Culture Wars/Current Controversies

England, His England

Thoughts on a cultural and demographic revolution

“Waiting Hay” (from an Instagram gallery of paintings by Michael Sullivan)

I took the Thanksgiving break as a chance to get back to Blighty for ten days to see my family, and old and new friends. I do this roughly once a year — but this year was a little different. My dad died more than two years ago, and because no real funeral was possible under Covid, we finally managed to organize a memorial of sorts: we set up an exhibition of his paintings and invited everyone he knew to reminiscence about him for a few hours.

Grief is a strange and unpredictable thing — especially when you no longer live in the same country your parents do — and I realized I’d never really absorbed it all until now: the violence of his sudden death falling backwards down the stairs, breaking his neck; that mixture of conflicting feelings every kid who grew up in the shadow of an intermittently volatile home will feel upon losing their mom or dad; the intense love, sadness, and anger that flood back. It didn’t really surprise me when I came down with pneumonia a few days later. The body grieves as well.

Maybe this is all TMI for a newsletter — scratch that, it absolutely is TMI for a newsletter — but Dishheads know I try to write from the heart as well as the head, and after two decades with y’all, I don’t feel like putting up a front. When the old Dish was daily, hourly, it was impossible to hide my moods, my life’s ups and downs, or my bouts with illness. And the idea that a nonfiction writer can always separate the private and the public is as admirable and virtuous a goal as it is, for me at least, impossible. So herewith, some reflections on my native land.


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