There once was a historian who spent a considerable portion of her life contemplating a rather strange idea. She claimed that all the world’s nations and states, towns and boroughs had people that represent them.
Several of her critics claimed she wasted the latter half of her life entertaining such a ridiculous concept, scoffing in her face and claiming her thoughts could be chalked up to an obsession with the antiquated ideas of patron gods and an exaltation of the supposed virtues of the city- and nation-states.
But, contrary to the naysayers’ beliefs, there did exist human-like, virtually immortal amalgamations of ideology and culture, borne of clay and earth, forged from eons of struggle, and thriving off the prosperity of their respective lands. They were as much parts of their lands as their lands were of them, equal parts politic and person, and had whims and vices that would occasionally stray from that of their respective nation’s, township’s, or borough’s…and, so they lived, aware yet unaware, somebodies, yet nobodies.
I should know, I’m one of them. Charlie Giles Philip Jeremy Alington-Kirkland. I personify Cambridgeshire, a county in the East of England.
One day, a few of these strange entities residing in the British Isles–my brothers and sisters, actually–received a summons from some clandestine organization, comprised of what one could only assume to be perpetuators of the deranged historian’s ideas.The letters were written on antiquated sheets of yellowing parchment, sealed with ink, stamped, and distributed via Royal Mail to each of the many representatives.
Preceding a series of instructions to meet at a tiny inn called the “Domesday Inn” the following day was the antiquated preface, “To whom it should concern.” Each of the unsigned letters contained a reference to its recipient’s place of origin. Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s representative’s letter was peppered with Geordie slang, and London’s began with a hearty, “How now, me old cock!” Exeter’s contained a poorly inserted allusion to Sir Francis Drake’s epic journey.
One little personification, William Orwell-Kirkland, representative of the town of Ipswich, in Suffolk, immediately groaned upon seeing the letter, as it meant he had to leave the perfectly paved roads of his beloved town. East Anglians like himself weren’t especially known to leave the confines of their houses, let alone their cities or counties.
He dreaded the entire day as he begrudgingly combed his unruly brown hair, got dressed, and stepped out the doors of his humble abode in the center of town, his younger sister, Edythe Baldwin-Kirkland, trailing behind him. She represented Bury St. Edmund’s, a town not too far from Ipswich. He dreaded the coming few hours as he boarded a Greater Anglia train, headed for the birthplace of Bede.
As he and little Bury stepped out, they were greeted with the glances of a plethora of parochial people, and a cacophony of counties and cities’ insults…
Hello, Giles of Cambridgeshire here. It is about time we’ve returned to the exploits of our little Not-So-Great Britons, hmm?
Where we last left off, our intrepid protagonist, William Orwell-Kirkland of Ipswich, had just disembarked the train headed for the sleepy northern English village of Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, the birthplace of Bede, where he and a lot of other English lads were instructed to meet.
Ipswich was barely familiar with the dreary Tyneside town of Jarrow, where Bede was purported to have spent his entire life. All that mattered to him was that it was quite a ways away from the Suffolk town he personified. He and his fellow East Anglians were known for being quite reserved creatures. He entertained this thought and abandoned his puerile gripes as he warily walked around, nervously chuckling to himself as he approached the derelict building that housed the inn. It was painted a rather pathetic-looking steel grey. The place looked more like a sorry abandoned shop than the meeting place of an allegedly elite society. Perhaps, it was only chosen for its symbolic value.
Nevertheless, his little sister, Edythe Baldwin-Kirkland of St. Edmundsbury, who had a reputation for being very spoiled, ran inside the place, fearful of “what uncouth Northern heathens might approach her in the night.”
“Ye shandy-drinkin’ suv’ners!” yapped a stocky, tanned woman, clad in a navy jumper with a white Yorkshire rose embroidered on its breast.
A few freckles haphazardly adorned her flushed cheeks, and her brown hair stuck up like the Pennines, the mountain range that divided Yorkshire and Lancashire. Ipswich recognized her as Bradford, Leeds’ oft-overshadowed little sister, from West Yorkshire. She stood outside the inn, glaring at a lanky, dark-haired, and pale lad. He was clutching a book written by some obscure theologian. He had its cover facing outwards like he wanted people to be aware that he was a man of God. Ipswich scoffed. He was probably from Canterbury, or perhaps Rochester. It could be any of those Kent lads, they all looked the same, with their pristine white faces and noses that uncannily turned up. He was definitely from somewhere in Kent, the prissy part of England that jutted out from the South East like the flattened tail of a rabbit. Who else would display their faith so ostentatiously but the representative of the home of the Anglican Church?!
