I have, as we all do, many identities. I'm a Weegie, kind of, and also a Motherwellie. I feel an attachment to the Clyde valley, and also to Strathpeffer where my mother was born. In some sense I'm Scottish, and I also consider myself to be British. I'm most definitely European too. The shared culture of Europe is a large part of my mental hinterland.
All of these identities have different emotions attached to them (well almost all. Despite growing up in Hamilton before crossing the Clyde to live in Motherwell, I don't really care for either town at all. It's not even profound indifference, just indifferent indifference.
Hamilton: I wonder, does anybody who grew up in a dormitory town ever have strong feelings about it in later life? Motherwell, on the other hand, is just a formerly industrial place that's plodding on because, well, everybody has to live somewhere. I can say this, by the by, because I live in Motherwell. If any of the rest of you say it, harsh words will follow.)
I like to think of myself as a Weegie, but making the claim evokes a slight shiftiness. Despite having worked in the city for the majority of my adult life, I only lived there for my first five years. And I love to walk about the city looking at the fine old buildings whilst carefully not thinking about where the money came from to build them.
Scottishness is a tricky one. I love the shape of the Clyde valley as I look about me in my daily routine. I like it when I can see Tinto, or Ben Lomond, or the Campsies. And I love the Highlands even more. But I'm very well aware that the Highland landscape is the result of a terrible episode in the history of this country, so there's often a melancholic undertone to my love of the Highlands.
Being British is rather fiddly too. I've always been a radio 4 listener, but I've also always been vexed by it's ridiculous London-centric establishmentarian focus. I love the landscapes of Devon or Yorkshire or North Wales almost as much as those of my native land, but there's so much about the British state that's just awful. Nevertheless, I am most definitely British.
Alongside or overlaid on these various identities all overlapping and blurring into each other, there are emotions and attitudes, which I tend to attach to particular identities.
So I'd say, for example, that if I'm being blethery to strangers, that's Weegie me. When I get pedantic and argumentative, that's an old fashioned Calvinist Scottish thing.
Very occasionally I'll get a painfully renewed pang of grief when I remember my granny, my mother's mother. Is that a Highland thing? And I have some very abstract, theoretical aspirations to nobility when I read the old stories of the Greek or Saxon heroes. That's European me.
But there are a couple of emotions or attitudes that are most definitely British, or at least, I would contend, more strongly associated with Britain than with other countries. The first of these is politeness. Saying, " Pardon me?" instead of, "What?". Meticulously observing protocol in a queuing situation. Holding the door for the person behind you. Letting another driver filter in without fuss. Or the icy, rigorous politeness which kicks in when a customer is being obnoxious, or the representative of a mega-corporation is telling you that you're screwed and also that will be £1000 thanks very much.
The second is embarrassment. The mild discomfort of arriving at an event and knowing no-one there and having to pretend you're quite happy to spend your time assessing the canapés for consistency or standing alone at a poser table trying to find the correct pose. Or worse, talking to the one person who you sort of know, but desperately unable to remember their name, and long past the point where it would be acceptable to ask it. That painful feeling when you get on a train to find someone sitting in your reserved-twelve-weeks-in-advance seat and - horror - you have to ask them to move.
There's a particular kind of doubled British embarrasment, which is the embarrasment at being British. You don't have to think or read too deeply to know that the United Kingdom gained much of its wealth, culture, and power by clanking around the world taking stuff from other people. And that the resource base which let the people of these islands lead the industrial revolution was founded in large part on other people's misery.
There are lots of Brits who don't think about this. In Glasgow, we talk about the Tobacco Lords, not the Slave Lords. The current Brexiteer rhetoric of, "Britain Alone", evoking Churchill and the dark days of World War II, conveniently ignores the still substantial empire which the UK could call on then, let alone the part that then Soviet Union and the United States played.
And then there's the recent royal wedding.
That the world is still largely controlled by autocrats who are all desparately striving to pass it on to their brats, I accept. Democracy is a lovely idea, but two and a half thousand years after it was first proposed, its time is still to come.
And yet here we are in the United Kingdom, a state which is unarguably more democratic than most, and half of the people are watching the mediaeval parade and not laughing out loud. I AM EMBARRASSED TO BE BRITISH. Honestly, can we not please get rid of this nonsense?
This peculiar embarrassment at seing my fellow Brits being Brits, what does it say about me? That I'm more British than I think?
Perhaps it's a paradox (the British paradox!). To be British is to be constant assailed with opportunities for embarrassment, and the most omnipresent of these, the cosmic background radiation of embarrassment, is the very fact of being British.