Straight off the bat let me say
I was never a fan
I mean don’t speak ill and all that
but if we’re clearing the decks
wiping the slate clean
getting it all out in the open
you were bloody hard work, England,
not easy to live with, let alone love.

You see, you kept making me and my friends
sit cricket tests I was never going to pass
took our taxes and our labour
but still left us feeling second class
because our roots stretched back
to other cultures, other shores
and other teams made our guilty, secret hearts
beat a little faster, race a little more.
Even now, it’s like you can’t help yourself
some scoundrel starts waving the flag
critical thought goes out of the window
and next thing you know
you’ve tanked yourself up on bigotry and lager
giving it ‘2 world wars and 1 world cup’
like you fired the winning shot yourself.
I mean really, England? Really?
I’ve seen you running for the bus
in the mornings, and it’s not pretty.
You’re a heart attack waiting to happen
hypertension, clogged arteries, dodgy knees
it’s all history, for fuck’s sake
do yourself a favour, let it go.

And you were the chink of fine china
the tyranny of manners and the old school tie
tut-tut-tutting about the enemy within
turning a blind eye while someone
did your dirty work
gratuitous truncheons
battles in beanfields
cover-ups and never-challenged lies.
So, like I say, it wasn’t the best of starts.
I had to leave to learn to love you
get far enough away to see both sides
of the coins in your pocketful of shrapnel
find the fist that read ‘love’
not just the one that promised ‘hate’.

And out there,
on the other side of the world
I found I missed you
missed your dirt under my fingernails
hankered after your way with words
your dirty laugh
your seaside postcard humour
and your beautiful mongrel language.
Every time you open your mouth
history tumbles from your lips
in dialect and accent
a pulsing archaeology of trade
invasion, conquest, immigration
the ebb and flow of populations
making room making homes
and getting assimilated
learning there’s precious few of life’s problems
not cut down to size with another cup of tea
and a couple of biccies.

You’re not dead.
You’re just evolving
re-inventing yourself
getting your nails done
putting on your glad rags
for a night out on the town
and I will find you
on top of the moors
quoting Benny Hill and Shakespeare
feasting on samosas and flagons of cider
slapping the taut drum of your stomach
where it spills over the waistband of your trousers
– all paid for, kid!
proud as punch
Falstaff, as I live and breathe
paddling in the shallows
beyond the deckchairs and the donkeys
giggling in Gujerati
the hem of your sari trailing in the cold North Sea
salty and wet while your wide-eyed kids
play shoot-em-up in the arcades
mither you for fish and chips
support City and United
and ride the bus home
with their heads full of dreams
knowing love triumphs
over cricket tests
and their hearts beat
proud and strong.

© Steve Pottinger. 28 January 2016

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