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Sunday, 15 May 2011


In light of the fact that it seems like the Scottish want to piss off and do their own thing, it seems like a good time to discuss the idea that maybe nobody really wants to be British.  As a warning, this article may contain obscenely reductive national stereotypes.

I have been wondering about this for a long time.  You often see it on forms, the old national identity question.  Do you consider yourself "British", or do you prefer to be considered English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh?  I tick the English box.  It annoys me when my American friends call me a "Brit".  And this is because I am not sure what being a Brit would actually entail, though admittedly, I do like being called a Brit better than being called European, because fuck that.  They use that to mean you're either a pervert or you're hairy.

David Mitchell wrote a column in the Observer today saying that he very much considers himself British, and believes that if Scotland secedes and there is no longer the same concept of Britain, his, and many other people's national identity will be gone forever.  David Mitchell's Observer column is a bit of a bugbear for me, because I like him, but I fucking hate that newspaper with a passion usually reserved for hating the Twilight saga.  Sunday newspapers are the worst ones anyway, with the horrible horrible supplements with their reviews of fucking frying pans and interviews with people off of Waterloo bastarding Road in them and no bloody news whatsoever, and a Sunday version of the Guardian, well, I'd rather climb into the lion enclosure at London Zoo wearing Lady Gaga's meat dress than read that, and I thought that dress was really unflattering.  Every Sunday though, Mitchell puts his little link on the bloody Twitter and I grudgingly go and have a look at the damn thing.  Sometimes I send him a pissy reply of the "look what you made me do!" variety - you know, the kind of thing wife beaters say after they've pushed a woman down the stairs.  If you want to see this first hand you can follow me at  That's what the Observer does to me.  It makes me want to hit people I am usually quite fond of with frying pans.  It's like Stella Artois for the eyes.

Anyway, he says that he feels British because his mother is Welsh and his father is of Scottish descent.  Which makes sense.  But then lots of people have all manner of crazy combinations going on in terms of their parentage, and there isn't even a name for the majority of those.  I know a bloke who is half German and half Iranian.  So he's Geranian I guess.  Then there's a guy who is half Kosovan and half Swedish, who I like to call Skosovanavian.  I used to be jealous of people with interesting sounding genealogy at school.  Those kids who'd be all like "oooh, I'm a quarter Dutch and one sixteenth Fijian" or whatever.  I was just bloody English.  It was almost as bad as being the only only child in the French lesson where they teach you how to talk about brothers and sisters, and having to pretend your dog is your sister just so you have something to say and don't fail...  Pets are not children, and you should not have to start pretending that they are until well into your thirties.

The thing is, Wales and Scotland are quite different countries in many respects.  Wales has its singing, and its rugby and its, I don't know, Torchwood, and Scotland has its heroin and its disgusting food and, er, kilts.  Welsh rarebit may contain some of the same ingredients as a battered, deep fried pizza, but I don't know anyone Welsh who would eat the latter.   They are not the same as each other, and they are not the same as England either, where we have a far lower ratio of ginger people to normal people and are theoretically reasonably good at football (we're not though).  Yes, they are close together and maybe more similar to each other than to their next nearest neighbours, the treacherous French, but so are Spain and Portugal and they don't have some collective name for themselves to give to half Spanish, half Portuguese kids.

The concept of Britain as a thing doesn't really take into account that none of the countries that make up Britain really, if we're entirely honest, like each other very much, either.

If England and Scotland both qualify for a World Cup, the English used to have Scotland as their second team by default, but we don't do that so much ever since the time in 2002 when we played Argentina and all those Scottish people supported them instead of us.  The Welsh and the English get on slightly better (in the land of colossal generalisations where this article lives) and I don't know what the Northern Irish think of us but Christine Bleakley seems to like Frank Lampard and he plays for England, so I reckon they must think we're pretty cool.

Still though, we're all different countries and I honestly believe we would all rather have our own teams in the Olympics to support and our own appalling entries in the fucking Eurovision retard song contest.  That aberration was on last night, and I watched it with a Welsh bloke and an American bloke.  Well, I say watched it, we sort of looked it up a bit while we were getting drunk and playing FIFA '11, where, like a bunch of 10 year olds, we re-enacted the FA Cup final, including the bits where Micah Richards and Mario Balotelli swore and Carlos Tevez hilariously put the lid of the trophy on top of his hideous head .  I just think it would have been more fun watching it together if Wales had had their own entry.  And come to think of it, America too.  I know they're not in Europe, but neither are Israel and they won it once with that ladyboy creature.  Poor Wales would probably end up in that regrettable situation Ireland used to find themselves in back in the nineties where they kept winning and having to host the damn thing, what with being good at the old singing and all.  Anyway, I digress.  My point is, I think people get more excited about supporting their own actual country's team or representative in a sport or competition than some kind of "Team GB".  Sure, those curling ladies were representing Britain, but they were, when all is said and done, Scottish, and therefore not from the same country as me.  Maybe that was why I didn't care, or maybe it was because I didn't know, at the time, what curling was, all I know is, come a World Cup I will quite merrily paint a St George's cross on my face and wave a flag around like a total chav, but there have never been any conditions under which I have felt entirely comfortable waving a union jack (yes, I know it is really called the union flag, but it's easier just to say the union jack for some reason, just like it's easier to call the BBC timelord guy Doctor Who and the monster with the bolts in its head Frankenstein even though you know those are wrong too.  It's just how it is.  Deal with it, pedants.)...  The St George's cross flag makes me feel like I'm supporting a football team, the union jack makes me feel like I'm on my way to some sort of BNP meeting or something to shout "don't unpack, you're going back" at the man who runs the kebab shop.  I don't know why that is.

It is for these reasons I think that the majority of people in the UK have a personal national identity that is affiliated not with Britain, but with the country or countries they and their family are actually from.  Of course you can have more than one, lots of people do, but the fact that some people are a combination of more than one home nationality does not explain what it is to be British or justify keeping things as they are if Scotland decides it isn't working out for them.  If you want a divorce, nobody is going to tell you to stay together for the kids, are they?


1 comment:

  1. Great column, Jonesy; and your most educational yet! I honestly wasn't aware of the points of distinction between English/British/UKish, and frankly used them indiscriminately. You educate AND entertain; well played!

    I thought you'd have gotten more matey with the Scots since you returned their Stone of Scone (or is it Scone of Stone? Whatever.)

    American Bob