Just how British are you?

The Home Secretary has suggested that ethnic minorities resident in the UK should be aware of the 'norms of acceptability' that govern life in these isles. But what do these norms consist of? How are they judged? DJ Taylor offers a short exam, as well as some notes for the benefit of the examiners
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BRITISHNESS (two hours)

BRITISHNESS (two hours)


This examination is open to all ethnic-minority candidates on production of a valid UK passport and two of the following items of identification: mobile phone, lottery ticket stub, McDonald's voucher, garden gnome. Answers must be submitted in English.


1. Write a short account of any recent national sporting fixture or military conflict, involving Great Britain and your former homeland, stressing your belief that patriotism requires you to want it to lose. [10 marks]


2. A man buys three bushels of corn from a chandler's shop. He then proceeds to a vintner's and purchases 18 gills of gin. How long will it take him to walk a perch? [5 marks]


3. Who are the following:

a) The Rector of Stiffkey.

b) The Vicar of Bray.

c) The Archdeacon of Barsetshire. [6 marks]


4. Pronounce the following proper and place names (tape recorders will be provided):

a) Powell.

b) Featherstonehaugh.

c) Wymondham.

d) Happisburgh. [8 marks]


5. You are startled by a knock at the door. On opening it you find grouped outside: a) the second cousin of a Marquess; b) the daughter of a Duke; c) a Life Peer's aunt by marriage, and d) an electricity meter reader. Which do you admit first? [5 marks]


6. Write convincing recipes for the following:

a) Lancashire hotpot.

b) Stottie cake.

c) Bath buns.

d) Brighton rock. [8 marks]


7. a) What happened at: the Selsdon Park Hotel; the Blackpool Conference (any year); the Orpington by-election?

b) Who was responsible for writing: "the longest suicide note in history"; the Tamworth Manifesto; the Zinoviev Letter.

c) You are travelling by car from Chiselhurst to Devizes. List the parliamentary constituencies through which you pass and the degree of sympathy, if any, extended by their MPs to the Single European Currency. [9 marks]


8. Write an account of the sexual relationships enjoyed by at least three named characters in either EastEnders, Coronation Street or Brookside, during the past four years with particular attention to rape, incest and love children. [NB extra paper may be provided.] [5 marks]


9. You are travelling from London to Manchester. Devise a route of not more than 300 miles taking in four cathedral cities, five Premiership football grounds and three universities offering tuition in creative writing. [8 marks]


10. Confining yourself to the period 1066-1485, name two English monarchs who died violent and unexpected deaths, specifying the motives of their assailants and the choice of weapon. [6 marks]

11. Which way up is it customary to hang the Union Jack? [5 marks]


12. Which is the odd one out:

a) Aberdeen Angus.

b) Aylesbury Duck.

c) Old Speckled Hen. [5 marks]


13. Draft a short letter to the Lord Lieutenant of your County requesting his attendance at a social event organised by a society of which you are chairman, paying particular attention to both salutation and valediction. [6 marks]


14. "Pevsner's comments on the singularity of West Country late-Romanesque are invalidated by the evidence of adjacent counties." Discuss. [5 marks]


15. Does the Queen use fish knives? [6 marks]


16. Complete the following:

a) "Maybe it's because I'm a ..."

b) "The ... in your pocket."

c) "It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking...". [6 marks]


17. Who or what are:

a) Sleeping policemen.

b) The Singing Postman.

c) Fireman Sam. [6 marks]


18. Assuming heavy rainfall, inundation of the Tamar and the Parrot, and severe tidal incursion on the lower reaches of the Severn, which English counties south of a line drawn between Bath and Exeter are liable to Spring flooding? [10 marks]


19. Who was:

a) The Lady with the Lamp.

b) The Lady in the Lake.

c) The Lady in the Van.

d) Lady Godiva.

e) "That was no lady, that was my wife." [10 marks]


20. "Removing his spats, entrusting his shotgun and the brace of grouse to the care of his trusty bearer, Silas McTavish, and mopping the sweat from his brow with a serviette, Lord Algernon followed his father the Earl of Starborgling into the lounge." What social solecisms are contained in this sentence? [15 marks]


Notes for examiners

Answers: In accordance with British custom, answers, which are arbitrary, may not be made public (apart from 11 – "The right way" – and 12 – "All three"). Scoring: Candidates achieving below 50 per cent are liable for immediate deportation. Those achieving between 50 and 70 per cent should be encouraged to persevere, possibly by watching more television and reading a newspaper that supports our boys. A score of 70 plus implies the candidate is almost like us, and a certificate to this effect can be issued.