Head Lines with Jonny Mitchell: It’s been like waving a red flag to a bull!

Thornhill Community Academy’s straight-talking headteacher Jonny Mitchell showed the world what life in the classroom is really like in the award-winning TV documentary series Educating Yorkshire.

Monday, 21st July 2014, 2:00 pm
HEAD LINES Jonny Mitchell.

Now he writes exclusively for us.

Every week he will give us his take on life in and outside school from his hometown in Dewsbury.

It’s been a funny week for me, in the “ironic” sense of the word, that is. I am a huge Germanophile, having spent four years at university studying the language and history and having lived in Austria and Germany for various periods of my life.

On the eve of the World Cup final, I had the most bizarre conversation with a German friend.

He, clearly, was beyond excitement at the prospect of his nation becoming World Champions (again!), but he expected me to be cheering Argentina.

“Chonny (for that is how he pronounces “J”), old friend. Every time we talk about football, you tell me you hope we lose. But today, you are wishing us luck! What has happened?”

And I thought I was alone, only to find that sales of German football shirts in England have gone spiralling out of control. It seems as though, as soon as England were dumped out of the tournament, our allegiances switched to the old enemy, so often the target of our national abuse. Or was it just because they were playing Argentina, perhaps now considered an even bigger enemy, whether in footballing or in other terms?

I like to think it is nothing to do with such narrow-mindedness as constitutes the philosophy that we were at war with Argentina long after the Second World War finished, but probably know deep down it has everything to do with that. What happened to supporting the team that played the best football, once your own team had gone out? So, hopefully, it was just that – Germany were the best in the tournament, so we all, as a nation, wanted them to win.

I have heard equally bizarre conversations and interviews on another matter of national identity lately – on the question of the make-up of the Union flag post Scottish independence.

People coming up with all sorts of ideas about what should be removed, what should be included, how difficult it might be to draw with a Welsh dragon on, amongst other things.

The flag has long since diminished as anything but a ceremonial symbol, to be waved frantically on the last night of the proms or to spur Team GB onto success in the Olympics. Does it really matter what it looks like?

People are arguing about removing the blue – some suggesting that, because Prince Phillip is Greek, and the patron saint of Greece is St Andrew (the same as for Scotland), it is OK to keep the saltire and the blue background. I mean, really, is that the best argument anyone can come up with? Surely the better argument is to stop worrying about it.

Scotland is as likely to vote for independence as a turkey is to vote for Christmas, so the blue would be there to stay. But that’s not good enough. “what about Wales?” everyone cries.

Well Wales has never been on the Union Flag, and they have never seemed bothered before. So that’s that one solved – keep Scotland British and the flag can stay as it is. Simple.

All of which makes me think – do we have nothing better to get het up about? Surely the layout of the British flag or the foreign team we support is of absolutely no consequence to anyone. As my wife keeps telling me, “It’s only a game, and people are crying. What is going on?”

What is going on indeed?

I feel myself becoming grumpy. It is time, without doubt, to take a break from this column-writing mullarkey.

No doubt over the summer, some other things will wind me up. Or some other people. If they do, I will be sure to tell you all about it when I come back with a piece in early September.

Until then, have a wonderful summer, sit back and enjoy some British success in the Commonwealth Games (in Scotland, of course, where else?) and get ready for Burnley’s assault on the Premier League in late August. Andre Schürrle, the German World Cup winner, will have the utter privilege of finishing one season in the Maracana Stadium in Rio, and starting the next at Turf Moor, home of the mighty Clarets, when his Chelsea team get an absolute battering.

I can dream, I suppose.