England is probably one of the few countries on earth where it is unseemly (if not downright unpatriotic) to be patriotic. You don’t find this in Scotland, Wales or Ireland. You certainly don’t find it in America or France or even Uganda or Peru. The only thing that you’re allowed to get excited about in national terms is sport (eg England’s cricket or football teams – but aren’t we quick to rubbish them when they’re not winners?). I don’t really know why this is. Are we ashamed of our past, our empire, our culture? Well every culture and nation has things to be ashamed of, and the English are definitely no exception. A sort of post-colonial angst I suppose. But what it means is patriotism has been the preserve here in the last 30 years of racists, nutters and extremists. A huge shame and embarrassment.
The thing is I actually LIKE being English (albeit with dashes of Scottish, German, Swedish, and Irish blood all thrown in for good measure). I can almost hear your sharp intakes of breath. And i have some sympathy with those who want to make St George’s Day (April 23rd) an English national holiday, despite Gordon Brown (as thorough-going a Scot as you could find) also suggesting it might be a good plan.
What i do object to is what i saw outside a London newsagents this morning – an advert for St George’s Day CARDS!! I mean – what’s all that about? What are you supposed to write in them? “Hope you slay some dragons today?” I just wish Hallmark Cards et al would just leave us all alone. Let’s have a bank holiday and enjoy being English – but if anyone sends me a St George’s Day card, I’ll flip. St George never existed. And nor do dragons.