Despite being a girl who loves motor racing, someone who didn’t vote for Andy Murray to be the 2013 Sports Personality and someone who thinks watching “Downton Abbey” is more painful than doing the 1500m in a hailstorm, undoubtedly one sentence always seems to shock people the most, whether they’re strangers, mere acquaintances or good friends – “I’m not English”.
For most people, this seems very confusing, in addition to the fact that far too many people don’t differentiate between hailing from England and being from the British Isles. My accent is (so I’m told) ‘BBC’, my birthplace Derbyshire and my favourite meal a roast dinner. Why, then, am I so determined to refute suggestions of Englishness?
Writing this in the wind-battered, snow-covered Cairngorms, my explanation never has felt stronger or more real to me. I’m not English. I’m British. With a haphhazard conglomerate of Scottish, English, Northern Irish and French antecedents, I seem to be some sort of walking version of the Union Jack or the Auld Alliance (sorry Wales). My Scottish blood in particular is very important to me; being a quarter Scottish and living up here for a period every year, I always feel that this glacially sculpted Caledonian landscape is at my core. And, having inherited Pictish resilience to harsh weather, I always yearn for the mountainous vistas and heather valleys of the Highlands.
But I belong in England too (especially when it comes to cricket). Walks along the sandy cliffs of Cornwall or trips to the magnificent capital rekindle the importance of my English fraction, whilst being much further from Glasgow is always reassuring (I’m joking…).
Haggis or roast beef? Jim Clark and Sir Jackie Stewart or Stirling Moss and Damon Hill? Irn Bru or English Breakfast? Deciphering Glaswegian accents or Yorkshire accents? Sometimes such quandaries are exasperating if one wishes truly to emanate cultural stereotypes (witty though they may be). Yet they make everyday life so much more varied and interesting.
Preferences such as pipe bands over ska bands, kilts and sporrans over waistcoats and pocket watches and Elgin tablet over fudge demonstrate my descent from the northern side of the border – yet those such as Mars Bars in normal form instead of deep-fried, Tim Henman over Andy Murray and the Wesley brothers over John Knox convey my Englishness. Even the title of this blog transports the indelibility of this dual heritage – classic English love of the brewed beverage and the classic Scottish love of the homemade shortbread.
Although I’m nescient of any Welsh connections, I still love to sing “Guide Me, O, Thou Great Redeemer” and pick daffodils like any other Briton; the bravery of the Northern Irish in almost perennial adversity I find astounding and, in the proper use of the word, amazing. I am British and proud.
As our prime minister scarcely neglects to proclaim, we’re all in this together – 1707 until total annihilation do us part.