Last week I flew right across the largest landmass in the world, taking what those of us who spend too much time with maps and too little with globes would consider to be a surprising shortcut across Siberia. I’ve always had an affection for the next country that I’m visiting, although I admit to being somewhat confused by its name. Can’t they make up their mind whether it is called Britain, or the United Kingdom, or Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or England, or what? In most countries people refer to it with a local pronunciation of the word “England”, but I think in Ghana this confused people and it was called UK. Quite what the Welsh think about this, I don’t know.
Of more immediate concern to me, what do I need to type into Google news searches to get my fix of local information? Luckily the brilliant boys at Google have thought of this, launching a special service just in time for my arrival. Ironically, it doesn’t in the least bit display news about the UK, but instead mainly international news for people who are living in the UK. Quite why international news should be tailored to fit a particular audience country I’m not sure; perhaps the people here can only handle “truth” specially wrapped up to suit them. It certainly isn’t what I’m after.
The situation with the name of this un-nation is even worse than the Myanmar and Burma confusion. I’m half expecting that I’ll have to take an internal flight across the Scottish border to avoid the warlord armies that hide in the hills. They would be in some delicate pact with the national government and the drugs traffickers, who trade a new designer pill to the otherwise good people of Norway. In turn, the Norwegian government would have recently cracked down on the drugs trade, ex-judicially slaughtering hundreds of its own citizens.
I would then visit a protestant convent on a remote Scottish island where I’ll talk to a nun, whom it will soon becomes clear deliberately refers to “England” as the “United Kingdom”, as a political point. Doing so undermines the UK project, and aids the cause of indepdence for the ethnic Scots. (If you know of a Scottish nationalist party which already does this, please let me know).
I landed at London’s Heathrow airport, and soon decided that this is a fantastic country.