The British author and TV Presenter, Jeremy Paxman, summed up the English (specifically) as being "... polite, unexcitable, reserved, and who had hot-water bottles instead of a sex-life". A summing up that could, perhaps, apply to the British generally although we Scots have been known on occasion to thump our chests, albeit usually prematurely, having scored the first points in a Six Nations rugby against the "Auld Enemy", from which we go on to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!
Britons have usually been more apologetic than proud of their country and its achievements - at least since they lost the Empire! Rare sightings are seen of anything other than a stiff upper lip, and competitiveness on a school sports field seems to have been banned because it disadvantages the less talented. Not so, it seems in the world of art, where a dead sheep suspended in a tank of formaldehyde is considered worthy of rapturous outpourings. Thank goodness art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Abroad, the average Brit will not open his or her mouth in a foreign language unless there is a high degree of confidence that, mentally at least before utterance, the words and the sentence construction are correct; (and I did say "average" before my own children who are at least bi-lingual and in most cases tri-lingual, take me to task!). We tend not to stand out in a crowd in case we stand at the wrong time. We are self-effacing to the extent that you realise we would have been just as happy with getting a second place. A jolly good show!
That was until two weeks ago.
The usually staid "Daily Telegraph" newspaper headline for 20 August read "A Great British Olympics". Since I arrived a few days ago, I have seen a level of pride rising in Britain in a way I have not seen before. A pride in being British, even. Not an arrogant, huffing and puffing, chest-out pride of course, (let's not go overboard!) but just a genuine pleasure in seeing British athletes in all disciplines bringing home medals many were not expected to win. And even taking a good natured "dig" at the Australians for a change, to whom we seem to lose at so many other things.
But the point is this. Success is infectious. It has been the wettest August in Britain for many years, maybe since records began - and we are only just over half way through the month, but you wouldn't know it, from the glow of the Olympic successes. There is an attitude of mind that is positive, and it has been achieved in a short space of time. A real feel good factor. And it brought me back to thinking about Hong Kong.
Thinking about how, so often, we look for the negatives even in a positive environment - or an environment that is least better than that elsewhere. If attitude of mind is the key, then we need to be highlighting those events that should make us feel proud of Hong Kong. Start with our part in the Olympics - a successful equestrian event, thanks to the Jockey Club in large part. Continue by promoting democracy, and electing people to Legco next month whose interests are in the future prosperity of Hong Kong.
I feel the world is watching us rather more closely than we might think, and a positive attitude will demonstrate that we are awake, alive and not suffering from complacency. We must be proud of who we are and what we have achieved. If the British can do it - so can we!