1776 and all that

This date always reminds me of a story Gramps told me once of his travels in the US of A.

William spent time as a merchant seaman and an engineer, and both careers saw him travelling around the world and visiting many far flung places. The US became a favourite stop, and one year he found himself there just as the July 4th holiday was approaching.

I can't remember exactly where he was - but Chicago always springs to mind, because he was riding the subway alone, enjoying a moment to himself. As he tells it, a woman sat down opposite him and, because the car was virtually empty, decided to strike up a conversation.

"So," the woman asks. "What are your plans for the fourth of July?"

"Oh," replies William, "I don't have any plans."

"Really?" replies the woman, surprised. "Why not?"

"I'm British. We don't celebrate the fourth of July."

"What?!" the woman protests, indignantly. "You guys don't celebrate the fourth of July?! Why not?"

"Well...we lost."

It seems that in celebrating the birth of her nation, the woman had forgotten exactly how that nation had been born, of the difficult circumstances under which the declaration of independence had been signed, and the bloody battles which had ensued to ensure the United States could shake off the "tyranny" of British rule.

I'm no expert on the American Revolution, but I do know that it was not the best of times for the British. Their attitude was almost entirely that of keeping hold of what they saw as legitimately theirs at any cost. And in their acts, they became pariahs, not only to the Americans, but also to other European nations, who soon took the opportunity to declare war themselves.

The history of the American revolution is fascinating, and a subject I'd love to delve in to more. Perhaps I will one day. After all, it's an event which affected our history almost as much as it did the American colonists.

I'd like to wish all of my American friends, and our American readers, a very happy fourth of July. I'll raise a toast to your independence. But I hope that you guys can understand why we Brits don't take the day quite so much to heart as you do. After all, we were the losing side on that particular occasion, and instead of fireworks and celebrations, a moment of quiet reflection, much like the one Gramps was having that day, is more in order this side of the pond.

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