We attached ourselves limpetlike to Englishness on Saturday.
The girls and I.
They are more English than I; the girls They – at least – have traces of it coursing through their veins; their grandfather was English. Real-life from England. Not dislocated in the way their grandmother was. (English but born in a nomadic village in the Congo). I’m not a bit English. I’m a Celt. Halfscottishhalfirish. But I travelled here, to England, on my maroon British passport: courtesy of my father. Who never visited Britain in his life.
Funny old thing: patriotism.
See. I think it’s necessary. And necessarily it attaches us to wherever – and whatever – it is we call Home.
It’s hard to be patriotic about Africa when your skin’s white and your passport’s maroon. You can’t be white and an African. Everybody knows that. The immigration officials at the border comment on my Swahili.
Where are you from?
Yes, but where did you come from?
I didn’t; I was born here.
Ah. But your father? Where did your father come from?
And – like that, their inquisition, my determination to prove I belong – we trek tediously back through one hundred years of familial history until we get to my itchy-heeled Scottish grandfather.
So we have learned, the children and I, to stick that need to be – and to belong – to whatever passing thing feels right at the time.
Saturday evening. An open air concert. And a big English late summer sky. And warm beer and cold Pimms. And Union Jacks and St George flags fluttering on a light long evening breeze. And fireworks and Rule Britannia. We didn’t know the words, the girls and I, but we stood up and sung-shouted the bits we thought we did. Loudly.
It was a good weekend to be English. We brought the Ashes home wrote my son in a text from his school in Africa.
From the same boy who is hopeful of a university place in Ireland.
Because that’s where he’s from. This week.
Sometimes I think our fractured identity is muddy and sticky and mires us in complicated equations.
And sometimes I think it is a useful camouflage to be whatever it is we think feels right. At the time.
And on Saturday night, being English felt right.
Even if we didn’t know all the words.