What is the special relationship between Britain and the U.S.A? This question is always asked, but never answered. Today, however, marks a special stage in the special relationship between Britain and America, because at last the question is going to be answered here and now.
The special relationship is many things.
Americans saying “Have a Nice Day" and the British feeling threatened by it.
Us sending them Benny Hill and them sending us Macdonald’s.
Nobody in Britain knowing who won their Civil War, and nobody in America knowing who won our Civil war.
Them treating the Royal family as if it were a form of Dallas, and us treating Dallas as if it were some kind of Royal Family.
Us sending them Neil Kinnock, and Ronald Regan not knowing who he was.
Americans refusing to come to Britain because they had just bombed Libya.
The British boiling vegetables until they taste of nothing, whereas the Americans grow vegetables so big they taste of nothing before they are cooked.
The British always complaining that Americans enter World Wars two years too late, and the Americans always complaining that they shouldn’t have to come and rescue Britain at all.
The lingering feeling that if John F Kennedy and Macmillan were still alive, they would still be keeping peace by having talks about the special relationship.
Yes, yes, but what is this special relationship?
Them hating the British press for being so flimsy and us not being able even to lift the New York Times.
The idea that every American is busy selling secrets to his Russian contact while every Briton is busy giving secrets to his Russian lover.
The refusal of the Americans to give Bob Hoskins an Oscar.
The inability of the British to take baseball seriously.
The disappearance of the American belief that British television is the best in the world.
The absence of British ships from New York harbour.
The absence of American tourists from Britain.
The absence of British records from the American charts.
Our refusal to take cold, tasteless American beer seriously, combined with their distaste for our warm, flat beer.
Their conviction that Alastair Cooke is British, while we know he is American.
American girls looking like sun-tanned dolls and British girls looking like uncooked dough.
The fact that Americans are now taking more interest in Australia than us, and that we are taking more interest in Europe than them. Them despising our boxers because, whenever we win a world title, we get knocked out the first time we defend it; our despising them because they never can work out who is the undisputed world champion at any weight.
The British conviction that anything really American, like the Statue of Liberty, hamburgers, and Martina Navratilova, has to be imported from Europe; the American conviction that anything the British rely on, like television, rock music and hamburgers, has to be imported from America.
The vileness of British coffee and the filthiness of American tea.
The inability of the British to understand why anything can be as American as apple pie, which was invented by the British.
The uncomfortable discovery made by every American visiting Britain for the first time, that anything reported about the USA here is tinged with anti-Americanism; the startling discovery made by British visitors to America, that nothing is ever reported about Britain at all.
The fact that no Briton ever went to America to look for his ancestors, and no American ever came to Britain to broaden his horizons.
The complete inability of the Americans to understand why we think staging the world’s top tennis tournament is more important than trying to win it.
Our complete lack of interest in Central America and their complete lack of interest in cricket.
Their tendency to finance the IRA and our tendency to think that the Russians and Americans are pretty similar.
Their way of pronouncing Warwick and our way of saying Caribbean.
The peculiar way in which they think they have a past and we think they have a future.
The extremely peculiar way in which we both think we have a special relationship.
And so, for the third time of asking, what is this special relationship?
Well, it is…
(Continued some other time)
The Independent 1990