Before leaving Sydney, I had a conversation with a colleague about whether I considered Australia or England to be ‘home’. His point was that I had spent so long in Sydney, that surely I must call Australia home by now.
But then he spoilt his argument by saying that his own acid test was who I supported in the Ashes and he assumed by now I was right behind Clarkey and his team of bad losers. Sorry Geoffrey, game over, argument lost and where did I put those plane tickets?
There is a well-worn phrase in Oz that is easily adapted to apply here – “You can take the boy out of England, but you can’t take England out of the boy”
That sentiment rings particularly true to me because no matter how long I spent in Australia (two decades) and no matter how great a time I had there (which I did), I always remained English at heart.
Over time, I have obviously learned the words to the Aussie national anthem (well, the first verse, anyway), but always somehow felt a bit for a fraud singing it, fearful that someone would point an accusing finger at me and I’d be yanked out of the crowd and publicly exposed as a Pom.
Likewise, on Australia Day, I saw it more as another public holiday rather than it carrying any deeper emotional significance for me.
By contrast, whenever I hear ‘God save the Queen’ being played (slightly less so the Sex Pistols’ version) or even other anthemic tunes like ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘I vow to thee my country’, I have always felt a much deeper sense of nationalistic pride and belonging.
The reason why patriotism and national allegiance are top of mind for me at the moment is that we are fast approaching the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which as I’m sure you know is being celebrated over this coming weekend.
It seems that wherever you look at the moment, there is an abundance of Union Jack flags (Incidentally, it seems that to be politically correct, we are supposed to call them Union flags now, but stuff that).
Huge flags are draped from buildings and hung above streets, bunting is everywhere, shop window displays all feature some kind of patriotic theme, products are seeking any excuse to parade their British heritage and Union Jack memorabilia (or maybe should that be Patriotica?) is everywhere.
Hey, I’ve even got in on the act and purchased a couple of Union Jack tea towels. How English am I?
Of course, there are inevitably those who will remain all thin-lipped and steadfastly against any celebrations, complaining vociferously that the monarchy is an outdated institution and we can’t afford them any more.
Personally, I’m not really an avid Monarchist and don’t have too much time for all the royal hangers-on, but I do have huge respect for the Queen herself, not to mention a great affection for all the tradition and pageantry that surrounds the whole shebang.
No matter how anachronistic it may seem to some, I feel that Britain would be much the poorer if the naysayers got their way and the monarchy no longer existed.
So, this weekend, I will be out there, tea towels (and possibly umbrella) at the ready, soaking up the feelgood atmosphere, sipping cups of tea and eating cake (or more likely, drinking beer and eating pork pies), all the while feeling a swelling sense of patriotism, delighted that I am back in time to take part in my country’s big celebrations.
And if that’s not an opportunity for a bit of flag waving, then I don’t know what is.