Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Ireland – together, we fucking rule. There are 60 million of us and we’re producing some of the finest literature, art and music in the world. I could name names, but I have no doubt at all that if you list all your top fives then a British or Irish person will be in there somewhere. Not bad for a tiny, chilly clump of islands at the top of the globe.
I know that even now some of you are shouting at your computer screens THERE IS NO BRITAIN. And you’re right (although you probably shouldn’t shout at me through your computer, because I can’t hear you). There is no Britain, not really. There is England, and that is what most non-Western-European people mean when they say British. There is Scotland right up at the top, and Wales off to the left, and then on a completely separate island there’s Ireland, and at the top of that is Northern Ireland, which is officially part of the UK but not Britain. Each of these places have their own history, culture, habits and personality.
It’s confusing, I know. But I use ‘British’ because I want to be British. No – I want to be England-Scotland-Wales-Northern-Ireland-and-Ireland-ish. Because despite the disagreements and distances and the way we all put different condiments on our chips, we are all in this together.
In editing this issue I wanted to share this place I am from, but more than that I wanted to read about all the parts of it I have never seen. So here it is: a special issue.
There are gaps, of course there are. Twenty stories and poems cannot explore the entire history and modern culture of five separate countries. Think of this more as a series of keyholes: I cannot provide a doorway large enough for you to step inside the sprawl of British and Irish life, but I can let you peep inside. If you like what you see, there are plenty of doorways big enough to admit you.
Come on in with me. I’ll put the kettle on.