Icons of England
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A queue for Brighton's West Pier, 1949. ©West Pier Trust

And so we come (eventually) to that time-honoured and quintessentially English (or is it?) tradition of forming an orderly queue… By the way, get in line and wait your turn please.

The English are widely thought to be the only people in the world who don’t mind queuing. We pride ourselves, so the story goes, on being able to form a shipshape procession, patiently and uncomplainingly waiting for three buses to come at once, or for the droning electronic voice at the post office to allow us to step forward – “Cashier Number Four, please.”

We don’t like jostlers, pushers-in, and people who don’t want to allow elderly or infirm queuers to take priority. Those displaying such flagrant lack of queuing etiquette are given short shrift in the form of dagger eyes, a chorus of tutting, mumbled protestations and shaking heads all pointedly thrown in their general direction. Nothing else besides. Well, we wouldn’t want to make a fuss now would we? We’re English.

On the face of it a queue might seem like a boring mundane entity, but delve a little deeper and there lies a certain magic to queuing: complex probability theories, cultural custom and etiquette, fascinating facets of our national psyche - all subtly woven together in a winding, dwindling line.

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About this icon



My favourite Icon of England has to be the Cornish Pasty.

Ian Baldry