Tag: Ketchup

Why am I not more patriotic?

This weird thought came to me while watching Celebrity Big Brother. The current series of Celebrity Big Brother is all about contestants from the UK competing against ones from the US. In the episode I was watching, all of the contestants were singing the British National Anthem (not sure why). I realised watching this that I don’t know all of the words to the National Anthem and that I’d also find it quite tedious to have to stand and sing it (it is after all, quite a dreary song). Should I not admit that? Is that treacherous? So why does hearing that rather famous tune not stir something in me? Why don’t I feel pride for my country?

I think my lack of patriotism started once I lived abroad. I have twice¬† been the ‘other’, I have been an immigrant. I know what it is like to be a guest in another country. So I don’t think this country is particularly special for two reasons: there are many other special countries out there and we are letting ourselves down at the moment in not promoting what I would argue is one of the most traditional Britishness values, namely, an ability to embrace diversity.

The first time I lived in another country, the Netherlands, I had a very positive experience. I felt very welcomed there. While living there, I was struck by how small Britain in fact is in the world (I think as we grow up we imagine our homes to be much larger than they are) and how unremarkable the British identity is if compared with others. Before then, all I’d known is what I had grown up with. During that year, I lived with and befriended, people from many other countries including Norway, Sweden, Spain, the United States and Russia. Everyone came with their own cultural identity and assumptions. During that year, I learnt first-hand how interesting and diverse the other cultures I came across were and how, ironically, boringly similar we all were even though we’d had very different upbringings. I was also struck by how relatively uninterested everyone else was in Britain. I don’t know why but I expected them to be more interested. Their relative disinterest was, in fact, very normal. They were equally as interested in Britain as they were in Spain, Norway or Russia for example. We were all equally interesting and different and equally boring and normal.

The world’s centre in my mind shifted from the UK to some unknown place, somewhere near Europe. It was as if a giant camera had moved away from Stafford, Staffordshire, the Midlands, England, the UK and towards somewhere in the sea. Somewhere not too far away. I realised that my culture wasn’t a barometer with which to measure others against. There were lots of barometers, all equally as valid.

A city of bikes and many nations

A city of bikes and many nations

The Netherlands isn’t hugely different from the UK. I blended in well once I had my bike. I was even twice mistaken for being Dutch. I learnt a lot by this experience. It opened my mind to the possibility of difference and acceptance. I am still friends with many of those people from Norway and America (I’ve lost touch with some of the others). I gained life-long friends.

My next experience of living abroad took me further away from any childhood feelings of patriotism towards the UK. Spending two years in Japan after I graduated from university teaching English turned me from an insider to an outsider. The change was sudden and remarkable. The rug was pulled from below my feet. I was visually different. It gave me a very important insight into what it feels like to be in a minority in a country that is fiercely proud of its heritage. Japan was a wonderful country to live in for two years and I had a very positive experience there. I treasure that time and I made more life-long friends while I was there too (just look at my Facebook friends list). So even more than in the Netherlands, In Japan I came to realise how small and insignificant Britain is and how ordinary British culture is. Japan has a very strong cultural tradition. Towards the end of the two years I felt some of that love for Japanese history myself.

My camera of the centre of the world shifted further away from Europe and settled somewhere over Asia, or just off the coast.

Iwatsuki, Japan - my home for two years

Iwatsuki, Japan – my home for two years

Returning to the UK after two years away, I saw the UK with fresh eyes and noticed how diverse it is. I suffered from reverse culture shock. I could see that the people of Britain also feel a strong cultural heritage, as strong as Japan’s, but it is an internationally-inspired one rather than a narrow one. There isn’t much that originates from the piece of land we live on, it is mostly from beyond the sea (even as far back as from invaders from France, Norway, Denmark, Rome, and Ireland). Much also comes from our imperialist, expansionist past when we invaded others (something we should not be proud of). Just looking at the history of the English language will illustrate this. We don’t speak English in the UK, we speak a hybrid of lots of different languages.

If we have such a diverse cultural and racial heritage, what is a British identity? If I take my husband as an example. He’s lived most of his life in England, he was born and brought up in Wales, and he’s a quarter Italian. I’m not sure where he would place himself. He works with mostly Americans so some of his speech and tastes are from across the pond. He’s a real Heinz 57.

My youngest is one sixteenth Italian - the question is, which bit?

My youngest is one sixteenth Italian – the question is, which bit?

So I find it quite ironic now that so many people of this diverse land feel such strong a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ when issues regarding visitors to this country come up in the news. There is quite a sense of hostility to people coming to live here (interestingly, in 2011 students were the largest category of immigrants – people such as me moving to Amsterdam). It is the people who come here to live, work and study that have made and continue to make British culture what it is. Our culture is a patchwork quilt of different flavours, traditions, behaviours and norms. Having been a visitor to another land I feel saddened that we are not more welcoming. Traditionally, we have been a very welcoming country. Where has that tradition gone?

