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Jingo All The Way

March 12, 2013
I forget, who won the Calcutta Cup match again?

I forget, who won the Calcutta Cup match again?

And so the the last weekend of the 2013 Six Nations is nearly upon us.  Rugby is by far my favourite team sport to watch, and the Six Nations is definitely my favourite Rugby competition.  It’s a small but perfectly formed contest with a relatively relaxed schedule that means it’s easy to follow, but it’s still jam-packed with history and intense rivalries that make for some excellent battles.  This years tournament hasn’t exactly been chock-full of classic games but even the less-than spectacular matches are still exciting, tense affairs.  Going into the last weekend England (the team that I myself support, of course) are still on for their first Grand Slam since the world-cup winning year of 2003, which is an encouraging sign for the future. However the jittery performance they put in against Italy last week doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence for Saturday’s game in Cardiff.  Unless England severely buck up their ideas the Welsh will probably cut them to bits, and it won’t take much to overhaul the points difference required to give Wales the Championship.  And if that happens the valleys will no doubt ring to the triumphant sound of close-harmony singing as the bloody smug daffodil-worriers quaff a celebratory tankard of leek juice or two.  Still, if that terrible reality comes to pass then at least I can take some small solace from the fact that England have achieved one of the most important things that I ask of them each year in the Six Nations – they still thumped the Jocks.

Here’s a funny thing.  I’ve been pulled up a couple of times recently by friends, work colleagues, and the lovely inhabitants of the internet for using that kind of language. Seems what I thought of as being jokey references to the Welsh, and more often the Scottish have actually put a nose or two out of joint. I was even called a ‘middle-class xenophobe’ the other week which took me quite by surprise.  I thought this was a bit odd, as in my experience the Scottish tend to give the English just as much stick, if not more.   In fact one of the debates sparked of by this issue in my office was concerning the English national anthem.  A Scottish colleague complained that the second verse of ‘God Save the Queen’ was about crushing rebellious Scotsmen, which he felt was rather inappropriate   I did feel obliged to point out that not only has it been changed as far as I know, the Scottish still insist on singing ‘Flower of Scotland’ before every rugby international.  A song in which every verse is celebrating crushing the English. He didn’t see a problem with that for some reason. But I’m not going to get into a big England Vs Scotland, ‘who started it’ type thing here.  If I was a vindictive person I could bang on about the use of phrases like ‘The Auld Enemy’ and ‘Anyone But England’ but to be honest that kind of thing doesn’t actually bother me. I don’t really have some kind of deep seated vendetta against those North of the border, I’m not holding some kind of ancestral grudge about Bannockburn, and I’ve long since forgiven Scotland for inflicting The Proclaimers upon us. The fact is it’s not just about them. Like Lady Gaga, I was born that way.  Well, sort of. 

I spent the first nineteen years of my life growing up in a quiet county of England by the name of Cumbria.  If you don’t know where that is it’s tucked up in the North-West corner, just below Scotland.  In my experience while some people even in the UK couldn’t find Cumbria on a map every bugger has heard of the Lake District National Park that sits within the counties borders, but it’s probably best to not get me started on that particular point.  Now, Cumbrians are a funny lot. If you take them at face value you could end up believing that they don’t like anyone. Southerners, Midlanders, Geordies, Scousers, and any given foreigners all come in for a bit of stick. Even other Cumbrians aren’t safe as the Whitehaven/Workington rivalry shows, where both sides actually have the same name for the other (Jam-eaters… don’t ask). Heck, there’s even a split between the two halves of Workington, the Uppies and the Downies. But it would be fair to say the that lot over the border are a preferred target. It might be due to the proximity or some kind of  inherited animosity stemming from the of the days of the border reivers or some other equally daft reason, but boy do Cumbrians enjoy having a go at the Scottish. So are we just a bunch of racist, jingoistic savages? I’d like to think not. 

