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State of the nation

The truth is that I have not spent as much time preparing this month's editorial as I ought. And while one of my excuses will perhaps pass muster in some quarters - a newborn in the household - the other - the Rugby World Cup - is something I must admit only shamefacedly.

To set the exact context - to wring the most mitigation possible - we go to press the day before Wales play France in the semi-final. Tomorrow morning I will get up early, dress my England-born English-mothered child in a tiny red rugby shirt, and pray loudly and vigorously for the Land of My Fathers. And my son's fathers.

Odd, I know. I have no animus against England, where I have now lived for over half of my life. Indeed, I am happy to acknowledge that this suckling in scarlet will probably be something of a Cockney.

I should also acknowledge at this point that I have fallen into the trap of, having become a parent, being far too willing to discourse on the subject. I know that it is boring and I cannot stop myself. I know that he is English and I cannot stop myself. I know that competitive sport is always a little ridiculous, and yet I cannot stop myself.

Well, perhaps I could. The truth is that I have no wish to. 'For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not.' That never made any sense did it?
Evidently it did to St Paul, whose own identity as Roman and Jewish did not seem to conflict him greatly save to say that both were subject to a greater identity as heir of Christ.

Ultimately, the vicissitudes of nationality exist only because of the human values we construct onto them. Who is my neighbour, indeed? The refugee from the Horn of Africa who is in hunger because he was born in the wrong country, defined by lines drawn by human hand on a map - the product, often, of a hateful imperial past. The rich Westerner who learns to drive in the huge four-wheel-drive owned by her mother. The French scrum-half who nips in at the corner after a dazzling touchline run.

All that matters is who you love.