Listen to this article
The Moneypenny family consists of five people with nine passports between us, which sounds exotic but as a parent all it means is an endless round of passport renewal, be it UK or Australian. I am the only member of our family with a lone passport and as such I have no sporting conflict. With the Ashes series against Australia now under way, the other four are following their longstanding sports-supporting rule: if Australia is playing, that is who they support; if Australia is not playing, then they revert to the other passport and support whichever bit of Great Britain is playing. If neither, then they can take their pick. (The absence of a national side is no reason to stop watching sport on TV in my household.)
At the men’s Wimbledon final earlier this month we therefore had no clashes of loyalty. Mr M and I were fortunate enough to have been at Centre Court to witness Andy Murray’s historic win– an enormous treat. We were guests of my Indian Girlfriend and her husband, though I confess that there was a slightly awkward moment after lunch when IG spotted me putting my copy of The Economist into my bag as we prepared to take our seats.
Why on earth are you taking something to read into Centre Court, she inquired? Are you worried it’s going to be boring? I reminded her that the last men’s final I attended was Nadal v Federer in 2008. This was the longest Wimbledon men’s final match ever and the tennis alone lasted for four hours and 48 minutes, plus rain stopped play; the end result of which was that the final ball was served in near darkness at 9.15pm. I clearly remember bitterly regretting not having packed The Economist. And a cushion.
Since then, of course, a roof has been installed over Centre Court and, more crucially, some comfortable seats. This year, with glorious weather and thrilling play, I did not even think of getting out my reading material (which, until I was rumbled by IG, I had planned to secrete inside the official programme). Although I do have to admit that I slipped out during a couple of games. For a scone.
Mr M and I were obviously supporting Murray, as was almost everyone there, regardless of passport. But Alex Salmond’s production of the Scottish flag in the Royal Box after Murray’s victory made me think about what nationality Murray really is. He is indisputably Scottish and therefore also British. He stands at #2 in the ATP world ranking and his nationality is given as GBR. This is the ISO code for his British passport.
But over in golf, Justin Rose, with whom Mr M worked on tour in the early noughties and who is something of a hero in the Moneypenny household, is classified on the world golf rankings as Eng (English). If Murray played golf, he would be classified as Sco, like Paul Lawrie. The Lions, whose success Mr M took especially badly (always good to avoid Mr M after any major sporting loss by Australia), are actually the British & Irish Lions, which to me looks to have put history back a century to before the declaration of independence by the Republic of Ireland. And it is the English, not the British, cricket team that is playing Australia this summer.
Most members of the English cricket team are undeniably English but that’s not always the case. Mike Denness, who died earlier this year, was Scottish, something that did not stop him captaining England on 19 occasions, including against Australia. Perhaps an even more famous Scot to captain England against Australia was Douglas Jardine. But how Scottish was Jardine? He was born in (then) British India and died in Switzerland. National identity in sport is clearly a matter of some flux. Especially, as the Ashes series continues, in our Anglo-Australian household.
Get alerts on Life & Arts when a new story is published