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BRITS WEEK IN REVIEW

The Queen is in America celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. British settlement meant that America escaped French and Spanish colonialism, adopted many of the freedoms in Magna Carta and the British Bill of Rights, and came to prefer British measurements. Being eminently practical, Americans still do. The Queen also visited William & Mary, once a hotbed of revolutionaries, and attended the Kentucky Derby. Her face while watching Street Smart come from behind to take the Derby by 2 and a half lengths was far more expressive than Helen Mirren’s.

Environmentalist John Muir and England football legend Alan Ball reminded me how different human achievement can be, as did those British surgeons who in a medical first are implanting genes into the eyes of people who are blind so they can see. I was glad but not surprised to read in the BMJ that UK surgeons don't care whether high-risk operations will adversely affect their careers. They go ahead and try to save ill patients anyway.

The Dangerous Book for Boys, a bestseller in Britain, has just hit American bookstores. Bear Gryll, the boy as grown-up, is tackling Everest in a dangerous new way. Now in his late 60s, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has just sailed round the world; Miles Hilton-Barber, the blind pilot, arrived safely in Australia after some open-air acrobatics; and physicist Stephen Hawking experienced the bliss of flying gravity-less.

Local elections brought plenty of candidates and parties down to earth. The virtues of paper ballots were obvious to everyone except the people running the elections. David reported on the fraud that has afflicted widespread postal voting. Identity fraud is another less than positive issue. I asked, probably in too jaded a tone, how these local elections can matter when the EU seems to be taking decision-making out of the hands of the British people.

Donne is one of those poets who keeps speaking to people though he has been dead for almost four hundred years. I wrote about him in March, but I discovered a love poem of his I had overlooked, and thought you might like it. On behalf of English is my response to the idea we should forget our literary history and write fonetickly.

In more current arts news, filmmakers created different worlds in This Is England, set in the 1970s, and The Painted Veil, set in the 1920s and based on the Somerset Maugham novel. In Australia, a man is creating an historic coach for The Queen. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a quirky take on bespoke suits and the business of espionage.

I noted that Mark Steyn continues to report on Lord Black’s trial, and I am cheering for Lord Black. David observed that facing the facts on crime can only be an improvement on the current government's avoidance of reality. The same is true of Jack Straw’s belated ideas about history. American Bill Bryson is on a mission to protect rural England. British fishermen are protesting the EU’s destruction of their fishing grounds, their independence, and their families. It does not get much worse than that.

The good news is that 69% of Britons want a referendum on looser ties with the EU. The bad news is that the politicians don’t care. Subsidiarity, or lack of it, goes to the heart of the EU and what it means to be a successful person. The human rights act replaces sensible common law with outlandish and and dangerous rules.

It is quite a contrast to the founding of the United Kingdom three hundred years on May 1. Great Britain was independent, confident, and keen on free trade. There were still relationships that needed to be corrected and freedoms to be won, but the future was bright. Today some wonder whether the Scots will leave the Union. The recent election suggests not yet.

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