Wednesday, 12 November 2008

More To It Than Pasties

I've lost count of the number of times I've first been alerted to an outrage in the world by the tirelessness of Peter Tatchell. Does the guy never sleep? There's a sea-green incorruptibility about him that's for sure. But he's never going to be any sort of British Robespierre. On the other hand, he might yet be a Green MP for Oxford East - a task at which I suspect he'd be absolutely brilliant.

& one of the many reasons he's be brilliant at it is his almost other-worldly willingness to take up issues which have absolutely sod all to do with the process of getting elected. For instance: Cornish nationalism. To date this CIF article has attracted 1400 replies, disproportionately mocking ones.

What interests me about all this is not swirling tales of ancient Celtic mystery, nor even the obvious poverty of the county, but the very real sense I get when I go to Cornwall, especially the far west, of the invention of a nationality. As you go down the peninsula the flags of St.Pirian become more and more prominent. There is now an adjunct of Exeter University based in Truro called the Institute of Cornish Studies with its' own Professor and academic journal. The local paper in Penzance runs a weekly column in Cornish - although I'm never certain which of the three competing versions of Modern Cornish it uses. There are a growing number of Cornish language classes and even children's playgroups. Some bugger has even invented a Cornish kilt for christ's sake. Let me be clear: this does not feel silly whilst you are there. It feels relatively real and authentic - though sitting here in London writing these words I have to remind myself of this fact as, from a distance, it can seem pretty risible.

What's going on? Is this simply make-believe twinned with a weather eye for EU subsidies? Is it an understandable reaction to the increasing centralisation - well, globalisation - of cultural and economic life?Is it just another example of the balkanisation of absolutely everything? Or is it a small petrel, flying ahead of the storm, warning of the creaking unsuitability of the ancient British state for the challenges of the 21st Century?

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