Alex Rettie



My mother called herself English
Some forty or fifty years back.
Her tummy would feel all tinglish
When she looked at the Union Jack,
And she’d cry when she heard bagpipes
Droning out on Remembrance Day
And think of the British Army
And the Empire gone away.
But in spite of her British passport
And her doll with the tall Welsh hat,
My mother called herself English:
That’s all that there was to that.

But now when you meet a Brummie,
A Geordie or speaker of Scouse
And the convo begins to turn chummy
And they ask you around to their house,
If you mention you like their accent
(And already you feel like a twit),
You’re better to NOT say “English,”
‘Cause they probably think they’re a Brit.
A fellow from Cardiff’s a Welshman.
A wee guy from Paisley’s a Scot.
You can call a Belfastian Irish
(Though often it’s better you not).

But if your UKer’s from England
You may start to think that they’re skittish,
For though they’re as English as cricket,
The word that they use is “British.”
They speak (so they think) the Queen’s English,
They cheer England every World Cup,
They know where they’re from
(And their dad, and their mum)
So I can’t really guess what’s up.
An Englishman’s home is his castle,
Even if it’s a bed sitter flat.
But the fellow himself’s now British:
That’s all that there is to that.

Alex Rettie is a poet, songwriter and book reviewer in Calgary, Canada. He is at work on a gay romance novel set in the 19th century Canadian fur trade (really).