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The Week That Was: The Best of British

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Late last year I took part in a debate on what it means to be British. It was the kind of panel designed for argument, featuring alongside myself a tabloid newspaper editor, a high-society magazine editor, an author and Downing Street insider.

And yet, we were all in total agreement. Brits don't really want to be branded. A favourite pastime might be moaning about the state of our country, but woe betide any other nationality finding fault with our home state.

We have the best of everything, and sometimes the worst (I'm thinking mainly about the weather, although you can take your pick from the economy, our teeth and all manner of other stereotypical issues) but it is ours, which counts for a lot. The past week has showcased that in all its glory.

It may have poured with rain as the flotilla made its way up the Thames and millions turned out for their street parties, but if the sun had been out, then, well, that just wouldn't have been very British would it? And if there is a nation out there that can drink Champagne and munch on soggy cupcakes in the rain quite like the Brits, I'd love to know where they reside.

The collective pride was evident in the self-satisfied editorials across the British press in the aftermath. The Queen congratulated not so much on her long-standing reign, but for the fact she stood for the entirety of the cold, four-hour punt up the river.

Another favourite pastime for Britain's female columnists - knocking the Duchess of Cambridge - was also widespread. Poor Kate, if she wanted to wear red, why not wear red? I doubt for a second her grandmother-in-law gave two hoots, more concerned with finding a dry pair of shoes for herself probably.

Here's where I confess, while most of you were waving your flags with the rain trickling down the neck of your macs, I was lying on a beach in Spain. Still, that's a particularly British pastime too, fleeing to warmer climes at the merest hint of a long weekend.

Back in the office, the first person I bumped into launched into a long rant about the amount of people who'd been in London at the weekend, snarling up the tubes and generally getting in the way of everyone who lives here normally. See, we love to moan.

If we are able to find the cloud to match every silver lining, we are also excellent at turning tragedy into triumph. For evidence of this, look no further than this week's expansion of the London Citizens CitySafe campaign, which has seen 300 safe zones created across London, in shops, cafes and libraries, for young people fleeing from bullies or gangs.

A sticker displayed in the window of participating businesses will indicate to anyone scared or in danger that they will be in safe hands if they enter that building, with a direct line to the police.

Set up after the tragic death of Jimmy Mizen, who was beaten to death in 2008, the scheme has caught the imagination of many, including MP Tessa Jowell, who has donated half the phone-hacking compensation she received from News International to the organisers.

To launch CitySafe's 100 Days of Peace campaign - a modern-day version of the 50 days of peace demanded before and after the ancient Olympics - events took place across the capital yesterday, including a flash-mob dance in Euston station and, what else, a football match in Shoreditch Park.

And for once, the sun even came out for the game. How positively refreshing.

Around the Web

London Citizens - CitySafe Campaign - YouTube

CitySafe Campaign | Citizens UK

HT City's "Safe In The City" Campaign | Facebook