries.

    http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_releases_for_journalists/090803.html

    DoomOnYou and Treaclebeak: This is yet another tired article based on congratulating Australia on having a wonderful egalitarian society in contrast with the stuffy English who don't even know how to relax unless a few chilled out Aussies show us how. You might not like the way I criticise you but I notice you choose to ignore the points I raise in favour of condemning me.

    Social issues in Aus will never be raised by Australian contributors here. All we get from you is comments about how superior Australian society is, while simultaneously running down Britain. The term 'the English' automatically draws negative connotations on this blog. Do you deny that? Why should I just accept it? I haven't been to Australia yet but have met hundreds of your compatriots here in London and have noticed a distinct inability to either comment positively on my country or accept anything but praise for their own country.

    Do you believe I should say nothing? I should allow others to speak here and state that their society is superior to others, while completely ignoring the other side of the argument? Why should I not point out that this only really applies if you're wealthy, white and male? Why should I not bring to the debate the 'digital divide' and an Oxford University study that claims the exact opposite of the premise of this entire article?

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  • 30. At 8:10pm on 05 Mar 2011, Whitfordsbeach wrote:

    Nick, Gotta agree with Cassandra on this one. Having grown up with one Britsh and one Australian parent and having had what I regard as the priviledge of living, studying and working in both countries I am very aware of the advantages and disadvantages of both societies. I've been working back in the UK for the last eight months and my British half is very depressed about the state of the nation. The gap in opportunity, education and access to quality health provision between the have and have nots is shocking. Quality of life for working people in Britain rose and rose decade on decade for probably eighty years after WW1 regardless of which political party governed. Now something has gone very wrong and egality is fast becoming a hollow joke. The welfare reliant ghettos and workless lifestyles created in the name of fighting poverty when what people really need is meaningful work to give purpose to life, the gap between the best education and the worst, the shocking differnces in life expectancy between the wealthy and the poor, the imposibility of breaking into closed professions like law and medicine and finance, the polititians that have never done anything but politics, come from one type of background and who are completely detached from the masses and the seriously rich increasingly above the law and beyond the tax authorities add to that an over-taxed and scared for their jobs work force who cannot afford to rock the boat. Aussie style egalitarianismin the UK? Maybe it was developing unitl the last five years but now? 'fraid not. I see a country heading fast back to the 1930s in terms of social mobility.
    Nick, I'm proud of my British heritage but can't wait to get the two of my kids who are studying in the UK back to their future.

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  • 31. At 10:03pm on 05 Mar 2011, Treaclebeak wrote:

    #29 stirling 222,

    If you'd actually read my earlier post(#2)you'd have noticed that I didn't agree with Nick's idea and in fact I suggested that the increased egalitarianism in the UK was caused by internal influences, not external.

    As to your encounters with Australians in Britain who are unable to accept criticism and, perhaps, could be described as 'whingers',I think I know how you feel. I have, in the past encountered more than enough English people who just could not stop telling anyone in earshot how the UK was far superior to Australia. I'm sure some of their criticisms were valid,but they were delivered in a smug, patronizing tone which was really irritating.I also met pleasant and interesting people from the UK,so naturally I didn't try to paint one nationality all with the same brush, as you appear to have done with Australians.

    Where have I made chauvinistic claims about Australian society? You appear to lump all the posts by Australians together,no matter how different in tone and content each is. Can't you tell us apart?

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