Dear Dave

Saturday 10 March 2007

1966 and all that

Dear Dave,

I quite understand the trauma you're going through trying to choose a nursery for Sam. There are so many things to consider: the adult/child ratio, the quality of the equipment and facilities (both inside and outside), the curriculum, the teaching ethos, the discipline code, the evaluation report, the nutritional content of snacks, the colour of the walls and the level of drugs slipped into the milk. We gave up and just went for the one at the end of our road. Seems nice enough.

Marie could start when she's three so I finally got round to registering her the other day. It didn't take long - they copied most of the information from the boys' records. I still had to tell them her nationality, though, and this was harder than you might think. I had three viable options - Scottish, British or English. All were serious possibilities and I tried to peek at the school secretary's monitor in order to see what I'd said last time for Lewis. I hoped I hadn't panicked and told them he was Swiss. Deftly swivelling her screen away from my prying eyes, the secretary looked at me with an amiable smile obviously reserved for the kind of simpleton who doesn't even know the nationality of their own child.

I tried to think fast. It should have been easy - she was born in Scotland, she lives in Scotland, her mum is from Scotland. There's a pattern there. The only thing is, I'm not from Scotland. I'm from the middle of a blackcurrant field in Norfolk and I'm as English as the day is long. Admittedly, I used to describe myself as British but then I moved to Scotland and discovered that in some dialects of Scots this just means 'I'm English but I want your oil and somewhere to keep my nuclear missiles.' It doesn't go well.

British would probably have done for an answer in this context but it felt wrong. It would have been like calling myself European - specific enough if I was in rural China but stupidly vague in central Edinburgh. Britain doesn't have a football team. And, realistically, that was what I was choosing - her national identity, her sense of belonging and her level of expectation for progression to the knockout stages.

Much was made of Andy Murray's unwillingness to support the English football team in the last World Cup. I have to concede that I did find it mystifying when I first moved up here that there are so many fond memories of England losing to Germany in penalty shoot-outs. After all, most English fans are happy to wish the Scotland team well and even to support them if England are already knocked out. Turns out, though, this is quite patronising and annoying. Imagine how Manchester City fans would feel if they made it to a cup final and a whole load of United fans turned up to join in the celebrations. Or how Canadians would feel if Americans started taking credit for Celine Dion.

Not pretty, is it?

I've lived here long enough that I'm not entirely sure who I would support if England played Scotland. Probably England... but if they won the World Cup then it would be the main headline on The Six O'clock News for at least a week. That would do more for the cause of Scottish independence than almost anything. I'd probably vote for the Nationalists myself if it meant I didn't have to hear about 1966 and 20XX ever again. I don't fancy Alex Salmond being in charge, though. Every time the man opens his mouth I want to slap the smugness out of him with a wet fish. Independence would be expensive and a waste of time. It would be far cheaper just holding compulsory classes for English people on how not to irritate their neighbours. Can't see it happening, however, and it would be a shame to break up the Union over football.

As I stood at the secretary's desk, all these thoughts flashed through my mind and I realised that Scotland needs all the support it can get. An extra cheer here or there might make all the difference. "Scottish," I said.

The secretary nodded. "Wise choice," she said and rubber stamped Marie's forehead with a Saltire. The deed was done.

Of course, you won't have this problem. Unless Liz is French. Then maybe you'd have something of an idea of where I'm coming from. If England and Scotland ever do meet in a World Cup match I'll probably just dig myself a hole in the back yard and hide in it until it's all over, slapping myself occasionally with a wet haddock in an act of ritual penitence for being born the wrong side of the border.

That's what I normally do when the rugby's on.

Good luck with the nursery hunt. Have you started looking into secondary schools yet?

Yours in a woman's world,


No comments: