Exit

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Through the tube barriers on Fatal Friday

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.

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A big flag for a small nation (no choice in sizes when buying abroad)

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!

Brexit

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Screenshot from my phone on Brexit night… Before going to bed, I texted my sister in Hungary: “Based on first results, it seems we’re leaving.” At 5:56 am, she texted back: “F***. England is on its own.”

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’.

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I thought it was a joke so I googled it…

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!

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3 thoughts on “Exit

  1. Sorry about my idiot compatriots Brexiting, especially those who hear your accent and are rude. You probably speak better English than most of them! None of my family is allowed to vote, my husband and I because we’ve been out of the country more than 15 years (fair enough), my ‘adult’ children because they’ve never lived in the country, even if they are theoretically citizens of Britain.

    Here it’s been odd all round. Holland didn’t even qualify for Euro 2016 so there’s a sad lack of orange flags and somehow I never get very excited about English football, nor even British football, as Wales and Northern Ireland were all in it too. I did support Hungary on your behalf, but it didn’t help.

    Norman Tebbit was the Thatcherite thug who told the unemployed to “get on your bike” to go looking for jobs (that didn’t exist). I’m British, born and bred, but I can’t vote there, I think cricket is boring (usually) and my grandfathers didn’t actually fight in the war. One stayed at home as an essential worker, making cork lifebuoys in a factory, and the other was a soldier, but got separated from his unit, went into hiding (and helped the French Resistance), then was captured and put into a POW camp. Not sure if that means I don’t pass the Tebbit test.

    It just goes to show what a ridiculous idea that was and Brexit is. Meanwhile the idiot politicians scratch their heads and wonder just what they have unleashed upon the country. Just when stability was needed, they’ve caused just the opposite: they’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater. And I’m sorry about

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    1. Please don’t feel that you have to apologise for your compatriots… nor would I classify them as idiots just because they wanted to leave the EU; they are entitled to their opinion. 🙂 In fact, I hesitated whether I should go and vote because I’m not English-born and I felt this was an issue on which perhaps I should not have a say. In the end I decided to vote for Young Friend of the Elephants who felt very strongly about the issue (Sophisticated Young Lady is old enough to vote).

      Also I do think that there are many things wrong with the EU; and I know people who voted to leave only because we don’t get to elect the bureaucrats in Brussels and they’ve given up hope of the EU ever reforming.

      I think the saddest thing was that the level of the debate was so low, the arguments so simplistic… the campaign videos on both sides were quite simply ridiculous. We had more intelligent discussion over the dinner table and Young Friend of the Elephants is only ten!

      As for Lord Tebbit… as I said I can understand that people feel miffed if their country is overrun by people who refuse to fit in. I think you can carry multiculturalism to an extreme, the aim should be helping people to integrate and becoming part of the community, not the opposite. I mean there are train stations in London which have their names written in Indian script! There’s no harm in it, for sure, but you have to question the judgement of the local council: why encourage people not to learn English? If they are trying to be helpful, offering free or discounted English classes instead would be a better way of spending tax-payers’ money and everybody would benefit. I’m not saying immigrants or religious groups or whatever shouldn’t have their own schools, etc. but again, to me it’s chiefly their own responsibility… even if the government chooses to help with it. Whether or not I want to pass on my cultural identity to my children is my choice: it’s both my right and responsibility. It’s also my duty to bring my children up as good British citizens regardless of the fact that I myself was born abroad.

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