The British Dream

by Harry on October 4, 2017

As someone who has had nightmares every night that I can remember since the earliest part of my childhood that I can remember, I love the idea of a British Dream — which is, apparently, Mrs May’s brilliant idea for renewing her premiership (bonus in link — you can see Amber Rudd telling Johnson he has to stand to applaud, and the Rees-Mogg look-alike handing May a P45). It reminds me of Gordon Brown’s search for a new slogan/motto for Great Britain (my personal favourites were “Mustn’t grumble”; “At least we’re not France” and “We’re British, we don’t need a slogan”).

My own version of the British dream would be sitting on a slightly slimy wooden bench, eating fish and chips soaked in vinegar, on a dreary drizzly November evening, next to an oily beach in a depressed seaside town on the North Sea. But yours might be different: lets hear them!



Gareth Wilson 10.04.17 at 6:14 pm

You should be drinking something in that dream, but I can’t decide what.


dave heasman 10.04.17 at 6:47 pm

Sitting on the Compton Stand in April watching Tim Murtagh trying to bowl in three sweaters


Harry 10.04.17 at 6:59 pm

Tizer? (can’t stand it myself). Or meths?


Harry 10.04.17 at 7:01 pm

Dave — what about the second picture in the Birmingham Mail link here (Buxton, June 2, 1975; Derbyshire versus Lancashire):—9375720


nastywoman 10.04.17 at 7:13 pm

Coming just back from London -(after being in California afterwards – and enjoying the much better weather than in London) and taking a bottle of Blenheim Palace Mineral Water with me all the way – my ”British dream” is – that whole Britain become just like London -(without the bad weather and the unpayable Rail Estate)

Or what does it say on the receipt you get in the (better) restaurant of the Tate Modern:

”We pay London Living Wages”!


Philip 10.04.17 at 7:27 pm

The image of fish and chips on the bench seems good to me but I suppose some people might think it is a bit depressing. I always like watching Collingwood field at Durham in April or September wearing short sleeves while everyone else is wrapped up.

If the American Dream is to arrive as an immigrant, work hard, then make a fortune my Polish grandad’s British dream was to arrive as an immigrant, work hard, have a quiet life and not make a fuss.


Andrew 10.04.17 at 7:38 pm

“My own version of the British dream would be sitting on a slightly slimy wooden bench, eating fish and chips soaked in vinegar, on a dreary drizzly November evening, next to an oily beach in a depressed seaside town on the North Sea.”

Ah, how I miss Redcar front. The town that McDonalds pulled out of. The town that just lost 5000 jobs in the steel industry. The town where they filmed the Dunkirk evacuation scene in Atonement because it already looked like a bombsite.


Keith 10.04.17 at 7:50 pm

My dream would be going back to having Politicians who did useful things of a social democratic/ democratic socialist variety, like have a free NHS and welfare state not foodbanks, and build council houses. Rather than regurgitate American political propaganda tropes. That jeremy Corbyn looks close enough, nice chap.


Placeholder 10.04.17 at 7:56 pm

Last night I had the strangest dream
I’d ever dreamt before.
I dreamt the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.

I dreamt I saw a mighty room
The room was filled with men
And the papers they were signing said
They’d never fight again.

And when the papers all were signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their heads
And grateful prayers were prayed.

And the people in the streets below
Were dancing round and round
While swords and guns and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground

Last night I had the strangest dream
I’d ever dreamt before.
I dreamt the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.

You know, the Nobel Peace Prize is to be announced on Friday. Do you know the last Briton to win it? His name was Joseph Rotblat. He said in his Nobel lecture:

“I have argued that we must eliminate nuclear weapons. While this would remove the immediate threat, it will not provide permanent security. Nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented. The knowledge of how to make them cannot be erased. Even in a nuclear-weapon-free world, should any of the great powers become involved in a military confrontation, they would be tempted to rebuild their nuclear arsenals. That would still be a better situation than the one we have now, because the rebuilding would take a considerable time, and in that time the dispute might be settled. A nuclear-weapon-free world would be safer than the present one. But the danger of the ultimate catastrophe would still be there.

The only way to prevent it is to abolish war altogether. War must cease to be an admissible social institution. We must learn to resolve our disputes by means other than military confrontation.

This need was recognized forty years ago when we said in the Russell- Einstein Manifesto:

Here then is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful, and inescapable: shall we put an end to the human race: or shall mankind renounce war?”

They made a film about Joseph Rotblat’s life – it was called ‘The Strangest Dream.’


J-D 10.04.17 at 8:12 pm

I think my British dreams would be Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass; of course, they’re not only my dreams. (I seldom have dreams of my own, or at least, I seldom have dreams of my own that I recall on waking.)


Marc 10.04.17 at 8:15 pm

Having a backdrop that reads “Building a country that works for everyone”, which then falls apart during the speech, is just utterly perfect. Monte Python couldn’t have done it better.


