Thursday, 1 October 2015

A Tip of Patriotic Prejudice

And all the world over, each nation's the same
They've simply no notion of playing the game

They argue with umpires, they cheer when they've won
Flanders and Swann
And they practice beforehand which ruins the fun!

So sang Flanders and Swann in their Song of Patriotic Prejudice, the chorus to which modestly opines: The English, the English, the English are best; I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest. I sang it loud and proud for the first 75 minutes of last Saturday’s match against Wales, before conveniently remembering that I actually have a great-grandfather who is buried at Llandaff Cathedral.

If it turns out that the England rugby team should scrape through to the quarter finals of the World Cup, there is a reasonable chance that they will face Scotland at Twickenham and I have a fall back position there too: No Scottish ancestors, but a great love of whisky... And if that isn’t enough, I have several younger relatives with Scottish passports, which practically ensures that I qualify for my own tartan.

Yes, it might hurt, but I am prepared for just about any result - except losing to Australia. There’s no Australian blood in my family; in fact I don’t think there are any convicts at all, unless you include a few counts of shoplifting pick-n-mix sweets in the early seventies – the evidence of which disappeared pretty quickly. 

Then there’s the French. Now I love France; I love the wine, the cafĂ© culture, the food (especially the foie gras), the wine, the women (but obviously not since meeting my wife), the countryside, the mountains, the beaches and the wine. They even have some lovely racecourses. But that doesn’t mean that I have to support the admirable French trained, dual Arc-winning, Treve – especially when the flower of the English, the Derby winner Golden Horn, has been supplemented in opposition.  

I almost wrote the English Derby, but that would have been pointless. Because, while there are other Derbys (French ones, Irish ones, Kentucky ones), there really is only one that matters. It is a measure of how great we English are, that our Derby winners require no prefix. So come on Golden Horn (the selection for Sunday’s Arc De Triomphe); come on the England rugby team:  

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

(Shakespeare - Henry V)

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