The religious lad was followed by a dark-haired, dark-skinned woman. A pair of antiquated goggles peeked out from her windswept hair. Ipswich grappled with his memory as he struggled to determine if he knew her as well. Croydon- or was it Tottenham? Definitely a Londoner, he thought, noting her attire and her speech, which had bits of Cockney rhyming slang and Jamaican patois peppered throughout. Her eyebrows furrowed as she attempted to reason with Bradford about the demographics of the people present.
“Bradford, not all Southern English people are posh fools,” said Croydon, scoffing. “They’re just as tough as you northern lads in the ends, innit!” she added, referring to the people of her town. Croydon is a humble London borough that has the misfortune of being constantly besieged with terrible press from every profiteering property-hunter in England.
The three turned around as soon as they noticed Ipswich.
“Ipswich! Ya alright, mate?” greeted Bradford, giving him a hearty handshake.
“Wagwan?” said Croydon.
“Salutations,” said the Kentish boy, a bit detachedly.
Ipswich was about to greet the others, when, suddenly, he heard footsteps and frenetic shouting rapidly approaching the meeting place. It was Cambridge, my county town and one of Ipswich’s few rivals.
“Hello, lads!” greeted the lass with uncharacteristic (probably feigned) cheerfulness. She paused to adjust the ribbon in her hair before procuring a rolled-up piece of paper from the pocket of her skirt and unfurling it like a scroll of yore. She began to read (with excellent diction, I must add!), but was suddenly cut off by two male figures, one hurriedly running in front of the other and nearly tripping over his own kilt.
Ipswich recognized him. Cornwall. The human incarnation of one of the most culturally rich areas of the British Isles, now relegated to a mere place for rich peoples’ second homes and summer holidays by the collective English conscience. The lad with a burning hatred for bureaucracy, which was an inevitable product of the cultural erasure England and the Church purported way back in the Middle Ages. It seemed like seconds ago to an immortal country-being, though.
He was being chased by a man who appeared to be foaming at the mouth and shouting nigh-incomprehensible, garbled derision.
Cornwall skidded to a halt. The strange man did the same.
Croydon bristled, visibly disgusted by him. “Who’s that?”
Bradford assumed a fighting stance. “I don’t know, but he sure as Hull is gonna hafta get past me.”
The Kentish boy whispered a prayer.
Ipswich was especially bothered by the man’s strange babble. The personifications were not common knowledge; they followed a strict code of secrecy that had been practiced for ages. Was he a member of the society who sent him the letters? Was this meeting all a brilliant trap?
“You revolting personified freaks who sap our nation’s vitality…who feed on the essence of our society! You beasts who have done nothing but wreak havoc and cause destruction in this fair kingdom for centuries!” He grabbed the Cornish lad by his bowtie.
“Eh, he’s just the personification of some village in Devon that was burned down in the 1500s. Ya know how I am with Devon. Right, uh, Stoneport-by-the-Sea…,” Cornwall fibbed as the stranger, whose jacket was covered in button badges with a variety of political sayings that could not be pegged to any coherent political ideology whatsoever.
The man did not even appear to hear Cornwall, and continued to stammer, as Cambridge took note of his heavily adorned jacket, noting an emblem of a yellow dragon on its sleeve. She snapped a picture of it.
“He’s affiliated with the Wyverns!” exclaimed Cambridge. That was the group she was supposed to be reading about before being interrupted. The Wyverns of Wessex were a mysterious nationalist organization who believed in the existence of personifications, and were intent on eradicating the county-lads from existence. They were dormant, but in recent years, they became really fascinated with the idea of stealing the Domesday Book, an old English record book which purportedly contained the essence of the personifications. They would periodically pop up to bother the lads, but were dormant most of the time. Perhaps, it is quite fitting that they arrived to pester them as the world was embroiled in a political panic, as it still is now. They chose the right moment to erode at the stalwartness of the personifications that kept them alive for so long.
“The wot?” repeated Cornwall, chuckling. “Giss on, Cambridge lass! He isn’t no ‘Wyvern,’ he’s just a senile old village lad who believes everything he reads in the Daily Mail.”
“I refuse to be compared to your ilk,” said “Stoneport-by-the-Sea,” scowling.
“Very well. Gorthugher da, Stoneport!” Cornwall shoved the confused man away.
As he walked by, Ipswich heard him cackle and shout something into his two-way radio: “We’ve got them, boys, we’ve got the book, we’ve got the lads. Now, prepare for our regime to prevail. Rule Britannia!”
Notes: “Gorthugher da”: Cornish for “good evening”