Saturday, 14 June 2014

A broken promise and Being English: Part One

Guys, guys, I am so sorry.

 I know I promised you a full Kit picture, but I'm really just hating what I've got so far and even if I pushed through I couldn't finish it by midnight.

 I will show you what I have now, but I promise you that I'll have a full finished picture of Kit next Saturday. I will work on it all week. I will use paint.

 Here's what I've got so far.

This is precisely the reason I only offer portrait commissions.

 I'm not sure why I hate it so much, but I do.

 So I'm going to start again, and hopefully I can get it to have better anatomy and to look less stiff and unnatural.

 In order to make this post worth reading, and in honour of England's first match of the World Cup, I'm going to give you a quick run down on what it's like for me as an English person during a major international football tournament.

 One of the things that you've got to keep in mind is that big displays of patriotism aren't all that common here. In fact, going around being excessively patriotic is considered weird. Talking about national identity always, always ends up with educated English people loudly and eloquently proclaiming that we're an awful, awful country with a terrible list of crimes and that being proud of being English is tantamount to commiting a hate crime.

 Okay, I'm exaggerating on that last point.

 Basically what I'm saying is that American style constant patriotism is considered strange and creepy and we do not like it.

 English patriotism, at least during my lifetime, consists of being generally dissatisfied most of the time and becoming excessively patriotic for short bursts.

 One notable occasion where excessive patriotism occurs is when a foreigner criticises England (or Britain in general) and then there's definitely a tendency to get very defensive and almost aggressively patriotic. Just because we say that about our country doesn't mean you get to, it's our country. Insulting it is just like insulting one of our relatives, and how dare you say that about our Sharon!

 But that's pretty rare. Just make sure to insult your own country in the same breath and you'll likely avoid any punches to the face.

 There's also a tendency for bursts of patriotism around anniversaries of WW2 events and notable events to do with the royal family (births, marriages, deaths, coronations and jubilees and the like).

 More consistently these bursts of excessive patriotism occur during sporting events.

 Rugby, cricket, Wimbledon if we have a half way decent player, the Olympics and especially, especially men's international football.

 I will always, always see England flags hanging out of people's windows during World Cups and the UEFA European Football Championship.

 England flags are sold in supermarkets during these tournaments, there's a proliferation of England shirts, random crap with the flag on it, and other embarrassing things like that.

 Football is the national sport. Yes, cricket and rugby are massive deals, but football is the biggie.

 It's the one with the stupid romantic nickname, it's the one with the horribly tragic event attached to it, it is the one we refer to as 'coming home' when we hold the tournaments (or even if the tournament is held in a neighbouring country), it is the one we care about more than any other.

 Consider this, we have a well known rivalry with Australia in cricket and we take that seriously, but we take our rivalry with Germany personally. (Which is funny, because they barely care.)

 There was an embarrisgly long period where England just could not beat Germany. Embarassingly. Over thirty years, embarrassing.

 In fact, it's also important to remember that, although we give England our undying support during the tournament, we have virtually no confidence in them. I have never in my entire life heard people insult the cricket or rugby team the way they insult the men's football team. The only thing that comes close was the way people talked about Tim Henman, but that's a story for another time.

 I know, it makes no sense, but it's what we do.

 What you also need to know is that during the World Cup and Euro insert-year-here, it is virtually impossible to avoid football. If you're not a football fan, it's like the whole country has just decided that for the duration of the tournament, there is nothing else to talk about. And it's already normally pretty bad.

 It is not going over the top to say that the fervour surrounding the World Cup in England is religious.

 Football is already a civic religion, and throw in the fact that this is one of the few times that it is socially acceptable to be patriotic and people pretty much just go mad with it.

 In fact, a few tournaments ago (I can't remember when exactly) there was actually a national hoo-hah about the fact that some Scots were openly saying that they were going to support any team that England was playing against. This was brought up on Question Time, which is a pretty important piece of political programming on the BBC.

 English patriotism tends to spill over to the other countries in the UK, so we support them too, especially if we're out of the tournament by then. We call these the 'Home Nations' and this sometimes includes Ireland (remember, nation refers to the people, not the land or infrastructure, but we can talk about this another time).

 Dammit, Sterling!

 Sorry, he was so close to scoring it was painful.


 So what's it like for me personally?

 Well... it's been something of a roller coaster. As a child I was really caught up in all the patriotism and excitement and I really enjoyed it, but once I became and older teen... well, I was sick of it. I hated the way there was nothing else to talk about, I hated the excessive patriotism, I really didn't enjoy the whole experience at all. It also didn't help that I was already jaded by that point, I was well into 'our team is awful' territory.

 Now though... I'm actually pretty okay with it all.

 I thought I wouldn't be, I was expecting to be very annoyed and uncomfortable, but things just don't seem as bad this year.

 This may very well change though.

 I still think our team is dire.

 Though that's not stopping me from watching the match, as if you couldn't tell.

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