Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.
My husband is a New Zealander. The Kiwis love their land, like the Irish, they almost always return to their birthplace, if they ever leave in the first place. I am English and proud of my heritage, I love my people more than my land. It is a subtle difference.
My son is travelling back to London, then on to Paris to compete under the silver fern in a black singlet. He was born in the UK.
Being British means different things to different people, I think it is these millions of bits of different, that creates the pattern of my country. Personally, I love my Queen, our shared rich and violent history, the grey manic cities and public transport of home. I love the rolling green hills, beautiful autumn changes, seaside towns filled with ice cream, fish and chips and rolled up trousers. I love the pomp and ceremony, the stiff upper lip and diversity of the people and the central heating.
My son does not remember most of theses things.
As a Brit abroad I miss squirrels, good T.V dramas, conservatories, patterned wallpaper and bedrooms upstairs. I no longer have bracing walks in long warm coats, can rarely find Guinness on tap or a really good curry. From afar I can now see, we have a wicked sense of humour, where sarcasm rules, but with the ability to laugh at ourselves the most. I have realised we have huge amounts of tolerance, will defend the right to free speech to the bitter end and have a great capacity to talk about the weather and queue for hours. We back our sportsmen and woman but never really dare to think about winning, we do our best, it’s the taking part that counts.
I am proud of my son’s hard work and dedication to training. I am proud that he is representing his country in a sport he loves. I want him to be the best he can be.
I followed my Kiwi back to his birthplace to raise our young, and my British inside is now wrapped warmly in a country that is so new and young, its oldest European stone building was built in 1822. I find it hard sometimes that my children can sing New Zealand’s National Anthem, but not the British, my son can perform the Haka and cheers for the All Blacks. My daughter pronounces Maori words without the hindrance of her mother’s vowels. I sometimes get defensive about a media article or generalisation, my husband calls it a Rule Brittania moment.
God Save the Queen
God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.
I sometimes wonder if my little chicks will ever live in Britain, share and love there; if I am honest I wonder if something has been lost to them. It is fleeting, mostly I wonder at being able to see the sky from wherever I am. I enjoy the accessible land of mountains, sea and sand. I love the excellent food, the can-do attitude and pure drive of the people here. I love the B.B.Q’s, the bring a plate community and the fierceness with which the people love their long islands and sporting heroes. I have watched my children thrive here.
Do I feel sad his colours are not red, white and blue………I can not tell yet.
I am an immigrant trying to learn about this new place but it is hard because the Europeans before me have trampled on history and broken the threads of the stories that used to be told. The date of Polynesian settlement of New Zealand is unknown, it was said to have been between 950 -1130 AD. The mythical Polynesian navigator, Kupe, is believed to have arrived around 925. The mythical Maori figure Toi was thought to have visited New Zealand in 1150. I pick up bits and pieces.
Maori culture is ever present and getting stronger. The young generation are spitting out the gags and speaking their own language again. Stories are being retold, historical placed rediscovered. The old and the new are blending. As a new settler, I am not caught up on old arguments about land and settlements. I can appreciate the beauty of both sides.
He leaves with the rest of the team in a few days and my husband wanted to give him something to remind him of his roots. I was unsure.
A parcel arrived, my husband pulled open the plastic to reveal a small hand weaved flax purse which held a beautifully carved greenstone fishhook or Matau necklace. The carver had used a translucent type of Pounamu or greenstone, it is a unique piece. My husband explained its meaning as I turned the surprisingly light carving around and my hand and held it to the light. The Maori people were great mariners and fishermen so the Matau is one of the most powerful symbols used in Maori culture, he told me. The words it was wrapped in told us it represents prosperity, abundance and fertility.
I am more familiar with the patron saint of travelers St Christopher so might have suggested a small silver necklace, but I am not really inclined that way.
It also is said to provide good luck and safety when travelling over water. The wearer of a Hei-Matau is seen as a provider and protector who is strong-willed and determined to succeed in life. We all have to wear it, he told me, so it can capture our love and spirit so that these things might be carried with our boy on his journey through life.
Later that day I took the necklace from my daughter and put the waxed cord over my own head. The stone felt warm against my skin. I pushed it into the place beneath the hollow at my throat, closed my eyes and wished for safety.
As we sat around the dinner table my husband handed his son the weaved purse, who read and listened to our words. He listened to our hopes, our promises of unconditional love, and support. My children, who are shedding the sibling rivalry layers, looked at each other with respect at the table tonight.
Yes I am happy my son is wearing black with a silver fern, it is the most perfect blend. He carries with him a part of us all, he is a product of two worlds, with the freedom to choose. He wears a new Matau necklace on the outside, his mixed history runs through his blood on the inside.