Previously I had just been informed that my British citizenship application was successful, but that didn't make me a citizen yet. I had to attend a ceremony to swear allegiance to Queen and country and receive the naturalisation certificate.
Initially the invitation from Essex County Council was to attend a ceremony on 2 December, but that would have been well after I'd hoped to be in South Africa; luckily they were very helpful and let me attend the next available one, namely yesterday (Wednesday 4 November). Thank God it has all worked out so well.
So after setting off horribly late (as is my habit), and getting stuck behind miles of cars and trucks on a small country road through a small country village with one way traffic due to road works, I got there just as the ceremony was starting (and not 45 minutes early as instructed!). Luckily they quickly checked my paperwork and let me in, for which I was very grateful.
I am not sure what I was expecting, or whether I was expecting much at all. I definitely thought it was just a formality I'll be glad to be over. However now I feel that if more people had to attend ceremonies to affirm their citizenship, they'd have a much better sense of community, pride and patriotism. I can't quite tell why but I left feeling quite sentimental and both proud to be an official citizen of this country, and aware of my responsibilities to it.
I suppose it's because we live fairly isolated, self-centric lives these days with little sense of community and the only pictures we get about both our government and our society is from tabloid newspapers, angry bloggers and columnists and from expose type programs. However the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, the Queen's representative at the ceremony, spoke so passionately about the country, it's rich and proud history, and the county of Essex that you couldn't help but feel the presence of all of that history, pride, and regal power present. It painted a picture of a Britain I am proud to be a citizen of (although no more so than to be a South African citizen), rather than the doom, gloom and social decay presented everyday from other outlets.
It was also a privilege to sit in the Essex County Council chambers, what a fantastically beautiful room. A few pictures from the ceremony should arrive soon in the post, I'll add a few when they do.
Now I can apply for a passport but I'm not sure when I'll be able to do that, as it takes six weeks and I'm going to need my passport well before that to travel to SA. Luckily I'm not reliant on it for anything except easier European travel at this point.