Paramedic call from remote Cumbria made me appreciate how lucky we are in the UK
PUBLISHED: 17:21 17 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:28 17 September 2019
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A call to the emergency services made James Marston realise they're part of several great things about Britain
I've just been on holiday.
I went to County Durham. The scenery was stunning, the people friendly, the food good, the stuff to do interesting - I visited three castles, Hadrian's Wall, watched some wildlife and even wondered if I saw the mysterious black cat of Tyndale. You might scoff but I definitely saw something black, very large and feline, which looked extremely odd.
Nonetheless it was one of those holidays that wasn't without incident. We had to call an ambulance, twice, for one of our party. She's OK now but at the time it was a bit of a worry.
However, as I stood on the edge of a windswept moor waiting for the emergency services to arrive I couldn't help thinking how lucky we are to have the paramedics just moments away if we find ourselves in trouble.
They reacted so quickly with care and professionalism it made me proud to be British and proud of what we can do when we put our minds to it.
Last week I wrote at length about how angry I was about our political class, indeed several of you wrote and emailed to express support for saying what some of you might have been thinking. But this week I want to strike a more positive note. Partly because of my experience on holiday during which I couldn't help but reflect that we take so much of what it is to be us for granted.
We expected the paramedics to turn up, which they did, we expected my friend to be looked after, which she was, we expected a bit of a wait at the hospital, which there was, but in so many places there is no hospital at all. Moaning about a wait can seem a trifle - well - ungrateful. Moaning about so many of the things we take for granted is perhaps, one of our collective faults. Gratitude we are, I sometimes wonder, not so good at.
We might be class obsessed, weather obsessed and - at the moment - politically argumentative, we might be a bit too modest on occasion, a little too insular, a little overly fearful of the future but we ought to be proud of our achievements I think. And if we step back for a moment we really have much to be grateful for and much to be proud of - simply by being British, winning the lottery of life as someone once put it.
Our free press - so many places don't even come close
Our freedom of worship - a long and hard-won battle that isn't over elsewhere
Our culture and arts - a bit London-centric, I agree, but still
Our system of democracy - which is working, whatever anyone tells you
Our ability to laugh at ourselves
Our sense of history - we learn so much from our past
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Our sense of fair play
Our civil liberties
Our justice system
Our armed forces and police
This week I watched some of the Last Night of the Proms - and one reader summed up an atmosphere I think we can all be proud of.
A lot of people dressed up in costumes or draped themselves in their national flag - and there were many different ones. Flags hung over all the ledges and balconies, and a wides variety of tongues were heard. We even saw the rainbow flag, waved by our superb American diva, Jamie Barton. Complete strangers laughed and chatted together. Streamers were deployed and not only by the audience - in the interval many musicians from the orchestra threw them over the conductors stand , and the music stands on the platform. The ladies in the orchestra and choirs were allowed coloured evening dress and looked like a delightful arrangement of Giant boiled sweets.
And yes, we all sang Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem, the National Anthem (in a lovely arrangement by local lad Benjamin Britten).
I have been a few times before, but my companion had no idea what to expect! In all, it was one of those delightfully mad things that Britain does so well.
There are two things which I cannot miss and marks the year for me. One must is the Proms, and the last night if possible, because tickets are hard to get, and the other is Thursford Christmas, another pro show of the highest quality.
What makes you proud to be British? Have you ever seen a big cat? Write to James at firstname.lastname@example.org