“Your score is 11 out of 24. You have insufficient knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK to remain.” And so it was, last Thursday, that this crushing blow was delivered to me by an interactive quiz on the middle-class Zion that is the Guardian website, confirming that A) nothing good ever happens on a Thursday and B) that my entire heritage/nationality to date has been a fraud. Well, according to the UK citizenship test, the modern day ‘barometer for Britishness’, anyway.
Whilst I cannot proclaim to know much about the complexities of the immigration argument (my knowledge of the subject is level with that of crocheting and golf), I do remain dubious that someone’s ability to adjust accordingly into British society is judged by questions of school uniform, quangos and the proper decorum for trick-or- treating at Halloween
But this aside, I actually found myself oddly offended that my pseudo- Britishness was being called into question. The humiliation of a score lower than 50% still stings; it was like Year 9 Geography all over again (oxbow lakes were never my strong suit). While there may be a noticeable absence of flagpoles in my garden-cum-concrete driveway, I would like to think, if push came to shove, I could burst into the national anthem whilst whipping up a Victoria sponge any day. I may be a little short on the KateandWills memorabilia tea towels, but I do still own a Martine McCutcheon album on CD. I passive-aggressively elbow people who push in queues and really like fig rolls. If that isn’t bloody British then I don’t know what is?
Yet my saviour from something close to an existential crisis has come in the unlikely form of Steve from Norfolk. Upon stumbling on his alternative citizenship test, a place of solace for those who had experienced similar failures on the Guardian quiz, I found I was not alone. Suddenly my union jack bed sheets (admittedly, an accidental Argos purchase) no longer seemed like a fraud.
The first patriotically skewed question, “St. George is the patron saint of England, but was he A) A racist from Luton? or B) A Palestinian soldier?” had me right on the money. Now here was a real, albeit very politically incorrect, test of being British. And it only got better. Never have I felt closer to my heritage than when contemplating “which of these people is so integral to British politics they enter No. 10 through the back door? A) Simon Cowell B) Rupert Murdoch C) Lord Sugar. Similarly, I think most would find it hard to dispute that knowledge of whether Theresa May is A) Alarmingly, the Home Secretary B) A distant relation of Erwin Schrödinger or C) Secretly the Cat Bin Lady, is far more relevant to British life and sanity than memorising the timetable of training opportunities offered in local libraries.
Whilst it is sadly only a great and impossible dream that the Citizenship Test will ever include such gems as “Which of these countries will the UK illegally invade next?” (Yemen? Pakistan?) , I can be assured that at least in the dark and dubious corners of the world wide web, my British heritage still stands up to the spotlight. It is as the great Henry James once said “however British you may be, I am more British still.” A man after my own heart.