Saturday 1 February 2020


I'm trying to sort out how I feel about Brexit. A pal put a Last Night at the Proms performance of "Jerusalem" followed by "God Save the Queen" on his blog to celebrate. As I watched, a tear actually came trickling down my cheek, even though another part of my brain was thinking "There's no mention of Scotland in that song, bub."

I suppose a good way to start is that being British does not mean hating Europe. It just means noting that Britain is distinct from Europe and is rich enough not to need whatever the European Union offers. Hundreds of thousands of British, including tens of thousands of civilians, died because Britain refused to be controlled by a Western European power; the spirit of British independence is  strong to this day.

At the same time, being British does not mean being English, Scottish, Welsh or Ulster Irish,  or even born in the British Isles, as many people from the British Commonwealth would attest. The Union flag flew over Canada until 1965, and my Scottish-Canadian ancestors fought under it. Canada--that is, the English-speaking parts of Canada--was solidly British until then.

By the time I went to elementary school, the Canadian chattering classes were wringing their hands and having an identity crisis, in which I soon shared. I literally wished I were Swiss, for then I would have a clear identity, and possibly live a romantic, fresh air life like Heidi. However, despite experiments in thinking I was "Irish" (despite no-one in my family living in Ireland since 1847) or "Irish Catholic" or "unhyphenated Canadian", I have come to the conclusion that I am just a British Canadian, living in Britain, married to a Scot.

The part of Britain I live in is Scotland, which is a bit tricky because the Independence Referendum tom-toms are banging again. Although I could see why rich Britain would leave the European Union, I can't see a good reason why poor Scotland should leave rich England-and-Wales. To give the current First Minister a special place in the history books? No, thanks.

But at the same time--and this is grossly unfair--the flag of England (i.e. cross of St. George) gives me the heebee jeebies. I enjoy visiting England, but I am not sure I would want to live there. On trains north, I get tremendously excited when I realise I'm in Scotland again. Home, it seems.

Meanwhile educated Europeans, like the Czech brain surgeon who, under God, saved B.A.'s life, will still want to move to Edinburgh. It's a truly wonderful city. The Polish workforce will still move here, by hook or crook. All the EU money doesn't keep Poles in Poland, I notice---which is great for Scotland. As I keep telling Polish pals, nobody wants them to leave. Well, maybe a few bitter drunks on the Rough Bus do, but the people running things do not.

I am a migrant myself, and I never was a citizen of the EU, so my own status doesn't change a whit. The one big change is that B.A. and I will probably be in the same non-EU passport queue at airports from here on in. At least, I hope that's the one big change. I am really afraid that the Union will be dismantled, and my decision was to move to Scotland-part-of-the-UK, not some future People's Republic of Scotland. My shock when I found myself plunged socially into Scottish republican circles was acute. I had never heard of such a thing.

Terror of the United Kingdom crumbling under my feet is much more of a force in my life than hurt European feelings and monolingual Guardianistas in North London moaning about soggy cake-fuelled isolation. At the same time, I am in foreigner in Edinburgh, and so I am sorry for the continental European foreigners who feel sad about the extra paperwork Brexit means for them.

As for British, or English, nationalism, I went to the Polish Independence Day March one year, and although it was not what the lying polonophobic American media said it was, it still scared the living daylights out of me.

I once read the account of a Polish woman married to a British bricklayer who went to Last Night at the Proms and felt hurt and left out. Well, I packed myself into St. Barbara's Catholic Church in Warsaw an hour before the Marsz Dzień Niepodległosci when I suddenly discovered that I did not know the "Our Father" in Polish. I realised at once that this could mark me out as a non-Pole and therefore a potential Polonophobic Western Media Spy. I did not feel hurt. I felt terrified.

All the same, I am now going to go and write out another page of my Polish children's Encyclopaedia and help B.A. buy a suit for my Polish god-daughter-to-be's baptism in Poland. Her daddy once worked for UKIP; how we all laughed.


  1. The break-up of the UK is a bleak outlook, but the UK leaving the EU really isn't. The economy will be absolutely fine. One of the things that shocks me about Canadian journalists writing about British news is how very shallow they are. Anyone who thinks that Boris Johnson is a British Donald Trump, as Heather Mallick apparently does, hasn't a clue that Boris was a very popular mayor of London. He had such excellent and environmentally friendly ideas as public bicycles-for-rent, and famously rode a bicycle to work himself. Meanwhile I read a shocking article in the Spectator by a German journalist mooning sadly over her departing "English cousins" and snarling at Hungary & Poland and a number of countries she quite obviously despises. Seriously. My eyes almost fell out of my head. The poor woman was under the impression that Germany & England are a natural team, and meanwhile "1917" is in cinemas and "The Darkest Hour" is on Netflix.