Wet carnival was typically British

AS a Felixstowe-based journalist I found myself leaving my small flat with sea views distant and cycling into town - to enjoy the spectacle of the town's carnival for the first time.

James Marston

AS a Felixstowe-based journalist I found myself leaving my small flat with sea views distant and cycling into town - to enjoy the spectacle of the town's carnival for the first time.

To my surprise it was a much bigger event than I expected.

Though I'm not much cop at guessing crowd sizes it seemed to me that thousands made the effort to see the procession of floats and displays.

From the colourful to the noisy to the totally absurd, I was there, in the crowd, notebook and video camera in hand soaking it all up.

Unfortunately it rained throughout and as I surveyed the scene of the crowds donning waterproofs with umbrellas raised I overheard someone say “Only us British would stand in the rain like this.”

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He was right and I totally understood what he was on about. And that got me thinking.

There are some things that make us Britishers British.

- It's been said before but we love to queue. At the time of the death of Princess Diana there was much talk of “extraordinary scenes” as the nation revved itself up into a state of mass hysteria - but what actually happened? We formed an orderly queue. Queues to lay flowers, queues to sign condolence books, it was all very civilised.

- We don't sit in our front gardens. Space may be at a premium and hard to come by but wouldn't it be odd if we sat in front of our homes instead of in the back garden? We'd all think it highly strange if a neighbour started to do so.

- We're far more polite to each other when we're abroad. You instinctively know an Englishman abroad. There's that strange “in the same boat” feeling that still persists. And when we find each other we're much more friendly than we would be under any other circumstances.

- We love the underdog - Tim Henman and Eddie the Eagle Edwards never stood a chance but weren't we proud of them.

- We talk about the weather - this is true but if you said: “Golly isn't it hot” to a stranger and the stranger replied “Not really, I don't feel hot at all, in fact it's just warm”, you'd feel slighted and probably take an instant dislike to the person who had disagreed with your conversational gambit. Agreeing about the weather is far more important than talking about it.

These are just a small selection of thoughts but what do you think makes us British? Has what makes us British changed? Do you agree with me? Do drop me a line.

THERE are some bonuses to being a journalist.

The other day I was lucky enough to spend some time with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. (RNLI) in Harwich.

We went out to sea on the lifeboat Albert Brown.

It was a fascinating experience and humbling to meet the men that go out in all weathers to save lives and ensure safety at sea.

But it's a pretty powerful boat and they were keen to show off its capabilities.

In case you were wondering, that look on my face is a cross between panic and thrill.

DANCING has never been my strong point.

Nevertheless, as regular readers will know, I'm giving a few routines my best shot in the forthcoming production of Sounds Familiar by the Ipswich oh-so Operatic and quite Dramatic Society (IODS).

To be honest I might have been struggling to keep up but I was determined to get it right in time for opening night. That was, until my confidence was severely knocked when a so-called friend said to me the other day: “Are you at the back again pretending you can dance, shuffling around?”

Mean isn't it?

We haven't spoken since.

And the other day an attractive and well-dressed lady stopped me in the street to say hello.

“Hello” I replied expecting to soak up some friendly plaudits.

“I read your column every week James you're often funny, but as for the acting - well don't give up your day job.” she said.

I admit her comment did amuse me. I wasn't until later that I felt strangely affronted.

ALL this fuss about the Olympics is getting me down.

I may be no sportsman, though I do enjoy a game of croquet with a tray of drinks, but I've already had enough of listening about these games.

It's become a bit too political with athletes writing to governments, people protesting about Tibet and the like. The games should be the games.

It is meant to be the greatest sporting contest on earth not an ad hoc debating chamber about human rights - it's not as if America has a whiter than white record but no one went on about it at Atlanta.

Athletes aren't diplomats or world leaders, they certainly don't represent me, and I just wish they'd remember that. They are there to run and jump and swim and throw things not score points on the international political stage.

Nevertheless the opening ceremony was impressive wasn't it?