DON’T MENTION THE WAR

THIS was Ian’s hissed instruction as I headed for the dining-room with a full English for our German guests at the start of their nine-day stay. It was difficult: the 70th anniversary of the Blitz meant the airways were full of bomb sites and smouldering ruins and stoical Brits refusing to be cowed by the Enemy.

“As children we were told the English were horrid people,” says J. “But now we love your country and we have many holidays here.” His favourite TV programme was Little Britain (good grief – so it really is an age gap, not a cultural one) and both had laughed uproariously at the famous Faulty Towers sketch. When it was the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday J had flown his Union Flag outside his home, and flown it at half-mast when she died. As a result, his local paper had carried an article about him, complete with picture.

I felt strangely proud: mainly because I’m so used to hearing that foreigners hate us and we’re the worst at absolutely everything, coming bottom of the European scale for education, top for drunkenness and completely off it for customer service and welcoming guests to our country. Well, J and M didn’t think so: they thought Brits were the tops. They even liked our English breakfasts. Especially the porridge which they had every day – not so the kipper which they tried just once. And they wrote really nice things in the visitors’ book.

With enemies like this, who needs friends?

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