I would say that the British identity is best described by the word ‘eclectic’. This is also a good word for our culture. It is a mix. It is a bundle of all sorts. It is the drawer where we put all those things we don’t know where else to place (or in this house, the dish). People from Britain are known for their eccentricity and individuality. Why? Because bits of us come from all over the world. This is something we have in common with our American cousins. Ask any American: where are you from? They will respond with ‘I’m part Lithuanian, part Swede and a little bit French’. So this diversity of racial history should be reflected in our tolerance of those from other lands who choose to come to live here. I am not very patriotic¬† because I feel quite ashamed of some of the explicit (and implicit) intolerance I hear about and read about in the press and on social media. It is sadly ironic given that we are a nation made of up so many diverse nationalities dating back thousands of years.

So this is why perhaps I don’t feel particularly proud to be British. I have been that visitor. I want to be part of something that is more caring and sharing. I want us to welcome visitors as the Dutch and the Japanese welcomed me. I would like to feel proud of this country because there is a lot to love about it, including roundabouts.

Roundabouts - quintessentially British?

Roundabouts – quintessentially British?

I do, however, feel proud to be perhaps a little eccentric and 100% pure-bred Heinz 57.

A very British American invention

A very British American invention

And as a final thought: where does the word ketchup come from?

We should analyse everything conceptually as well as subectively

This is a thought I had this morning as I woke up (before I went to the usual place). I was thinking about my typical weekend breakfast choice: toast with cheese and ketchup. If I analyse this subjectively then it makes perfect sense to me – it combines three of my favourite food stuffs and keeps me going until lunchtime. However, if I analyse it conceptually, I get a very different picture. It is weird, and perhaps a little bit gross.

Yummy or yucky?

Yummy or yucky?

I think this logic should be applied to other areas of my life (and other people’s too of course).

I can think of a lot of decisions I make from which a conceptual analysis would benefit, such as: cycling to school with a nearly-five-year old in the bike seat. Subjectively this makes perfect sense since we are always running late and it gets everyone to school on time if we cycle. Conceptually, it is nuts. He’s so big that I can only get the straps done up if they are off his shoulders. His feet almost dangle to the floor. He is so heavy that I can only just get him and the bike up a short incline. I’m sure that my recent flat tyre is partly attributable to his age / weight.


Toby in the bike seat when he fitted it properly

Toby in the bike seat when he fitted it properly

Owning a cat provides another example. Subjectively cat ownership makes sense. The cat makes me happy. She keeps me company. She keeps my children asthma free. However, conceptually, the idea of having a cat in your house is nuts. They are hairy (and they leave their hairs everywhere), they eat a lot, they wake you up at 7am begging for food, they catch small animals and leave them in your house and they wash their bottoms ten centimeters from you when you have guests. Where is the sense in that?

Bedside table ornament or cat?

Bedside table ornament or cat?

Of course it would be exhausting to anayse everything conceptually so perhaps I’ll refrain from doing it too often. In any case, I suspect most of my decisions would turn out to be completely crazy ones.



Can you like both ketchup and brown sauce?

We’re in Borth again this week.

Blustery Borth this morning

Blustery Borth this morning

We left the husband / daddy at home. I brought some ketchup with us from home but left the brown sauce behind for him as he likes it on his double poached egg on toast for breakfast. When we are on holiday we always have bacon butties for breakfast. It’s tradition. With our bacon butties we like sauce, tomato or brown. Myself and my eldest two love ketchup. However, my youngest son doesn’t like ketchup; he likes brown sauce. Sadly for him I am too mean to buy some more brown sauce just for him. He had to have his bacon buttie with just butter.

Does this stuff float your bacon butties?

Does this stuff float your bacon butties?

This got me thinking (while cooking, not in the usual place) whether it is physically possible to like both ketchup and brown sauce. So I asked the ocean of opinions on Facebook and this is the response I received:

Friend One: At the same time? Or is that too weird?

Friend Two: Nope ketchup is lovely, brown sauce is ikky.

Friend Three: John [Friend Three’s husband] will often have both if eating a cooked breakfast.

Friend Four: I have a splodge of each with a cooked breakfast, and sometimes have a bit of each on a fork full!

Friend Five: I like both equally and mustard, horseradish and tartar sauce. I love all condiments.

Friend Six: I used to have cold mashed potato with ketchup as an afternoon snack. Not keen on brown sauce though.

Friend One’s idea of a joke: It’s not as if i spend all my time on facebook fishing for condiments.

These questions provoked a further, related, question to which the answer clearly is YES. If it is possible to like both, is it possible to enjoy eating both in the same meal? Apparently so, and even in the same forkful!

Do you dip your sausage in this?

Do you dip your sausage in this?

I’m not the first person to ponder this topic. In 2013, a website called News Shopper asked the same question relating it to bacon butties. Here you can see the statistics on the replies they got. Just over 1 in 10 people who responded think that either is fine. So this provides me with affirmation of my facebook results: it is possible to like both.

I’ve learnt something new today. It has been a useful day.