Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"England is Wales, Ireland and Scotland isn't it?"

Again on Monday, for only about the gazillionth time since moving to Sweden, I had to explain to a handful of Swedes the various entities that make up the British Isles and Ireland. And explain that England is only one quarter of the UK. And that none of the other 3 quarters include the Republic of Ireland.

I know it shouldn't, because I should be well-used to it by me, but it still irritates and shocks me every time a Swede refers to the UK as England. Most Swedes actually do this. And of course they're not helped in rectifying their mistake by film and TV programme subtitle writers who persist in translating, Britain,UK, and Great Britain to "England", and British to "engelsk" (lower case in Swedish for languages, nationalities, days of the week and the
months....yeah, weird isn't it!)

Anyway on Monday, when asked (in Swedish of course) "Have you got English citizenship? I gave the one and only possible answer, "There is no such thing as English citizenship, because there is no such state as England" Which was followed by "Huh?" (that was also in Swedish).

I explained, "The state is called The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain being the geographical name of the island that is England, Scotland and Wales. The British Isles contains two nationalities - British and Irish. I have both citizenships, but only a valid Irish passport. The British one expired about 1o years ago ."

On Monday I didn't go into the complex details about the Isle of Man and the two Channel Islands states but I will now.

All three are separate states, with their own Parliaments and governments and are not part of the EU or the UK. They are self-governing British Crown dependencies. The only matters they may not affect or issue statements on are foreign policy, defence and nationality laws.

However, resdients of the Isle of Man receive full UK passports which inlcude an extra entry detailing their Manx nationality. Whereas residents of the 2 Channel Islands states - The Bailiwick of Guernsey and The Bailiwick of Jersey receive British Islands passports, which have the following on the front cover: "British Islands, Bailiwick of Jersey" or "British Islands, Bailiwick of Guernsey" So slightly different in that they do not have full UK citizenship like a Manx national does.

I then had to explain that Ireland has been a separate state since the end of 1921.
And that while Wales is a country politically and culturally, legally and judicially it has not been a separate country since the middle of the 1500s, when it was annexed to England by the Laws of Wales Act of 1535, under Henry VIII, who as a Tudor of course was partly Welsh himself.

Since then, Wales has been a principality of England and all laws apply to the legal unit of England & Wales. Scotland however, is still a separate country, even though it went into the union with England in 1707.

Then of course that old chestnut the question of Northern Ireland came up, which made me ask "How long have you got?" No, I didn't really ask that, but it isn't something you can answer in five minutes so I gave them the dry basic political answer.

"In 1801 the Kingdom of Ireland went into a union with the Kingdom of Britain, which was after 600 years of on-again, off-again English rule anyway. Then in 1920 the Government of Ireland Act divided the island into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, based on religious and ethnic grounds. At the end of 1921 the British Government and the Irish Parliament signed the Treaty making Ireland a separate state. And so since then Northern Ireland has been part of the UK."

Now this next part is me writing now and has nothing to do with what was being discussed on Monday evening. And would have had no place anyway in a simple conversation about the political boundaries and entities of the British Isles.

From its creation in 1921 and up to 1972 Northern Ireland "enjoyed" Unionist self-government, but after about 3 years of The Troubles that the Unionist Protestant authorities in Northern Ireland were unwilling to take action against to protect the Catholics that were being killed and burned out by Protestants, the British Government imposed direct rule from Westminster. And sent in British troops initially to protect Catholics by putting a stop to the sectarian killings and house burnings being committed by Protestants.

These actions were carried out not only by civilians but also by the protestant police force (the RUC) and the part-time territorial army unit of the region, the UDR. They weren't taking direct open action of course, but some of them assisted loyalist organisations with weapons and information and stood by and watched other protestants burning houses and assaulting Catholics without taking the obvious police action to stop it.

Many members of the RUC and UDR of the 1970s were of course later shown to have been members of Orange Lodges (masonic) and some were even members or had close ties to loyalist paramilitary organisations.

Of course, these loyalist atrocities meant that another organisation started taking action again to protect Catholics, the IRA. Which having been in effect quite inactive up to 1970 split into the Officials and Provisionals. The "Provos" stepped up operations while accusing the Officials of embracing parliamentary politics and running down military operations.

