I don’t mind saying I love London or I love Britain, just as I don’t mind saying I love my little hometown. There are times when you feel that you have known a person or a place long before you physically meet them. Moreover, what London means to me is also a random harvest of finding who I am, what I treasure, and what I want.
I don’t know where Paul, my Prof. in documentary film, has found this film called Listen to Britain, released in 1941, the very same year the 26-year-old Olson Welles distributed his renowned Citizen Kane. On answers.com, Listen to Britain is labeled as a propaganda film during WWII. By the way, Paul Swann is also a Cantab, like many of my friends; graduated from St. John’s, the Collage that I love the most at Cam.
You actually could skip the first two paragraphs, I forgot to mention. The chief idea here is, if you give me everything in this world to represent the spirit of Britain, I would choose this single documentary and nothing else. Paul, on hearing what I said, was shamelessly complacent.
The moment when I saw the clouds of South England again from this documentary, I knew I was going to be completely captured by it. Low and spreading over the vast, endless plains of South England, it is a metaphor of the English heart: whoever comes, whatever happens, whenever it is, we treat it with peace and nobody can change we Britons.
In this sense, I see it much more as a description of the sound of Britain than as a propaganda film. It has a bit of the sound of the war: bombs possibly exploding beside you any moment, and broadcasters announcing the news of the War on the Continent.
But life goes on.
Every day with a cup of tea in Covent Garden, with bacon or without; People sitting on the stage during noontime, calmly wrapping a sandwich; Free concerts at St. Paul’s, the Queen occasionally attending as well;
There was the life of the factory workers, women raising heads from the work, smiling to the men who were kidding with each other. In an unknown corner of a cave-like place, soldiers were playing guitars and singing the old folk songs…
They were boys, they were wives, they were children, and most of all, in the music they hear and play together, they were all Britons.
All these overlap with my memory there: Every day hearing “Darling, have a nice day” and seeing the mild smile on each other’s faces whether you hear a “sorry” or “you’re welcome.”
Think about it, to have a cup of tea as usual and treat it as simply part of you, like breathing in and breathing out.
I used to have some days without being able to do or even think of anything except looking in the air with glazed eyes. Twice at least. Once classmate was killed and the other time, when I felt betrayed.
It is as difficult as it is easy, to take a cup of tea every morning with peace and joy. Then you have the courage to announce, nothing can defeat me.
Things will go; but the music will go on.