During the Olympics I got my answer. My wife and I started pointing out the British, Canadian and American flags when they appeared on-screen. My son, whose favorite sports seemed to be swimming and diving (I put this down to his recent engagement in weekend swimming lessons), soon picked up the national branding.
When the British flag was shown – and I say with enormous pride that it was often shown on the top of a flag pole – my son would point at the screen and say “Dada, Dada, your country Dada. Moma! It Dad country! Dada from Eng-er-land!”
A couple of things here. First, my son hasn’t worked out the difference between England and Britain yet – but then, he’s not the only one, is he? Second, “Eng-er-land” is not a speech impediment or the result of a 3-year-old trying to master the language. It is in fact the result of a summer watching his Dad, watching Eng-er-laaand play at Euro 2012 – together with way too many renditions of Fat Les’ Vindaloo.
Go on, give it a listen and then try to get it out of your head for the rest of the day.
Back to the Olympics and my son’s first stumbling steps into working out his national identity. The boy got very excited every time he saw the maple-leaf sporting red and white rectangle. “DAAADDDAAAAA! My country Dada! It Canada Dada! Dada it my country!” There’s my answer, my son is Canadian. Bless him.
It was almost upsetting for his mom and me that every time there was an actual final or a medal contest, my son’s rhetoric would go something like this: “Moma, there your country! Dada there your country! Where my country?”
“Your country will be in the next race son.” We would assure him time after time, giving the fake hope that parents do despite the knowledge that it will never happen. Sod’s law he was at his swimming lesson when the women’s trampoline competition was on. (Canada won its only gold medal in this event for those that don’t know. And, yes trampoline is an Olympics event if you missed that too. I know, I know.)
Captain America is a fictional character, a super hero who appears in Marvel Comics. The boy got a Captain America action figure for his last birthday. You think I’ve wondered off topic don’t you? You’re thinking: I thought he was talking about the Olympics and his son discovering his national identity. I can see why you’d think that… hang on, I’m about to tie it all in…
So, in a way that only a 3-year-old’s mind works, whenever the Stars and Stripes was hoisted, we’d hear the following ring out: “MOOOMMMAAAAAA! It your country Moma! It Captain America!”
It is far too cute to correct. So for the time being, my son is going around telling people: “My country Canada. Dada from Eng-er-land and Moma from Captain America.”
The Monarchy is a polarizing institution on both sides of the Atlantic.
I’ve never been a royalist. The idea of a group of well-to-do people being idolized and lauded through the good fortune of birth never quite sat well with me. It could be my working class roots. It’s pretty difficult to sit there in your council house, wondering if your Dad’s ever going to get off disability, and wishing you had the money to go on a school trip, while ‘your’ Royal Familyare off swanning around all parts of the globe, playing polo, and talking all posh. It definitely always felt like a ‘them and us’ situation. And they seemed to do alright out of our tax dollars… I mean, pounds.
I have mellowed over the years. I think there are a number of reasons for this: I’m now definitely in the middle classes – money is less of an issue; I’ve met some of those well-to-do, posh speaking folk, and a lot of them are actually ok; and I’ve seen the impact the British Monarchy has on the rest of the world.
I’m still not a royalist, but I appreciate the history, and I do feel a little sense of pride when I see the whole world obsessed with my country of birth and it’s traditions.
It has been truly fascinating to see the American and Canadian media covering the pending wedding of our future King Billy and Queen Kate. What other event could possibly stir so much interest, and throw so much attention on the UK? British tin tray, key ring, and mug manufacturers must be boosting their retirement funds as well.
And, then there is the realization that these people are human beings. I simply cannot imagine having to go through this very personal process under the glare of the whole world. I get tetchy when people look over my shoulder at lunch time and ask me what I’m eating. As for Wills – he seems ok really, not a bad apple.
So, I wish them well. I hope the world enjoys the show. But there is no way on Earth that I’m getting up at 4am to see it.
A recent comment on my blog got me thinking. The comment, from my friend Maria, questioned what pieces of the accents of his English dad, American mom, and Quebec home he would pick up. It got me thinking about his ‘identity’.
