Twas a mere 1,705 years ago today that good old George was finally killed off by the Romans. Bit annoying really because he’d been a very well behaved and good officer of the Roman army for may years ending as part of the personal guard to Emperor Diocletian. He’d even fought dragons! Unfortunately, that very Emperor he was guarding issued an edict in 303 AD authorizing the systematic persecution of Christians across the empire. George was told to help with the persecution but instead decided to own up to being a Christian himself (how very English). He therefore started down the well travelled road of becoming a hero and a saint by getting himself tortured and eventually beheaded. For his pains, he is now the patron saint of a whole bunch of countries, including England, and many feasts and festivals are held in his honour.
Yes. Today is St George’s Day and we Englishmen are, on this national day of celebration, allowed to let a teaspoon-full of nationalism flow through the veins. Today we can be ENGLISH. Not British, not Scottish, Welsh, Irish, not citizens of the United Kingdom nor subjects of the British Empire. Just plain, good old fashioned English!!
I find this a very cathartic experience as it allows one to flush out all the nonsense we have to put up for the other 364 days of the year (365, this year!) and to stand proud and say “Yes, I am English and f*** you if that gives you a problem!”. For one reason or another everyone, locally, internationally, universally, hates the English. We’ve been just about everywhere, done just about everything and made no friends along the way! We’re not as cute as those Celtic folk you see and we’re too arrogant for some other folk, and we speak the wrong language for the Frogs and we sent all our criminals to Australasia and we taxed the Yanks and forced Hindus to grapple with beef fat, made the Palestinians homeless……. the list is endless! So, for most of the year we have to listen to all the reasons why people don’t like us or what mistakes we made here or what we screwed up there, which sports team has lost which tournament, and so on……it all gets a bit boring. Hence my joy at having one day a year when we can actually feel empowered to rejoice in everything we have done (and, frankly, are not likely to be doing ever again from what I can see).
I used to carry the flag (the one at the top) every year for my Scout troop, the 13th Wembley, at the St George’s Day church service held at St Andrew’s in Kingsbury, London, NW9. Given the way Kingsbury’s (Borough of Brent even) demographics have changed out of all recognition, such an act today might well be seen as trying to incite racial disharmony! Parading my nationalist tendencies amongst the local, primarily Indian, community. How times change.
Today is also the anniversary of the death of my good friend Mr Shakespeare. The Ard of Bavon, no less, top notch scribbler that he was who popped his little clogs back in 1616. He penned the line used in the title of the post, which comes from his play “Henry V” and is arguably the only line of English literature to connect England and St George. It’s not as stirring as “Once more into the breach, dear friends..” but on a day like today, it is worth it’s weight in gold sovereigns.
And so today I celebrate being English, missing Shakespeare and all those trips down the aisle with the flag and stick a polite but rather large finger in the direction of anyone who has a problem with that! :)
Contrast this, if you will, with a snap poll conducted in the office today. “Who is the patron saint of Poland?”, was the question. What I mostly got was blank stares (not language related), one or two mentioned St Wojciech but not one mentions St Casimir, who according to Wikipedia is the right answer!