Three examples of what make the British unique (I emphasize, that to the best of my knowledge I have no British ancestors going back at least three generations.)

Example 1: A website devoted to the exploration of disused mines, namely www.mine-explorer.co.uk/. Its description of itself: “This website provides photographs and information on many of the disused mines found across the U.K. It is intended as a comprehensive resource not only for Mine-Explorers, but cavers, historians, industrial archaeologists and professional bodies. It relies on content provided from Mine-Explorers out in the field who continually update the database.”

Here are two pictures from the most recently visited mine: The RampGill Lead Mine. In addition to information, trip reports, and photographs of old mines, the following white papers capture the thoughts and ideas of those who spend weekends in disused mines:

Example 2: Gilbert and Sullivan. Show time and so into the main theater. It is a spectacular oval-shape hall with a very high ceiling. The bare concrete walls are relieved by cloth hangings of an indeterminate type—probably selected to improve the acoustics. There is no stage in the traditional sense, i.e., a box hidden behind curtains. Here the stage is just a space at the one end of the oval. Tonight it is decorated with a simple series of arches that, I suppose, reflect the Venetian public square. For it is time for Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers. Not quite opera, but sui generis a masterpiece. A delightful romp of music about Republicans (the old European type, not the modern USA type), royalty, inquisitors, childhood marriage, pomp and pomposity, love and betrayal, and all human folly viewed through a prism of humor.

Example 3: Christmas. I cannot confirm on the web what they told us at a stage production by the local Brits (in Vancouver) about the twelve days of Christmas, but here is the story. Until about the 1500s the calendar was not in sync with the moon and the solar year and by about 1500 correlation between the seasons and time of the year had gotten out of whack. In particular Easter was in danger of becoming a summer festival. This perturbed the church, so Pope Gregory reformed the calendar, chopping off ten days. This made Easter a spring festival again and all was well. Of course the English would not do what a pope told them to do; for another 150 or so years they stuck to the old Roman calendar, preferring the edict of Caesar. By the time they got around to putting the calendar in line with the sun and moon, things were out of whack by about eleven or twelve days. So there was a great to-do that first Christmas—conservatives screaming that heaven was upset by failure to celebrate on the correct day and the liberals pointing out that science had to prevail over dogma. The argument about when to celebrate Christmas ranged over the twelve-day difference introduced by this new papist calendar. Science won and now we have twelve days of Christmas as an echo of this dispute: as good a period as any to keep up the decorations.

One of the stranger byways of the British people. (RampGill Lead Mine. Photo credit: Mine-Explorer)