A game of any description involving teams from England and Scotland is always a thrilling encounter. In Rugby Union, like football, there are passionate rivalries and a higher than usual expectation of performance. Old historical rivalries surface as the anthems are sung with incredible chauvinistic, even jingoistic gusto. Given that my mother was Scottish and my father was English how do I find my identity? It’s easy to assume that because I was born in England that I might naturally be a supporter of all things English and to a greater extent that’s true. However, being brought up in Corby with such a background one is open to scrutiny given any hint of split loyalty. Last week I heard an expression that I’ve not heard for a very long time and something I was ‘accused’ of being: a ‘plastic – Jock’. Now, I’ve tried to get to the bottom of this humorous, sometimes pointed yet generally innocuous label and it appears to have two distinctive categories.
The first describes someone who is completely of Scottish origin and chooses to make England his or her home. The second is a person of mixed parentage: Me. The cynic might suspect a hint of racism in the term but I have to say that in all things of this nature a sense of both humour and proportion must me maintained. Though I have come across the odd website or two by people who “have something against those Jocks who sing flower of Scotland with an English accent, believe Braveheart to be factually correct, and yearn for the heathery glens and lochs they have only seen on Monarch of the Glen”, or they may be ‘accepted’ if “all the plastic sweaties who have been to Scotland once, and that was just for hogmanay in Edinburgh or to take the kids to see Balamory, support England in the World Cup”. My eldest brother for example was born in Thoroughsale Road in Corby yet, to all intense and purposes, considers himself to be a Scot, even speaking with a Scottish accent! This given, I don’t think he’s been further north than Birmingham in his life. So, is ‘plastic Jock’ an English expresion or is it something created by those Scots able to laugh at themselves? Regardless of all this, I prefer to recognise it as a term of endearment, one that distinctly rcognises my parentage. In itself, of course, none of this is of genuine importance, rather a tongue-in-cheek and perculiarly Scottish-English phenomina. Or so I thought: until I recently had a conversation with a Welshman who has lived in England for most of his life and who would not be seen dead, his words, supporting England at anything. How is one supposed to react to something like that? Perhaps we ‘plastics’ need to invent words which might describe others of mixed British origin. Teflon-Taff perhaps. In saying that, one of my Irish friends recently became quite animated when I told him that his beloved Lansdowne Road was actually named after a British Prime Minister: William Petty-FitzMaurice, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, 2nd Earl of Shelburne. This inter-British banter has been going on longer than anyone can remember. Shakespeare recognises all of these traits from the trenches of his play Henry V. I think what’s important is that we all still pull together when it really matters: that British way that will always prove our sibling strength to the outside world. Remembering too that ‘roots’ and passion are important.