Whenever someone takes umbrage at the things I come out with, I usually think something along the lines ‘blimey, if you think I’m bad you should meet my Dad’. My old Dad is much more vociferous than me when it comes to our northen neighbours.  He even still refers to them as ‘sweaties.’ That’s not quite as bad as it sounds as it’s rhyming slang (sweaty socks = jocks) but it still sounds pretty harsh.  So it might seem a touch odd that one his longest standing friends is a bloke from Dundee.  It’s great fun when the two of them get a bit drunk as they’re both as bad as each other.   I recall when the Scottish chap came to my wedding he took great pleasure in buying a drink for my Irish usher as he was pleased he wasn’t just stuck with a ‘bunch of bloody sassenachs,’ while my Dad was acting all shocked that he was buying a drink for anyone, given he was a ‘tight-fisted skirt-wearer.’  This for me sums up the Cumbrian habit of making fun of the Scottish, Welsh, Irish or whatever.  It’s not actually about hate or some kind of feeling of superiority.  It’s not genuine racism – in fact racist violence and that kind of rubbish is a pretty rare thing round that way. It’s about having a bit of a laugh and it’s so much more fun when people bite back. In fact I’d go as far to say that a Cumbrian would actually quite enjoy hanging out with a crowd of the people they ‘didn’t like’ for that very reason.  I hate to use the word ‘banter’ since it’s in used a bit too much in football circles to excuse some truly vile shit that’s a hundred times worse than the nonsense I come out with, but it’s the right word.  I enjoy a bit of good humored back and forth mick taking, and I kinda think that’s generally the case in Cumbria.  If I’m making a joke about tam o’ shanters and haggises to a Scotsman then I’m expecting – demanding, even – something similar in return. And lets face it, you’d have plenty of material to work with.  I’d recommend starting with some inbreeding gags and maybe a reference to having sex with sheep.  Or you could always fall back on the name of my home town. After all, ‘Cockermouth’ is pretty much a comedy goldmine.

DISCLAIMER – the author accepts no responsibility for injuries sustained when making ‘you married your sister’ jokes in places like Maryport, Siddick or Dearham. Not all Cumbrians are whimsical, self-depreciating jokers with a good sense of humor. We’ve got our own fair share of genuinely nasty arseholes as well

For my part I’ve come to realize that other people may be more sensitive to this kind of thing than I am.  I do understand it’s quite easy to take some of the things I come out with the wrong way, especially if a person doesn’t know me or if we’re communicating on the flat, inflection-free medium that is the internet where things like a jokey tone of voice are lost (and I’m not about to start using bloody winking smileys).  So I am trying to reign it in a bit, though things do tend to slip out during events like the Six Nations.  Rest assured if I do end up making some kind of crack about your ancestry that offends, then you should feel free to tell me to shut the hell up. Or to make a joke about the fact that a Cumberland sausage looks a bit like a dog poop.  Either’s good.

Anyway, back to the rugby.  An interesting point with the Six Nations is that unlike some major sporting tournaments such as the rugby or football world cups I tend to watch pretty much every game.  After all, there’s only three over each weekend for a total of fifteen, unlike in the much larger events where there could be that many in the first few days.  I always like to have a vested interested in any sporting event I watch – I do find it’s quite dull to be a true neutral – so when I’m watching a non-England game I’ll tend to pick one of the other teams playing to support for the 80 minute duration. I’ve noticed over the last few years that I tend to make the same choices of who to root for, so I decided I’d see if any patterns emerge.  Presented below is a handy little table of which side I’d pick for on any particular Six Nations game assuming the result didn’t matter – for example if I needed a team to lose to benefit England I’d invariably be cheering against them.

Scotland Ireland Wales Italy France
Scotland X Ireland Wales Italy France
Ireland Ireland X Ireland Italy Ireland
Wales Wales Ireland X Italy Wales
Italy Italy Italy Italy X Italy
France France Ireland Wales Italy X

So what can we take from this?  I’d think it shows that I’ve got a tendency to come over all patriotic for the UK against a certain overseas team (France) but I still like to see underdogs pull off the upset (Italy) and that I’ve got some kind of affinity for the Irish.  It must be some kind of latent gratitude for them inventing the Guinness.

Oh, and it shows quite clearly that I’ve got some I’ve got something against the Scottish, like some kind of horrible middle-class xenophobe.

But then that’s hardly a surprise, is it?


From → Musings

One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on Sykose and commented:

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