Friday was St David’s Day as one of my colleagues reminded me by bringing Welsh cakes into the office. It got me thinking about nationality and the labels we place on people.
I was born in Oxford Street, Liverpool (just like John Lennon- I fear the similarities end there!). Like many Scousers I have Irish grandparents and Irish family. I am married to a wonderful woman from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, where we married before crossing the border into the South for our reception and the start of our honeymoon and married life together. Growing up, I spent many, many happy times visiting Scotland and Wales. I have lived in the United Kingdom throughout my life, working in Europe, seeing for myself how this country has become more integrated with its European neighbours and more European in its culture and outlook. I have travelled throughout the world, including spending a lot of time in the United States. Oh, yes and my surname is the most commonly-used in Wales!
What does all this mean? I would argue that it means that the world we live in is a small one and getting smaller by the year. That the old labels and boundaries we once imposed have become less obvious and less important. I would argue that one’s nationality or sense of who we are is not as clear cut as it once was or was seen to be. That we are influenced by many, many things, not just where it says on our birth certificate we were born.
I am very comfortable with the following statements; I am extremely proud to be from Liverpool. I am extremely proud to be British (I believe that the United Kingdom is the best place in the world to live and grow up). I am extremely proud to be Irish (I support Ireland when they play England at Rugby- sorry Mr Tebbit!). I extremely proud to be a European. I am extremely proud to be an Atlanticist.
I do not see these statements as conflicting. I see them reflecting the many influences I have been fortunate to have had on my life. The richness of life. Putting people in boxes or placing labels on them may make us feel comfortable and give us some certainty but it does not reflect the complexity of modern life. This world is more grey than black and white. We should embrace that. We should celebrate the wonderful diversity of the these increible islands and this wonderful world.
So hapus Dydd Gŵyl Dewi to all my Welsh fellow British Europeans. I look forward to making similar toasts in 14 days, in Mid-April and in late November.