And the rest up to the mid-90s and the Good Friday Agreement is sad, bloody, tragic, awful history.

So as far as names go, Ireland is Ireland and England is England, nothing more, nothing less.

In the Shadows of Greatness

Spare a thought occasionally for all those English towns that have to live in the shadow of great cities, for example: Slough, Watford, Dudley, Birkenhead, Stockport, Gateshead, South Shields.
It can't be much fun having to explain where you're from geographically by using the big shitty beside you to direct visitors and tourists.

Of course the proud small town dweller will give directions like this: "Where's Watford? Well, it's in Southwest Hertfordshire between the M1 and the M25 about 20 minutes drive south down the M1 from Luton"

Whereas pragmatic small town dwellers, resigned to their fate living in the shadows of greatness, will answer, "Where's Watford? Well it's in Northwest London just north of Rickmansworth"

Knowing also that they don't need to name counties and motorway numbers because everyone can find London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle in a road atlas!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A bag of fish & pommes frites please mon ami

"On 10 September 1956 French Prime Minister Guy Mollet arrived in London for talks with his British counterpart, Anthony Eden"

Did you read about this yesterday, about the plans that were afoot to unite Britain and France?

Well apparently a "union" was considered in the 1950s, according to secret papers recently unearthed. During the Suez crisis France was really worried, for several reasons but partly because Egypt was funding separatists in Algeria, and because of the troubles in Israel. So the French PM suggested the union with Britain so that they as one state could present a strong unified force in the face of Russia, the US and the two main Middle Eastersn protagonists of the day, Egypt and Israel.

Anyway, it seems that Britain were not totally alien to the idea and France was ready to join the Commonwealth and accept a Queen as head of state. Mon Dieu!

This is of course also very much linked to the later military arm of the WEA (Western European Union) that France and Germany were after for decades during the Cold War and Middle Eastern problems of the 50s, 60s & 70s.

Anyway it never happened and in the end as we know France got in bed with West Germany when they formed the EEC.

What interests me more about this story is of course, as I'm sure you've guessed, the socio-cultural ramifications and possible humorous consequences of such a union.

Brits speaking awful French and the French still refusing to utter a word of L'anglais!
Garlic butter on your fish & pommes frites.
Berets & brollies in the city.
"Coffee & sympathy" just doesn't sound right does it?
Taking the metro or autobus to work...huh?
Buskers only playing accordions, presumably sur la pont de La Thames.

And of course Britain would have exported masses of tea bags and British cars to France to run alongside the equally crappy French cars. At least they had some things in common!

Sacre bleu!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Charlie in your pocket!

Well, it seems that the people of Ireland really like Charlie... and I dont mean Haughey.
Apparently, according to a BBC article today (see link). Scientific researchers at Dublin's City University found traces of cocaine on 100% of the bank notes in the batch they examined.
Some notes had such high levels that the researchers believe that those notes were used for actually snorting coke!
Others with lower levels would have been contaminated in cash tills and wallets.

Apparently cocaine particles stick to the cotton that is contained within the notes, with the higher notes containing greater traces. Well of course, it's far better to snort charlie through a 50 than through a tenner... I mean if you've got it, flaunt it!

Well, I knew drug use was a major problem in Ireland but this really is a surprise.

So today's "I spy" game is to see how many people you can spot in the street, at home, at work, in the pub sniffing Irish bank notes!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mozzer on a string!

Well, well, well. The BBC has confrimed today that Morrissey could represent the UK in this years Eurovision contest

Well I love Moz! Saw him 3 times in 2006. Twice in my home town in fact. And on the bootleg of the Swedish Radio recording of his second night on my manor you can clearly hear me shouting out "Life is a Pigsty!" just before they start it. Fame at last!

Anyway back to Eurovision... Eurovision 2006 was a great success because finally the voting public showed that Euromuzzak ethno-pop-pap isn't what's wanted. But hard rock and real music in general is!!! Lordi. Lordi !