I am a dual citizen – British by birth, Canadian by naturalization. Kerri – my much better half – is American. My son was born in Pointe-Claire, Quebec in 2009. He is Canadian.
I never got round to applying for my Canadian passport, so I travel on a UK one. Kerri holds an American passport, and my boy has a Canadian one. This seems particularly confusing and disturbing for US customs officials. And, I find myself wondering if Evan (that’s my son) will grow up confused about his national identity.
When you ask Canadians about their nationality, many tend to answer by describing their heritage. I had a conversation with two Canadian colleagues recently on this subject. One is of Indian heritage, but was born and has lived her entire life in Montreal, the other has Iranian ancestry, and has been in Montreal since her formative years. They felt that when someone asked where they were from, they were actually enquiring about their lineage. That’s why, when asked, they tell people of their heritage.
Does it matter that people who were born and raised in this vast country answer ‘Scotland‘, or ‘Morocco’, or ‘Italy’ to the question ‘where are you from’? Does it dilute Canadian national identity? Or add to the eclectic melting pot we live in?
I’ve reminded myself of someone I met very early in my Canadian adventure. He was a barman (go figure – I met a barman in my first days in Canada. No idea how that happened). He was a big guy. I’d put him at 6 foot 3 inches. And wide too – strong, muscular. He was wearing a tartan skirt. Or as the Scots like to call it, a kilt. His chest was adorned with a blue t-shirt with the cross of St. Andrew blazoned across the front, and the word ‘Scotland’ in old-fashioned, intricate looking lettering. I got talking to him.
“You’re Scottish?” I asked.
“I’m Scottish and English” he replied.
“My Mum…”, he emphasized the ‘U’ in mum, “…is Scottish, and mi Dad is English. From Caaaarlisle.” He explained. The emphasis on the ‘U’, the use of ‘mi dad’, and the drawled out aaarrrr in Carlisle, adding what he thought was authenticity to his claim. It was somewhat contradicted by his obvious Canadian accent.
“Oh great!”, I said. “When was the last time you were back?”
“Never been. I’d love to go.”
Is this my son’s future?
Egg, milk, flour. Mix it up. Pour it in a baking tray of some kind (one of those shallow ones with a bunch of little cylinders punched out to hold your mix). Stick it in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes at 375°F. Voila – Yorkshire Puddin’. If the English can cook it, anyone can. Can’t they?
Now, let’s pretend you’re an American, and pretty handy in the kitchen. Your man loves your food. It’s his birthday. You want to do something ‘nice’ for him. He’s English… proper English, from England, accent, loves football, bad teeth – the works. He often talks about Yorkshire Puddin’. In fact, he goes all misty-eyed when he recounts his favourite Yorkshire Puddin’ experiences. What better? You’re a good cook. How hard can it be?
So, you jump on the interweb thingy, Yahoogle “Yorkshire Puddin’ Recipes”, and as if by magic, you’re on your way to creating a masterpiece which will not only make your man a very happy year older, but it will also feed you both.
A word of caution here: if you are an American (or any other nationality for that matter), and you are trying to make a Yorkshire Puddin’ without having actually seen one before… (you know where I’m going with this don’t you?)… make sure the online recipe includes a picture of what it’s supposed to look like.
Fast forward a few hours. Your man arrives home after a hard day of drinking coffee and browsing the web at ‘work’. You greet him with a hug and a smile that looks like you’ve borrowed Jim Carey’s mouth for the day. Your excitement is obvious – and why shouldn’t you be excited? Your man is gonna LOVE this.
“What is it?” he enquires with a puzzled look. As you deflate faster than a whoopee cushion under a Sumo wrestler, you reply: “it… it’s… a… a…Yorkshire Puddin’… I made it for your birthday.” A moment of silence is pierced with a roar of laughter. Birds launch themselves from tree branches, rodents scramble underground, forest animals scatter.
My wife has since seen, and tasted Yorkshire Puddin’. I think she understands my mirth now. She hasn’t tried to make this fine British delicacy since. Five years later, I am finally allowed to share this:
Please share your Yorkshire Pudding disasters to help my wife feel better.