Tag Archives: identity

Am I?

“That’s such a right-wing thing to say…”

This rather interesting observation often pertains to any conversation I hold regarding politics, education or history, fastening itself almost indelibly to my opinions on grammar schools (yes please), Margaret Thatcher (excellent wartime leadership & strong economic stance), feminism (no) and so on.

At the moment, I reside in the north of England, although I myself hail primarily from midlands and Scottish stock. Yes, I’m middle-class, Christian and Conservative, but does that really make me so shockingly right-wing? Of course, everything is relative, and relative to most of the people I have daily contact with I must indeed seem fairly right-wing, considering that they are very left-wing but snuggle within the quilting of a very left-wing district, rendering ‘Ed-ite’ politics seem the norm. A fellow student recently held out a 30cm* ruler, representing the political spectrum, and claimed that I am positively off the scale.

Let’s consider this objectively. I believe in private enterprise, governmental funding cuts, an in-out referendum about EU membership, the United Kingdom, constitutional monarchy, the House of Lords, tuition fees and a strong militia. I also believe in controlled immigration, freedom of the press unaffiliated financially and secretively to any particular political party and the NHS (which however desperately needs reform). I admire the special relationship with the US, but agree that it musn’t coerce the UK to become too subservient, have doubts about the sensibility of the EU and am wary of its and Russia’s dealings (although not for the same reasons).

Depending on your background, this will either sound very right-wing, or actually, which is the truth, simply Conservative. I have written before about left-wing indoctrinated of history, which is in peril of becoming revisionist, and my experiences thereof are typical of everyday life in an area so deeply ensconced in itself that it refuses to acknowledge outside views. Sometimes I am even regarded with disdain upon speaking for not having a trace of the local accent (which is worsened when unfortunately I cannot decipher that of the person with whom I speak – this has never been a skill of mine), which I think is bordering on – if not racism – anti-origin attitude.

To the English, I am ‘Scottish’ (my blood is 25% Scottish although I have Scottish origins); to the Scottish I am ‘English’. In arts lessons I am regarded as scientific, and in science lessons I am regarded as linguistic/arts-y. When I play badminton, I am told my style is too much akin to that of tennis; when I play tennis, I am remonstrated with for flicking my wrists as if I was hitting a shuttlecock. Like the dilemma faced by Tonio Kroeger in Thomas Mann’s eponymous novel, both sides seem to regard me as being too much with the other.

When it comes to politics, I may be Conservative, but that does not make me Nigella Farage.

*or, to fit in with my super-right-wing image, 12-inch

Union

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.