As an Englishman, this has been a tough Rugby World Cup.
Like most of my countrymen, I came to it with high and yet realistic expectations. Not that England would win the thing but that they would acquit themselves well by making a semi-final and possibly even the Final just down the road from where I live.
So seeing abject England stutter past Fiji was a tough watch and there was much worse to come of course.
But sadly, as it transpires, England’s dismal performance has not been my personal tournament low.
Which came this weekend when one of my boys was passionately cheering on the opposition playing Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
A little context here…
One of my abiding childhood memories was supporting Scotland in the 1978 World Cup. I was 10 at the time and my school was covered in tartan. We all sang the song, Ali’s Army and we all cheered when Scotland beat Holland. Archie Gemmill was my hero too.
So scroll forward to 2015 and I am saddened that a London school-boy would rather see South Africa and Australia proceed through over Wales and Scotland.
He explained his reasoning; namely that he was sick of hearing anti-English sentiment at his school from boys of Celtic descent. Sick of hearing boys explain not only that they support the country of their parent’s birth before England and even worse, that they actually ‘hate’ England.
This is sad but perhaps understandable, I tried to explain – and might even be taken as a compliment?
Because England is the big brother of the UK. The wealthiest. The most well known and celebrated. That London alone is as big as the sum of the other countries combined? And that smaller countries will always ‘hate’ the older and richer neighbour. And so their ‘hatred’ is a just a pang of jealousy and something then to even enjoy?
Furthermore, I explained that to ‘hate’ them back is wrong. It makes you as small as them, I explained.
My son stared at me blankly.
‘But Dad. They all hate us.’
The referendum last year and the succession of voices on the media moaning about England and London in particular where everyone is ‘rich’ don’t you know? This has created a poisonous atmosphere in these tiny islands of ours – which still happens to be amongst the best places to live anywhere on earth.
Jocular banter aside that comes with any rivalry, there is now an ugly prevailing atmosphere – which suits the nationalists and their continued popularity
But I know that the media representation of the Scots, Welsh and Irish is not always representative and certainly not helpful for the UK as a whole.
Last year I did a gig in Inverness for a bunch of businessmen raising money for charity and nicer people you could not encounter. Similarly, a weekend at Archerfield Links earlier this summer where the Scottish hosts could not have been more friendly.
So this weekend, I cheered on Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
And knowing that England might not enjoy similar support in similar circumstances from our Celtic cousins made me cheer even louder.
From the days of cheering on Scotland in 1978, I lament where we are now – which is a legacy of our successive and profoundly useless politicians – the single profession where most blame lies for all the ills of modern Britain.