SOME years ago I found myself in Hampstead in London. It was Tom Conti’s fault. I was there to interview him for The Herald Magazine.

I was early and with nothing better to do I wandered into a local cemetery, where I came across a grave with a name I recognised. Here was the final resting place of Anton Walbrook. Or “The Actor Anton Walbrook” as the headstone had it.

Immediately, I thought of that scene, one of the greatest in British cinema, in the film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. It’s a monologue that Walbrook, playing the ageing German officer Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff, gives to an officious English immigration officer during the Second World War.

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As the camera begins a slow zoom into Walbrook’s face, he speaks about his past, his English friend (Clive Candy, aka the Colonel Blimp of the title), his late English wife and the country she loved.

It’s a single take lasting more than three minutes beautifully performed by Walbrook and deeply, deeply moving; a paean to an idea of Englishness that is the antithesis of the Nazism of his character’s homeland. Every time I see it I think of how wonderful that England is.

The BFI’s current revival of the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger - a season opens at the Glasgow Film Theatre tomorrow - in combination with the recent death of the great English filmmaker Terence Davies has made me think a lot about Englishness and my love of it of late.

Or at least my love of that romantic, eccentric, at times weird, notion of Englishness found in the films Powell and Pressburger made, but also in the music of Kate Bush, the ghost stories of MR James, the poetry of Philip Larkin, the strange, eerie visions of JG Ballard, Hunky Dory-era Bowie and the early songs of The Smiths.

England’s dreaming, you might say.

For those of us who grew up in the UK who are not English our relationship to any concept of Englishness can be a complex one. There is a distance, sometimes even a disconnect, but also an inevitable familiarity.

We grew up watching English telly, listening to English music, in my case supporting an English football team. Cultural imperialism, you might say.

That doesn’t preclude love though. Not, in my case, for the England of Farage or Johnson, but for that of Henry Purcell and Alan Bennett.

It was not always so. In my early twenties the landscape of my imagination was largely American. Indeed, when I first watched the films of Powell and Pressburger I couldn’t get past the accents and the High Tory bric-a-brac that filled them. The sense that they were of a piece with John Major’s vision of England as a country of cricket, warm beer, “invincible green suburbs” and dog lovers. (Major used the word Britain, but he wasn’t talking about the rest of us, was he?)

It took me a few viewings to tune into their otherness, to the off-kilter romantic energy that courses through them and through much of the Englishness I love.

It’s a complicated affection, though. The Englishness I adore is also something I have always been suspicious of, too. I am wary of its love of tradition, its yearning for the past; its conservatism in other words.

But as I get older I guess I find that longing for yesterday a more complicated idea than I did when I was younger. The past becomes more interesting to us as we age. It is only natural. And it is not something that necessarily needs to be reduced to politics.

And Englishness is itself a broad church. Thinking back to that Hampstead cemetery, I remember that Walbrook was an Austrian actor. That the words he spoke in that scene in The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp were written by Pressburger, a Hungarian Jew who fled the Nazis and found a home in England and offered the country that gave him a home a vision of itself that it could aspire to; a place of green fields and openness.

That’s a country worth living in, if only in the imagination.

In my head I am always at least half-English.