Mercurius Londiniensis 10.04.17 at 8:38 pm

Ad Marc:

Exactly. Up to that point, the whole event had been excruciating. But that was the moment of comic release.

Who would have expected Mrs May to add so much to the gaiety of the nation?


LFC 10.04.17 at 9:32 pm

From the linked article:

May also made a defence of capitalism to contrast her politics with Corbyn’s socialism, which she criticised, echoing cabinet colleagues, by drawing a comparison with the socialism of Venezuela.

This is really stupid, even for a pure campaign line.


djr 10.04.17 at 9:53 pm

Gareth Wilson–greased tea, perhaps, given how close the dream sounds to the scene described in “Every Day is Like Sunday.” (“Trudging slowly over wet sand, back to the bench where your clothes were the seaside town that they forgot to close down” etc.)


Trout 10.04.17 at 10:02 pm

@9 A small quibble: David Trimble was the most recent Briton to win the Nobel peace prize, shared with John Hume in 1998.


Trout 10.04.17 at 10:37 pm

And as Harry has mentioned fish and chips, I came across this poem last night on an excellent BBC Four documentary about Liverpool poets:

i feel like a priest
in a fish & chip queue
quietly thinking
as the vinegar runs through
how nice it would be
to buy a supper for two.

Roger McGough

Clearly the whiff of vinegar strikes a deep chord in the British psyche!


Gareth Wilson 10.04.17 at 11:24 pm

This silliness isn’t confined to the right wing, of course. I would have been more impressed with the New Zealand Labour Party’s invocation of the “Kiwi Dream” of home ownership if I’d ever heard the phrase “Kiwi Dream”, before they used it.


John Quiggin 10.05.17 at 12:03 am

The last of Brown’s proposed slogans reminds me of my entry in the University of Queensland branding competition: “UQ: A university, not a brand”. That was ignored in favour of “Create Change”, which I guess would be a good slogan for our degree in retail sales operations.


Uncle Omar 10.05.17 at 1:27 am

My British Dream is this…During the 2018-19 Premier League season Wayne Rooney, playing for Everton, scores three goals against Manchester United at Old Trafford. As he is subbed off in the 85th minute he walks up to Jose Mourinho and punches him in the face. He then looks up into the stands at Sir Alex Ferguson who gives him a thumbs up.


Heliopause 10.05.17 at 1:48 am

Everything we Americans know about the British Dream comes from, in no particular order, Jane Austen, the Beatles, Monty Python, the Royal Family, and your inexhaustible supply of murder mysteries. Not sure how all that fits together. Maybe, if you’re a woman you fall in love with a wealthy, good looking, and Christian fellow in the morning and solve the Ripper murders in the evening. Males live in an oversized flat with their mates, play in a band, and make fun of TV presenters. Oh, and I’m told you like good beer and shitty food. Does that about cover it?


Alan White 10.05.17 at 3:12 am

Housman has said it all for me since grad school:

We for a certainty are not the first
Have sat in taverns while the tempest hurled
Their hopeful plans to emptiness, and cursed
Whatever brute and blackguard made the world.


faustusnotes 10.05.17 at 3:21 am

Playing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay on a pleasant summer day with good friends, sharing British humour and drinking British ale accompanied by salt and vinegar crisps.


Doug 10.05.17 at 6:15 am

Surely it’s “No slogans, please, we’re British”?


SusanC 10.05.17 at 8:40 am

@1: you’ld probably be drinking tea from a thermos flask


maidhc 10.05.17 at 9:00 am

Having one’s own pewter tankard for consumption of real ale after morris dancing.


Anarcho 10.05.17 at 9:21 am

For all their flag-waving, the Tories really hate Britain — why else are they always seeking to turn it into the USA? This “British Dream” rubbish is the latest example — there is no such thing. There is an “American Dream”, that exists — we don’t need to steal other people’s slogans, do we? It is hardly “patriotic” to do that? But, as noted, the Tories hate Britain…

So, yes, “no sloans please” would be best…


Nia Psaka 10.05.17 at 9:59 am

As I understand it, the British Dream, for centuries now, has been to move somewhere just a little warmer that’s not wet all the time.


Harry 10.05.17 at 12:45 pm

With global warming, they soon won’t have to move. And apparently covering technology is in the offing that would make cricket invulnerable to rain, so nobody would ever have to want again. No wonder people are worried about immigration!

“No sloans please” is obviously a typo. But have you left a g out of the middle, or an e off the end? They’re equally good slogans.


