Next year is the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland and it promises to be an odd affair altogether.
The problem is that a huge section of the population, no longer identifiable as 'the minority', the favoured term for referring to them/us in the Seventies, is iffy about the state.
There are unionists like Arlene Foster - who wears a little crown brooch and receives royalty with a blush - whose identification of themselves as British is as uncomplicated as which shoe goes on which foot.
But the state can only survive through the inclusion and consent of a large number of people who are mostly happy to leave things as they are, but keep the option open of voting themselves and everyone else into a united Ireland.
John Hume famously said that difference is an accident of birth. That may have been true of the ardent sectarians of the past, so many of them having committed themselves to violence while children and minors.
The difference between me and, say, Michelle O'Neill, has nothing to do with birth. We have both thought through our positions and now we disagree.
She wants a united Ireland and I'm thinking: "Let's see how Brexit works out." And: "Maybe in five years with a Labour government in Britain and a Sinn Fein government in the Republic I'll settle for being British."
I won't be saluting the flag or the king. My Britishness is provisional.
That's not much reassurance to the true-Brit unionist for whom identity is everything, but it is all I have to offer.
A lot depends on what Scotland does too. Northern Ireland was created 99 years ago to provide security to a Protestant majority. It can no longer serve that purpose.
The Union is on a retainer; it is a contract that can be dissolved at any time. This is not like the relationship between California and the USA, or Catalonia and Spain.
So how do you celebrate the centenary of a provisional Union? There are some good things to be said for it.
I was born in the Republic and my family created a better life for me by bringing me to the north for a better welfare system. We stayed inside a Catholic education system and endured privations like being taught in a smelly sports pavilion and our family having to contribute towards a school building fund at a time when the state provided free education.
But you can't blame the Union for that.
When I was a teenager I did not have to travel to buy condoms. The Ireland of the 1950s and 1960s is not where I would have liked to grow up.
The greatest downside of living here was the Troubles, triggered in large part by blundering and brutal policing. In my head I have spent a lot of time in 1972, the worst year of our lives. We lived in that time with an expectation of a Protestant backlash and a major civil war.
Even in the worst year we dreaded things getting worse still and they didn't. And it is worth asking why not.
The most destabilising event of that year was Bloody Sunday. Gerry Fitt stood up in the Commons and said, in effect, you people don't understand how I feel today because you are British and I am Irish.
That moment in our history was the closest we came to a deep conviction throughout the Catholic community that we had to unite Ireland because Britain, after all, had not accorded full citizenship to us. Because a country does not murder citizens it respects as its own.
Until then the main quarrel of 'the minority' had been with the unionists, not with Britain. Britain was actually seen by the civil rights movement as the force that would save us from the unionists.
And how did the Union survive that moment? It survived because the provisional unionists were assuaged by direct rule and preferred to work through its opportunities than to support the IRA.
Britain stuck to a formal public line that its Army was a fine and decent bunch of lads but understood that the Paras had made a hash of things and moved quickly.
A week later there was a huge civil rights protest in Newry and the British ambassador assured the Taoiseach that the Paras would be held back, knowing that a recurrence of Bloody Sunday would put an end to provisional unionism. This is all on the record.
The Irish Government at that time was urging Britain to declare that the ultimate solution could only be a united Ireland. With a recurrence of Bloody Sunday it would have been impossible for the SDLP to have dissented from that position.
And throughout the Troubles the worst violence came from the revolt against the Union, without undermining it, and not from the defence of the Union.
But how do you wrap thoughts like these up with the unionism of Arlene Foster, let alone the republicanism of Michelle O'Neill, in a celebration of a centenary of division?
The conflict in Northern Ireland is like a family quarrel and the centenary will be, at best, like a difficult Christmas when all the grumpy, eccentric and alcoholic embarrassing uncles and aunts come together for an impossible party.
I will try not to spoil the party. If asked to say a few kinds words I will say: thank you for the family allowance, the condoms and the free healthcare.
But will Northern Ireland still be British in 50 years from now? That's up to the provisional unionists, of which I am one.
The Union may not be as vulnerable as the founders of the state feared it would be when Catholics ceased to be a minority, but it is not as secure as they tried to make it.
And there is little if anything that true-Brit unionists can do to make it more secure. The provisional unionists will decide by how things change in Dublin, London, Scotland and Europe.
If this was a marriage in which one partner retained the option of walking out, then dignity and security for the other partner would demand a clear and immediate decision. Unionism does not see its interest in forcing such a decision on the provisional unionists, who are like the spouse in the shower singing: "Should I stay or should I go?"
But if they don't insist on security for the Union they can't have it. If they do force the issue they will have to be able to barter something. But what?