THE VIEW FROM HEREHAS there ever been a better time to be British? OK, so we’re broke and our politicians are rubbish but never mind that. We’ve got the Olympics coming up and then there’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and, ooh, it’s all very exciting.
Well, no, obviously Andy Murray won’t win Wimbledon but that Rebecca Adlington’s on top form.
As we prepare for this summer’s burst of patriotic pride, Duckworth Publishers have issued a timely reminder of what constitutes true Britishness.
A new edition of The National Character Observed, by the cartoonist Pont, contains a series of drawings under such headings as Importance of not being intellectual, Love of detective fiction and A tendency to think things not so good as they used to be.
Although the cartoons first appeared in the 1930s, much remains unchanged. Will you spend this evening studying Wittgenstein? Thought not. You’ll be settled in front of the telly, watching Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, although you don’t think Julia McKenzie is a patch on Joan Hickson.
But the main requirement for British citizenship is an obsession with the weather. Indeed, no encounter, however brief, is complete without at least one comment on the subject.
Imagine you’ve just popped into the corner shop. Don’t just say "The Telegraph, please, and a packet of mints" in the foolish expectation that a fondness for diehard newspapers and sucky-sweeties will mark you out as British.
Unless you observe the protocol of remarking about the weather before specifying what you’ve actually come in for, you will be immediately identified as a dangerous alien, with every probability of being summarily arrested ("Said he wanted The Telegraph, officer but I could tell he was a terrorist. We had very high winds last night and he never even mentioned them.")
The Island’s weather gives us endless enjoyment, with an added conversational dimension provided by the surrounding sea. If there is even the slightest possibility of ferries being cancelled, this must be discussed, whether or not you have any intention of travelling to the mainland.
"Apparently the hover’s off but the cat’s still running. At the moment. They’re talking about Force 10 later. Might affect the car ferries. Daily Mail and two lucky dips please."
That is the correct way to do it and any changes in timetabling must be closely followed.
"Told you the car ferries would be cancelled. Took them off for an hour last night. Still, the wind’s dropped this morning, hasn’t it? Quite bright out there now."
Pont’s cartoons should form the basis of any British citizenship test. Love of dumb animals and Political apathy, these are the true measures of patriotism.
Somebody, however, has come up with the absurd idea of a "citizenship test". This would be all right if the questions were about the weather and how early in the year one should discuss a hosepipe ban. That would soon identify the foreigners in our midst.
But it’s actually not a bit like that. I’ve just trawled through the 24 questions of the online Official Practice Citizenship Test and it was a complete fiasco.
I didn’t know about Ulster Scots, or when married women got the right to divorce their husbands, or the number of UK citizens who are under 19, or how many days a year schools must be open. In fact, I knew pretty much zilch and was deemed to have failed the test by a substantial margin.
As one who has scarcely left British shores since birth, I was shocked. Who wrote these stupid questions, anyway?
There was nothing in there about the weather or Midsomer Murders. It’s a plot, I tell you, cooked up by foreigners.
Stand by your umbrellas, everybody. If this nonsense continues, there may be stormy times ahead.
Just do the homework together
THERE'S an ongoing hoo-ha about how much homework should be given to children. Although ministers have scrapped official guidelines, the debate continues as to the usefulness of homework.It is surely the "home" part of this controversial topic which is the problem. Shouldn’t homes be places where children can relax, as free as possible from the constraints of academia?
And while some children have pushy parents who help them get top marks in an optimum study environment, others have to struggle in the chaos of a dysfunctional home.
Why can’t students remain after lessons to do their assignments in a supervised classroom or assembly hall?
Probably because the teachers would scream in protest. But these same teachers are always banging on about how much marking they have to do after school. So let students work, unaided, in silence for a set time, supervised by teachers who can get on with their marking, before everybody goes home to enjoy themselves.