LFC 10.05.17 at 2:27 pm

Heliopause @20
Among 19th-cent. British novelists, I see no particular reason why Austen shd be elevated in some notional U.S./Anglophilic pantheon above, say, Dickens, G. Eliot or Hardy. Austen has been Hollywood-ized more often; as a reason, however, that is kind of pathetic.


engels 10.05.17 at 3:21 pm

The British dream is becoming a buy-to-let landlord


engels 10.05.17 at 3:50 pm

Also eating a traditional Sunday lunch of chlorinated chicken washed down with a mug of instant coffee


alfredlordbleep 10.05.17 at 4:31 pm

Caught name-dropping (or just in a fumble) a drop of n****woman’s ”British dream” of . . .taking a bottle of Blenheim Palace Mineral Water with me all the way. . . may be just hauling tap water across the globe.

[n****woman 10.04.17 at 7:13 pm]


nastywoman 10.05.17 at 6:53 pm

It was part of the British Dream of an older Gentleman in Montecito CA who can’t travel anymore to Great Britain to receive a bottle of Mineral Water from Blenheim Castle – and the ”hauling tap water across the globe” actually didn’t work – as one get’s forced to empty the bottle before getting through airport security – so I took the empty bottle and filled it with -(attention ‘name dropping) with San Pellegrino in LA – and as the older gentleman never will read this – HIS British Dream was successfully fulfilled –
-(hoping the Churchill’s will forgive me?)


Peter K. 10.05.17 at 8:48 pm

My British dream is Corbyn as Prime Minister. The Clash. The IT Crowd.


novakant 10.05.17 at 9:07 pm

The Edinburgh Festival and the BFI, “My Beautiful Laundrette” and “Bend it Like Beckham”, David Bowie and Stanley Kubrick, the LRB and the TLS, Mike Leigh, Hampstead Heath.


NomadUK 10.05.17 at 10:23 pm


Collin Street 10.05.17 at 11:53 pm

The British dream is becoming a buy-to-let landlord

That was the australian dream first, of course.


J-D 10.06.17 at 2:44 am

As someone who has had nightmares every night that I can remember since the earliest part of my childhood that I can remember, I love the idea of a British Dream …

… “This is the Island where Dreams come true.”
“That’s the island I’ve been looking for this long time,” said one of the sailors. “I reckoned I’d find I was married to Nancy if we landed here.”
“And I’d find Tom alive again,” said another.
“Fools!” said the man, stamping his foot with rage. “That is the sort of talk that brought me here, and I’d better have been drowned or never born. Do you hear what I say? This is where dreams—dreams, do you understand, come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams.”
There was about half a minute’s silence and then, with a great clatter of armour, the whole crew were tumbling down the main hatch as quick as they could and flinging themselves on the oars to row as they had never rowed before; and Drinian was swinging round the tiller, and the boatswain was giving out the quickest stroke that had ever been heard at sea. For it had taken everyone just that halfminute to remember certain dreams they had had—dreams that make you afraid of going to sleep again—and to realize what it would mean to land on a country where dreams come true.

[Chapter Twelve, ‘The Dark Island’, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, CS Lewis]

Now, if you want to talk about the British Daydream rather than the British Dream — ah, but doing that rather gives the game away, doesn’t it? How would it go over if Theresa May made a speech about living the British daydream?


Spanish to English 10.06.17 at 3:32 am

The image of fish and chips on the bench seems good to me


harry b 10.06.17 at 3:58 am

NomadUK — for years I have been visiting Stanford, more often than any other campus except my own — and since 1986, when I first walked on the campus, I have always found it slightly eerie, but never understood why. At a conference about 3 years ago, an American academic who has spent a lot of time in England, and knows me well enough to guess the answer, asked if I was a fan of The Prisoner. And, suddenly, I understood why I found the campus so eerie, and the spell was broken…


dr ngo 10.06.17 at 5:43 am

I’m sorry, but seeing The Prisoner in colo(u)r (!), instead of god(BBC)-given black & white is already halfway to betrayal of the British Dream, at least as I remember it.


Ronan(rf) 10.06.17 at 11:23 am

Pottering around my grand country estate, soaked to the gills in sherry.


novakant 10.06.17 at 2:20 pm


I remember during the parliamentary expenses scandal that one PM had submitted a claim for “cleaning his moat”…


Rob Chametzky 10.06.17 at 2:41 pm

As an outsider, I had understood it to be having two sheds:



Wee Robert 10.06.17 at 4:02 pm

dr ngo (41)…If you stay at the Portmeirion Hotel where they filmed The Prisoner, they play the entire series on a continuous loop in glorious colour, but not in color since it’s in Britain. It’s a surreal experience watching a couple of episodes in the freaky, multi-coloured blue and yellow bedrooms.


Mike Schilling 10.07.17 at 6:36 pm

Watching a cricket match with George Orwell, P.G. Wodehouse, and John Cleese.


Harry 10.07.17 at 10:48 pm

And Victoria Wood and Peter Cook?


Placeholder 10.09.17 at 2:44 pm

And the results are in…

“When asked how they would describe the British dream, all participants fell silent, with many reaching the conclusion that it didn’t mean anything”

Britain’s political class needs to de-Americanize SHARPISH.

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