Wednesday, July 15, 2009

breakfast at the Edward Hotel in Gloucester

I am not a breakfast person - by that I mean a cup of coffee and a piece of toast will do.

But in England at the Edward Hotel in Gloucester, breakfast is a "Full English Breakfast." And by "full" it is meant: handmade local sausage, the size of a hot dog; bacon, not the thin strips we are used to, but thick Canadian bacon; grilled tomato; mushrooms and baked beans; an egg, usually sunny side up, but you can ask for anything you want; and, of course, two thick slices of English toast with butter and marmalade.

I say I am not a breakfast person. Who has the time to eat all that and wash it down with a cup of coffee or two? I doubt that the average Londoner on his way to the train or the tube, to make his or her way to work, can afford to leisurely sit and sup.

But, then it struck me that this is keeping alive a bit of British tradition. This tradition belongs to the upper class. Who else other than the lord or lady of the manor can take the time to eat that much food?

Is it a great tradition? Does it remind us of something that once was? Does it give us something to aspire to? Or, does it simply make us think that a life style dependent on the hard work of others is not something to be emulated?

England strikes me a class conscious society. This view of the entitled and unentitled is however changing as the British society recognizes the principle of equality under the law. An example is the news item I heard on the radio yesterday. The government ministry in charge of tax exemption ruled that private (in Britain they are called "public") schools in order to keep their tax exempt status cannot teach only the children of the well-to-do. They must now serve a "public interest" . This means admitting free of charge some individual students of lesser means. "Public" means all of the public and not just the rich and well off.

The current government in Britain is ruled by the Labour Party. The Conservative Party is in opposition. Listening to the dialogue between the two parties is a lot like listening to a discussion of the haves and have nots. The Labour Party wants to provide services for everyone. The Conservative Party recognizes that there is a cost to services by the government, and responsible citizens will contribute to the wealth of the country. It is not unlike the discussion in America between Democratic and Republican principles.

The tendency in political debate is to take an extreme position in opposition to the other party. Thus, I heard on the radio a discussion in parliament by the Labour Party to tax bank bonuses at the 90% rate. Didn't I hear the Democrats in America saying the same thing. Compromise in politics, as in life, is always the better course. Punitive measures that penalize either the rich or the poor do not serve the interests of society -either the rich or the poor.

The point is that a full English breakfast is a fine English tradition. So too is the public (private) school system in England. But, as a society, it is important that we keep in mind the less well off and strive to improve their lives as well.

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