If you're not from the UK, you won't be familiar with Children In Need, the annual TV telethon that raises money for kids that desperately need it.
What's striking about it, apart from the generosity of people, is the way millions of normally reserved and emotionally retarded British people join together to have fun, do daft things and share their feelings. There isn't a soupcon of irony in sight. This isn't supposed to happen.
As Kate Fox points out in the brilliant watching the English, we're a culture built on our chronic social inhibitions and handicaps. It makes us appalingly modest and suspicious and champions of moderation, it leads to particular self deprecating humour and the cynical, ironic brand of comedy that dominates much of our popular culture. We're Eeyoreish and don't take well to earnestness, public displays of emotion and excess.
This explains the curious British love affair of home ownership - we crave a private haven away from other people, it de-mystifies our fear of public transport - we prefer to not be around people we don't know and we're terribly bad at small talk. So how come we all go bonkers over children in need?
It's an outlet. All that pent up need for a bit of joy without agenda, for an ice breaker that gets past our social inhibitions...when it comes we let off steam. Just like the quadrennial Football World Cup, or the death of Diana..it allows us to let off some steam. It even explains the British behaviour with booze, namely getting as drunk and disorderly as possible, it's a social crutch that the more garrulous cultures don't need. We can't have fun unless something quells our inhibitions for us.
That's why we miss event television like Morecambe and Wise and why we love X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing - pure, unadulterated, unsophisticated fun that lets us laugh, shout and even weep together.
Finally, it even explains our love of the chip (or fry or fritte if you like). It's the only national food we have that is perfect for sharing. We tend to share the dish, picking the little fatty/carb bombs up with our fingers, smothered in salt, vinegar and ketchup. It's a social food, a communal one and boy do we need those.