The letter from the town hall fell silently on the mat. I’d almost forgotten about it. Oh yeah, I realised as I slit the envelop open. It contained a positive decision for my application for the Dutch nationality and an invitation to the obligatory naturalisation ceremony.
I’d been asked a few times. Why did I want to become Dutch and why did I find it so important to keep my British passport. I have to admit, my attempts to explain my motives stagnated after saying that I would be able to vote in the upcoming Dutch elections and something vague about being British.
However, if ever there were a moment in which you felt a sense of national pride about being British then Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee was the moment. At primary school we’d been indoctrinated with national pride. Singing: There’ll always be an England, Rule Britannia and Jerusalem in morning assemblies. So whenever I hear these songs, it triggers a welling up of sentiment in my chest that I guess is my sense of nationhood.
Meanwhile back in the Netherlands the streets are filled with orange bunting and on match days the Dutch congregate donning the national colour orange in pubs and squares to watch Holland play in the European Championships being held in Ukraine and Poland. Both events poignantly demonstrate that inexplicable sentiment that goes with nationhood. It’s a sense of pride, of belonging, of mucking in and making the best of it when things don’t turn out as you had hoped and expected.
Not being a royalist it’s not the pomp and ceremony of the river pageant that draws me to watch it on the television. As a Penzance girl, it’s the black and white Cornish flags on the rowing gigs that catch my attention. It’s the thousands of flag wavers on the river bank – my compatriots, the street parties that I wouldn’t be attending.
As Holland fail to live up to the sky-high expectations of Dutch fans at Euro 2012, I feel disappointment when Germany scores a second goal sealing the defeat of the Dutch. I feel the exaltation when Van Persie finally does score a goal against the archrival neighbouring country. Hopes are lifted when Holland scores the first goal against Portugal, but hopes are dashed when Ronaldo single-footedly sends the Dutch team and its orange army home Like the Dutch, I feel slightly deflated when it is all over.
For a while, football and royalty brought whole communities together. They made us feel good in difficult times of economic malaise. We were willing to overlook the disproportionate remuneration both footballers and royalty enjoy, while we ordinary people turned them into our national idols.