Last year, as weird and wonderful election results gave everyone adrenaline dumps for a variety of reasons, two things happened:
I spent a lot of time swearing under my breath, and on one memorable occasion here. And, by way of contrast, Lady G decided that after nearly thirty years in the UK she should probably get around to applying for British citizenship. A year of application forms, a written test, a number of expenses, and a few worried evenings of nerves later, she received the news she had been hoping for – and so yesterday Lady M and I were invited to support her at her Citizenship Ceremony. The irony of a US citizen becoming a British citizen on July 4th was not lost on any of us.
I’ve always felt a bit bemused by the concept – unlike Lady G’s native USA, we’re not generally fond of flag-waving nationalism bar a bit of silliness at The Proms or events like The Olympic Games. Walking into a room adorned with the Union Jack, gold-trimmed chairs and fittings, and a selection of traditional martial music was therefore both a little surreal, and yet…
…it was also deeply fitting, for a given value of Britishness.
The Deputy Mayor, in full regalia, presided over the ceremony – the candidates could choose to swear by a deity of choice, or affirm for themselves – and the people taking part were all ages. Everyone had family and friends with them, and yet what could have been a deeply informal and uncomfortable ceremony somehow retained both lightness and gravitas.
My only real snark was that a lot of the address felt like a tourist board advertisement for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. I’m a harsh critic perhaps.
This is beside the point though. Lady G was beaming and practically floating through it all. Her face lit up the room when presented with her medal and certificate. Everyone taking their oath that morning was similarly energised and enthused by the moment. I am at one and the same time a hardened cynic and a hopeless romantic, and that latter side resonated enough to make the former admit the value of the moment.
And then we had tea in the mayor’s chambers – and true to local government tradition it was the worst cuppa I’ve had in a long time. I’m including in that scale the diner near The Lizard which hadn’t changed its burned coffee filter in a decade.
Welcome, Lady G, to Britishness.