I'd love to see Moz do it, I think he'd win hands down with a proper rocky song!
And I can imagine that he feels it would put him into that small group of famous British artists that are such an institution, such a huge part of English culture that doing Eurovision isn't considered naff, and it is a small group: Cliff Richard, Lulu, The Shadows, Matt Monroe.
And now Moz.

Let's face it, Moz does play on the '50s & '60s crooner image quite a lot, in his suit & quiff, so Matt Monroe isn't too far off imagewise!
Mozzer, Mozzer, Mozzer!

(Note: Katrina thought that she & her waves were huge, they aren't. So they were naff! To do Eurovision you have to be well etsablished and already a huge success beyond changing musical fashions (Matt Monroe, Cliff Richard etc.) or an absolute beginner. Failing and fading '80s pop bands are naff when they do Eurovision. Sorry Kat, but as much as I loved you at the Mean Fiddler shaking your lovely stuff back in the early 80s, braless in your white vest, on Eurovision you were embarrassing, even though you won!)

Now after such a long entry on this subject dahlings don't start thinking that I'm some kind of Eurovision queen!

Cheers and Le Royaume-Uni: douze point!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The verb to be

Present simple:

I am
you are
he/she/it is
we are
you are
they are

Present simple negatives; negative contractions;& negative interrogative forms:

I am not - I'm not / amn't I? OR am I not? OR the widely used yet very grammatically suspect aren't I?
you are not - you're not - you aren't / aren't you? OR are you not?
he/she/it is not - he's not - he isn't / isn't he? OR is he not?
we are not - we're not - we aren't / aren't we? OR are we not?
you are not - see 2nd pers. sing.
they are not - they're not - they aren't /aren't they? OR are they not?

You see "amn't I" is correct!

And I base that not only on the written word of grammar that can be seen in all verb tables, but on the fact that it is standard amongst most Irish speakers and amongst many of Irish descent; myself included. My parents used it and I grew up using it.

And also on the fact that when I went to school in Chelsea, London my English teacher used it, and often got asked by non-Irish Catholic pupils in the classroom, "Isn't that wrong miss?" whereby she would point out that amn't I is a perfectly accepted form and is in fact more grammatically correct than aren't I.

Food for thought!

The price of chips

Having practiced on two blogs I created last year I now "think" I'm ready to run a proper blog with real daily or perhaps weekly - if I'm realistic - input. Well, that's the theory. How it goes in practice remains to be seen.

Why have a blog at all? After several years of sending informative, angry or corrective letters to Swedish newspapers on a whole range of subjects, from how the British police work to what language Yoshua Ben Yusef spoke, I now feel I want a forum on which I can post my views about Sweden and Swedish society from the perspective of a migrant, especially with regard to how Swedes and the Swedish state view the outside world. And to post my views about the UK and Ireland from the perspective of an exile.

One major area of interest has always been languages, linguistics, etymology and socio-culturally related subjects. Hence my job - translator/proofreader/interpreter/English teacher, and the fact that I'm bilingual.

Of particular interest within that field is how English differs not only between Irish English speakers and British English speakers but also between the language of the "English" in the UK and those of Irish descent in the UK . Additionally how the various forms of spoken English are received and perceived by Swedes.

An older blog I had was called "Amn't I is correct!" And I was going to use that title for this one but in the end didn't want to limit myself subject-wise. So "An Irish-Lononder in Sweden" it is.

Another area of interest is the sometimes frighteningly huge and sometimes almost indescernible socio-cultural differences between myself and the Swedes around me and between British/Irish life and Swedish life.

Huge things like the fact that in Sweden everyone through necessity has, or has access to, a car. And in fact many families in Sweden have at least two cars. Now when I lived in London, you didn't really need a car and so accordingly most poeple didn't have cars.
The necessity in Sweden is caused by public transport being so bad or rather so limited due to the relatively small populaiton combined with the size of the country and the great distances that many people commute.

One of the small differences, indescernible to Swedes, that still bugs me is that people here always answer the phone with their name and/or phone number, as if they are obliged to provide the person calling THEM with personal details. Now for obvious security reasons in London you never did that.

Anyway, my blog is going to cover everthing from why amn't I is correct and aren't I is wrong to theology, real ale, and the price of chips!