My paternal grandmother's family fought the British, peacefully, in the Indian independence movement. My paternal grandfather's family fought the British, violently, in the Anglo-Afghan Wars, the latest-but-one iteration of the usual cycle of foreign invasions in Afghanistan: after a series of was of epic bloodshed and cruelty (there was exactly one survivor of a British expedition of some tens of thousands sent over the Hindu Kush during the Second Anglo-Afghan War), the invaders find that, whether they have nominally won or lost, the country is entirely ungovernable, and they either give it up as a bad job (the British, the Soviets) or they settle down and eventually melt into the general population (the Greeks, the Kushans).

As I was saying, my father's ancestors fought the British for more than a century, with varying degrees of bloodshed. With rather less pride, I may say that my mother's maternal grandfather was a colonel in the Italian army during World War II, and fought against the British in North Africa. Admittedly, he did not fight very hard: he allowed himself to be surrounded, surrendered without a fuss (thus earning the marginal distinction of being the highest-ranking Italian POW captured by the British in North Africa), and spent most of the war in an Indian POW camp, cultivating his gardens. After the Partition of India, the camp housed refugees from what had just become Pakistan. They began to grow and spin silk on the premises, and do so to this day. I visited it in 1981, and recall it as rather buccolic, if miserably hot in the sun. One of the guards from my great-grandfather's day was still in service, and remembered him with affection.

With this background, then, can you imagine my feelings when Americans tell me that I - a man born and raised in in These States, a committed and concerned citizen thereof, all-too-much of a taxpayer - that I have a British accent?

At least the Pommy bastards say I sound Irish...