“Britain is a fantastic place to live…”
That’s according to the opening paragraph of the Home Office’s Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents, a 180-page handbook that I must memorise to pass the Life in the UK test, which is required of anyone seeking to become a British citizen.
It’s a little ironic, perhaps, that in a time when thousands of British citizens are scrambling to unearth some Irish bloodline in their family to secure an Irish/EU passport, I, an EU citizen, am heading the other way, aiming to become a British citizen.
Then again, precious little makes sense in this country anymore. Increasingly I feel as if I’ve fallen into the rabbit hole and everything is topsy-turvy. And I never much liked Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Why bother to become a British citizen when I’ve already been granted permanent residence (a process that involved the submission of more than 500 pages of detailed information about myself to the Home Office)? Whatever happens with Brexit, I’ve secured the right to continue to live and work in the UK. Isn’t that enough? Call me old-fashioned, but I’d like to be able to vote in the country where I pay my taxes, so Brexit or no Brexit, I would still have applied for citizenship at some point.
Anyway, the Home Office apparently believes (or so claims the handbook) that passing the Life in the UK test will help me “integrate into society and play a full role in [my] local community.” Never mind that I’ve lived here for almost twenty years and have a British husband and British children – if I want to become a citizen, I need to learn a bunch of historical, cultural, political and geographical facts and a myriad of dates in British history that even most ‘native’ Brits don’t know.
Despite my penchant for studying, it’s going slow at the moment. That’s mainly because the Home Office’s handbook is so dull it puts me to sleep every time I start reading. Even the chapter about bad-boy Oliver Cromwell fails to keep my eyelids open, that’s how unexciting it is.
As tedious as this handbook is, the section describing the seemingly endless political power struggles of the Middle Ages reminds me strongly of the abysmal power games currently being played out in Westminster, not least within the Tory party. Some things never change, do they? Perhaps that’s why William Shakespeare’s plays never go out of fashion; for although written several hundred years ago, the stories of Macbeth, King Lear et al. remain remarkably relevant in 2019.
To pass the Life in the UK test and qualify for British citizenship, I must get at least 18 out of 24 questions right, but I’m gunning for much more. Proving just how good an immigrant I am, I will ace this test and I will fly the Union Jack outside my home on the day I swear allegiance to the Queen. It’s taken me twenty years but, fret not Great Britain, I’m going to outdo the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson in the patriot games.
God Save the Queen!