If you and I sat down to have a cup of coffee right now… well, to begin with, I’d be drinking lemon tea. And despite of all the interesting books that you think we could or should be talking about, chances are we’d end up talking about politics and football.
(Yeah, I know. It pretends to be a book blog.)
But we had a referendum last week and the UK decided to leave the EU. Simultaneously, we reached the knockout stage of the European Championship…
The Ball Is Round
At least so said Sepp Herberger, and he should know. Once you’re in the knockout stages of a tournament, anything might happen.
Hungary for example got knocked out straight away, although as nobody expected them to get this far to begin with, this is not exactly newsworthy or lamentable (I cried nevertheless). Then, between me starting and completing this paragraph, England too got knocked out (by Iceland, for pity’s sake). The tale of woe continued with Switzerland, drawn by Young Friend of the Elephants in the school sweepstake… and finally with Spain, whom I’ve been supporting for the somewhat spurious reason that I can speak Spanish (well, I pretend to be able to).
At this point, I should be really disappointed. But since Hungary hasn’t qualified for the Euros during most of my lifetime, I became a supporter of Italy in lieu a long time ago: we’ve got the same flag except theirs is striped the wrong way and during the 1982 world cup I had a crush on Bruno Conti because he was tackled so spectacularly nastily in a group match (I was still young enough to think that an Italian footballer writhing in pain on the pitch was a footballer in pain rather than a first class actor).
Over the years Italy has served me well and since according to Mr Anglo-Saxonist you absolutely can’t change teams, I’m still sitting pretty. Unfortunately Italy is playing Germany in the next round, and I don’t wish Germany on my worst enemy: along with another 10 million Hungarians, I still haven’t managed to get over the
miracle disaster of Bern 1954.
The Tebbit Test
Yes… when it comes to football, I’m afraid I wouldn’t pass the Tebbit test. I mean, I don’t talk about that London 6:3 with tears in my eyes!
Here I probably should explain to those of you who didn’t win “first prize in the lottery of life” (in plain English, you’re not English) what the Tebbit, aka cricket, test is: in 1990 the Conservative politician Lord Tebbit came up with a novel method of testing immigrants’ loyalty to Britain. According to Wikipedia, his exact words were: “A large proportion of Britain’s Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for?” Much later, he followed this up with, “Who did your grandfather fight for in WWII?” I don’t know why people complain about having too many Polish plumbers in Lincolnshire – they all pass the Tebbit test.
But I’m not accusing his lordship of anything unsavoury. After all, sometimes the best of us get confused as to which one of India and England is the home team at Edgbaston. And although I’d pass the cricket test with flying colours, I’d fail in every other sport, let alone having the wrong grandfather. Yes, I have complicated ties of loyalty but I can promise fellow Britishers this: if we ever see Hungarian hussars charging down Whitehall, I’ll be on your side. On the other hand if we ever see the 2 Para floating above Heroes’ Square… well, you guessed. People, wake up: in this increasingly globalised world there’ll be more of the likes of me, not less. Wherever my husband and I may choose to live, one of us will always be a foreigner. I know couples who ended up settling in a third country so that they could both be foreigners on equal footing. (Spain, here we come!)
The problem with immigration of course starts when it changes the character of the receiving country; clearly the natives might not like this. Fellow immigrants who make absolutely no effort to fit in hurt me more than they hurt the English – they give me a bad name. If you move to another country, try and integrate instead of forcing your foreign ways on the natives: in England, learn to speak English. Good grief, but I sound like the Express… Let me rephrase this in a less controversial way: in England, do bloody queue in the bus stop whatever language book you’re reading!
Last Friday morning we woke up to the fact that the UK decided to leave the European Union, and by the time I left work that afternoon, rumour in London had it that 40 thousand people signed a petition for London to secede from England.
I can just see it – border controls at the M25!… Well, it can’t possibly slow the traffic down any more: there’s a reason why it’s known as the ‘London orbital car park’.
When you look at the election results map, England is practically uniform blue with the exception of London and a couple of areas. If I say that it felt like a slap in the face for the likes of me, who came from the EU and made this country our home, does this surprise you? Should I start wearing a sticker on my forehead with the disclaimer, “I’m not here to take your jobs, I’m here for the love of an Englishman”, because otherwise as soon as I open my mouth, some people dismiss me with a contemptuous “Eastern-European!”? Not all people who voted for Brexit did so because they hate immigrants, but sadly a large part of the leave campaign centred on this one issue. Just as sadly, a large part of the remain campaign centred on scare stories. I never saw a more inane campaign in my life; both sides took voters for complete idiots. No wonder the country is divided.
More than one person who voted for Brexit looked a little reflexive on Friday morning, saying that they didn’t want a result like this. A sweeping majority for leaving or the remain side winning narrowly would have suited them; now they’re uneasy about dragging near half of the country out of the EU against their will. And the breakdown of voter profiles is sobering: the young against the old, the countryside against the capital, England against Scotland.
Will London secede now? I think it makes for an excellent joke but nothing more. On the other hand, maybe Scotland should. Surely they won’t fluff this second chance?!… And what about Northern Ireland? What a surprise – divided as ever. As for Gibraltar, the Spanish foreign minister offered them joint sovereignty which they indignantly refused: talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.
England left the EU because Brussels refused to listen. I hope Brussels will listen now, for the sake of the rest of Europe, because if the current undemocratic way of managing things doesn’t stop, Brussels might soon find itself without countries to manage.
Hungary Finally Equals England in World Importance
After ten years of determined resistance, Young Friend of the Elephants finally began learning Hungarian last Friday. Until now, whenever I wanted peace and quiet in the living room, I only had to start speaking in Hungarian and she cleared out of the room pretty quickly. For his part, Mr Anglo-Saxonist started to learn officialese (which bears no resemblance to ordinary Hungarian) – because he will have to countersign the passport application for his daughter at the Hungarian embassy where they take a dim view of people signing documents they don’t understand. By the way: the waiting times for appointments is already two months.
I never thought I’d see Hungary equal England as a desirable prize in the lottery of life!