There are a few things I haven’t been able to reconcile about this country, and which I blame my on my Scandinavian influences. So when I get a question like “do you love your country”, I don’t quite know how to respond. I can bat the question away with a joke, and refuse to answer that way. Or I can give it some thought.
But there’s a barb in the question, isn’t there? There’s a hook, an accusation in there that theoretically could make me flop like a fish on land. If I hesitate in answering the question, does that mean I’m unpatriotic? Does that mean that I am complaining? If I don’t know the answer, shouldn’t I just pack up and go back to where I came from?
I love waking up in the morning and looking out of the window and seeing the morning light wash across this town. I love walking the streets, hill up and hill down, and watch the people here. Somehow, even if they’re a bunch of boring Tory-wannabes, they’re my people. My town. My community. The grumpy characters, and the smiling rays of sunshine, they all have become a part of my life.
I also love driving in the country-side outside it, and the hills and trees and fields are like everything I’ve ever imagined England to be. These days, I feel at home here in a way that I really didn’t in Sweden. It wasn’t always like that. During my first year, while living in my Aunt’s cellar, I felt detached from this town. I could sneer at it, and think it to be a Dursley clone suburbia. And maybe the neighbourhood where my aunt lives is. This neighbourhood where our house is, is somehow more human, more settled, more real.
The people and the geography and the history of this country is interesting, and there is much to like and love, and I do. But… I don’t think that when people ask that question — the “do you love your country?” – that they mean the answer to be a declaration of love for the people, the geography, or the normal life. It’s not about the quirks and the characters and the atmosphere.
It is more of a question of “do you like the romanticized ideals that the xenophobic right have of what this country should be like”. That’s the hook, the bit that reduce me to the flopping fish, because I certainly don’t love the idea of a very segregated land where each class sticks to its own, and where the soldiers go off to steal bits of land from foreigners, and where the walls of entry into the country are so high as to render the UK into an apartheid state.
What about us then, me and Mark? Do we intend to stay here, grow up here, and grow old here? No. Mark and I have already half-decided that once we’re done with our university, and once we have at least our Bachelor’s degrees, we’ll probably have to live on the continent.
If Mark wants to reach the top of his field, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t, then the continent is the place to be, working for Germans or Scandinavians. If it becomes like I suspect, that UKIP will be a much stronger force in British politics with the Conservatives kowtowing to that xenophobic sentiment, then we’re looking at the UK leaving the EU within ten years.
Neither of us loves that side of England, the smug and superior attitude to all things foreign, particularly when the only industry that is being supported is the banking industry and the financial services. What place is there for engineers, scientists and artists in that future? I don’t know.
But I know that I’ll miss the hills, the people, the geography, and the atmosphere. I will miss all the generous people, the jokers, the misfits and the ones that don’t give a toss. I’ll miss the kind and funny and thoughtful people I’ve met. The real England, rather than the miserly and frightened ones the Tories and UKIP wants to turn us into.
I’ll miss the mist in the morning, the patter of rain of the sills in our house, and the jostle at Tescos with all the other middle class people in their rush to do their Friday shopping. I’ll miss the idea of England, but the UKIP ideals can go hang.