I was asked recently, amongst other things, if I identify as “White British”.
I smiled, the nurse smiled, and she said, “Yes, we have to ask that now…”
“Hmmm,” I said, “yes, I do.” indicating that I did identify as such.
I got jabbed and as I wasn’t driving home, because home was only a few minutes’ walk away, I was told that I needn’t sit around for fifteen minutes and that I could go now if I wanted; so I went.
I went for a short walk to look at the building site where the factory I used to work in had stood. They are driving piles into the ground to support the twelve new industrial units that are going to be built.
I stood for a while and watched the spectacle of the machine hefting what must have been twenty-foot-long concrete posts into the air, deftly positioning them and then driving them into the ground so that only eighteen inches or so protruded above ground level.
It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that maybe there was the option somewhere for me to ‘identify’ as something other than the White British that I am so obviously tagged with.
I’d gone home, read the list of possible side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and sat in the carver at the dining table in front of the laptop to write down some ideas I’d had for a post on Linkedin for the company I’m doing some work for.
Usually, for ‘work’ I’d use the desktop PC in my small upstairs ‘office’ but occasionally it’s nice to sit elsewhere and bash the keys, so I have a laptop which is connected to a USB keyboard and mouse. I find it easier to type on a keyboard and the laptop is perched on top of a couple of thick books in an effort to bring the screen nearer my eye-line.
Sitting in the carver at the dining table is also quite comfortable as I don’t find myself slouching as I do when sitting at the PC and the reason for me pointing all this out will become apparent very shortly.
I sat and typed, waiting for any sign of the many and varied side effects of the vaccine to kick-in. I felt fine, my arm hurt very slightly at the point of entry as it were but that was all. After a while I got up and made myself a cup of coffee, went back to the dining table and continued typing. It was now about two and a half hours after I’d had the jab and I’d finished what I had to write so I saved my work, turned off the laptop and got out of the chair.
It was at this point that I noticed a dull ache in my lover back above my right buttock, right there in sciatica territory. Now then, I’ve had sciatica-like pain before and I usually know what causes it. The last time was when I was working in a despatch department and I picked-up an empty cardboard box.
It wasn’t a heavy, empty cardboard box but I just did it wrong and yes, you’re told all that ‘back straight’ stuff and most of the time you are careful about how you lift things and for very good reason but on this occasion, I just thought; well, you know; cardboard box, empty…
I picked up the box and something went ‘ping’ and a searing pain shot down my back from my shoulder through my right buttock and down my right leg. I yelped, dropped the box and limped to my chair. I knew what did it.
This time, I had no idea what did it; I stood up and there was a dull ache. Through the day the pain gradually got worse until by evening I could hardly walk. The memsahib, Kathy, was concerned, I was concerned.
I decided to spend the night under a duvet on the sofa in the living room, I knew that I would not be able to negotiate the stairs easily, if at all. Kathy presented me with her father’s, Lancashire Constabulary swagger stick, a lovely piece of turned hardwood about 32½ inches long with a metal ferrule on the bottom. It was just the right height for me to lean on and get myself to the (downstairs) toilet if I needed to (and in the early hours I needed to). I settled under the duvet, slid sideways somewhat painfully until my head was on the cushions propped against the arm of the sofa, and tried to sleep.
Over the next few days, the pain gradually subsided but it was a gradual subsidence. The next night I gingerly crept up the stairs and slept in a bed, so much nicer than the sofa but when I awoke the following morning, for about an hour or so, the pain was almost as bad as the first evening. Luckily it faded a bit after that with a bit of movement.
Was it a side effect?
Joint or muscle aches are cited as a possible side effect, well, the muscles in my lower back and leg certainly felt like they were aching – or was that just the nerve pain sharing the joy?
Maybe it’s just one of those damned coincidences and I had unknowingly done something to inflame my sciatic nerve, RH side.
As the pain gradually receded, I turned to the bigger question; I’d said that I identified as White British but if anything, I tend to identify as White English in these days of devolved powers and calls for independence. As much as I like the country where I was born and grew up, the United Kingdom, if Scotland did leave the Union, I don’t think I would be overly concerned for Scotland or England.
If those loyalists in Norn Iron, and I often wonder just who they are loyal to, had any sense they’d join the Republic of Ireland, but they are clouded by religion and age-old prejudice. Wales could I’m sure become a sovereign nation and that would leave dear old England, mother of the free, bidding her children goodbye with six counties of Ulster as hangers on.
About 10 or 12 years ago I grew a beard and with the long hair that I then sported, coupled with my colouring, I could almost persuade myself that I identified as Viking. During the first lockdown, last year, I grew a beard again; I was a lot whiter than it had been, and I had also allowed my hair to grow again.
Viking, definitely Viking.
Then as the summer progressed, I shaved the beard off but kept the long hair.
Now I’ve grown the beard back again, just as an experiment, just to see how long it lasts before I get fed-up with it.
Actually, I think I’ve identified as a long-haired type, ever since the mid-seventies.
I like a short haircut, I look neat and tidy and it’s so much easier to deal with in the shower, but, when I have long hair, and I’ve had a long-short relationship with my hair for many years, I feel, somehow comfortable in that long-hairdyness. My father of course hated it that his eldest son looked like a girl from the back, mom, as ever, was far more relaxed about it but I knew that she too preferred the short haired Tony.
Viking. Maybe I should have told the nurse at the vaccination centre that I identified as Viking; I wonder if she had a box on her form to tick for that option?
But, thinking back, the first time I remember ‘identifying’ as anything that I wasn’t, was back in the 1960s. Like many other young boys, I had a cowboy outfit and before any of us get sidetracked with “something like Cobham plc”, I mean a cowboy playsuit, a costume set. Hat, with sheriff star badge, waistcoat with another sheriff star badge, gun belt, holster and cap-gun and over trousers with tassels down the outside leg seams.
Cowboy then, but no, not really.
I remember that after some time I had discarded the outfit except for the trousers, and eschewing my shirt I wore the ‘cowboy’ trousers, bare chested and with a feather stuck in my hair. I had decided that being a Red Indian, as we undereducated British called them, was the thing to be.
I was, what? Six, seven, eight years old? Not old, but I’d decided that being a Native American Indian was the way forward, it was what I wanted to be.
I was chided by my mother and father; going around bare chested apparently wasn’t the done thing and where did I get that feather from? Throw it away, you don’t know where it’s been or what’s living on it…
Thinking back, I always took the part of the Indians in westerns and was nearly always disappointed that they got such a bad press but oh my, the jubilation when watching those few films where the Indians were portrayed as the goodies, or at least the not-so-baddies.
Over the years, that affection for the indigenous tribes of American Indians has stayed with me. I’ve read-up on the matter, their societies weren’t perfect, none are, but I do have more than a sneaking regard for them and how they lived their lives before the White Man came.
The same is true of all aboriginal peoples and I have also made a point of garnering knowledge about the original inhabitants of these British Isles and then the various kingdoms that existed here before and after the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, all fascinating stuff, but as I can never decide if I’m Wessexian or Mercian, maybe the next time I’m asked what I identify as, I’ll say, “American Indian”.
I was asked recently, amongst other things, if I identify as “White British”.