Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Dismal failure of the Norman Tebbitt "cricket test"

I took my youngest through to Cognac last night for one of her bi-weekly gym practice sessions.

If there's a competition she's proud to wear the club colours but last night had a leotard with a sparkly union flag on the front.

It got me thinking back to 1990 and the infamous "cricket test" suggested by the Tory MP Norman Tebbitt.  He said that those immigrants who root for their native countries rather than the England cricket team lacked loyalty to their new country.

He'd have a fit at some of the things the Downie family get up to but I'd argue strongly that we have integrated well and are a positive force in both local and national life.

Let's start with the "well integrated" bit:
  • we all speak the language (albeit in my case with a horrible accent & plenty of mistakes in my conjugation). Indeed, both daughters are within the top 5% of their class in French.
  • we pay our taxes - 19.6% TVA on all our sales, income tax, professional tax, taxe d'habitation, taxe fonciere and, of course, the huge social charges to pay for the famously good healthcare, schooling et al.
  • we do our bit for the community. Whether it's being a member of the PTA, taking the local school children on field trips or simply frequenting the local bars and restaurants. My proudest moments in France have been when the girls have been chosen to read out the names of fallen soldiers at memorial services.
  • every year we help out with the grape picking at our mates vineyard. It's been in his family for generations and it's the highlight of the year.
  • we have oodles of other friends locally.  We go to them for dinner or they come to us.  We stopped being "La Famille Anglaise" years ago and are now simply "Les Downies".
Now for the bit that would make Mr Tebbitt choke on his fish & chips:
  • I read L'Equipe every day but it's the only French paper I like.  For news other than sport I'll go online to the Guardian, Telegraph or London Standard.
  • The only French TV we watch nowadays is the weather and the football on Canal Plus.
  • I'm joining the local Jarnac cycling club.  I'll happily wear the club kit on our Saturday club runs but the rest of the week I'll be in my Team Sky jerseys.  This July I'll be cheering on Wiggins & Froome not Thomas Voeckler & Pierre Rolland.
  • During the 6 nations I'll invite my French friends round as usual.  But they'll have to enter through a swathe of Union Flags and drink pints of English beer....strangely this never seems to be a problem for them.  They give it to me in spades if France win and they get it back if Les Rosbifs triumph.
I suspect you get my point.  France is my second favourite rugby team, Bordeaux are my second favourite football team and if a Brit doesn't win Le Tour then I hope a french cyclist does.

I don't think that makes me disloyal to France, I just think it makes me loyal to the country of my birth. 

That's as far as I'd got before the gym session ended and it was time to head home for supper.

French onion soup :-)


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