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The day that dare not speak it’s name

with 2 comments

flag of st. georgeAre we afraid to celebrate being English?

It seems that I make this plea on an annual basis after looking around this town and borough and consider the wasted opportunities to mark a special day in the calendar for England. A couple of years ago I made an impassioned request to our leaders on South Tyneside Council to show some sign that we are proud of being English and since then we have seen the flag of St. George fluttering above the Town Hall in South Shields, but you look around and wonder why no others have bothered to follow the lead. We still see pubs and restaurants and supermarkets promoting events for St. Patrick’s Day and even Burns Night, so why the reticence to celebrate St. Georges Day, are we afraid, are we embarrassed to mark the long history, heritage, and traditions of England? What is it that prevents us from getting off our backsides to shout about St. George?

Even a search of South Tyneside Council’s website to look for events or celebrations produced little in the way of results. Of the billions of available web pages, Google can only find 126 relating to St. George’s Day celebrations, even the St. George’s site offers only a single page of events to mark the day (although it does allow you to download a desktop wallpaper.) Woodland Junior School in Tonbridge, Kent, makes the following comment;

“My wife is teacher and I work in British schools and universities. In my wife’s school which is in London, with a large number of EFL students and a small minority of white kids, kids are not allowed to discuss or celebrate St. George’s Day or wear England Football shirts during P.E. (sport) or any T-shirt with a Cross of St. George or a Union Flag. The shirts of English football teams are allowed as are the national strips of other countries. The schools reason is that overt signs of ‘Englishness’ could cause offense.”

Why on earth this should be has always managed to puzzle me (probably because here in South Tyneside we do not suffer as many problems with multi-culturalism as in other parts of England.)
Philip Johnson in the Telegraph makes a plea for a double referendum today in his fright and shock that the SNP may move Scotland towards a separation from the Union, but his other comments on the lack of English celebrations ring like a death knell for the mother of the Union.

“This is the day that dare not speak its name. If you turned up at work with a rose in your lapel it would be assumed you were on your way to a wedding. While the Welsh would feel naked on St David’s Day without their daffodils or leeks, and the Irish are happy to wander around in the middle of March wearing what looks like a handful of wilting spinach, the English would merely be embarrassed sporting their floral equivalents. A Scot reciting Scots Wha Hae or Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon might have a tear in his eye and a tremor in his voice; most Englishmen would have trouble remembering more than a few lines written by their greatest writer. And an invitation to celebrate both the English national day and Shakespeare in a combined replication of St Andrew’s and Burns nights would be regarded with a mixture of puzzlement and deep suspicion.

Unless Richard II is being performed somewhere tonight, there will be few extempore renditions of John of Gaunt’s speech about “This royal throne of kings, this sceptr’d isle/This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars/This other Eden, demi-paradise…This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England…” (OK. I looked it up.)”

I am no fan of the breaking up of the Union, but once again old institutions are under threat, history is being debunked, and the opinions of a few are drowned by the lethargy and apathy of the many, aided and abetted by a government happy to use it’s Scottish and Welsh representation to form a majority in the United Kingdom Parliament while allowing those Scottish MP’s to vote and legislate on all matters affecting the English whilst the English can have little say on those matters that affect the Scots or Welsh. There is little wonder that our celtic friends have so much to celebrate on their national days.

St. Georges Day could be seen as a day of celebrations for all things traditionally English, it offers a unique opportunity to entrepreneurs and businesses to promote English goods and services, it offers educationalists a once in a year opportunity to inform our school children of some of the more valuable lessons of English History, it offers tourism a welcome opportunity to draw visitors during the flourishing of an English springtime, it also offers our politicians the chance to promote a part of the Union that is willing to work with it’s partners to keep the marriage alive.

Perhaps we might succeed, but first there are many working in Blairite Britain that would require some re-education and training to appreciate that celebrating Englishness is no more a crime than whistling in the street;

“Cry ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George!'” King Henry V’s rallying cry does not go over very well in modern, multicultural England. Even less acceptable is Saint George’s flag, a red cross quartering a white background, which was carried prominently into battle by the Crusaders of 900 years ago in their attempts to recover the Holy Land from … persons of a certain “faith tradition.” The cross of Saint George was later taken up as the national flag of England, and is commonly flown on the saint’s name day, April 23. Such grossly insensitive displays must of course be stamped out. That, at any rate, is the opinion of Ms. Anne Owers, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons. Carrying out her inspectorial duties at Wakefield Prison in Yorkshire, Ms. Owers was distressed to see corrections officers wearing flag-of-Saint-George tiepins in support of a cancer charity. “Staff should not wear unauthorized pins,” barked Ms. Owers in her report, as they offer “clear scope for misinterpretation.” Heaven forfend that the cringing, groveling, emasculated tenants of Tony Blair’s England be “misinterpreted” as having any cultural connection whatsoever to the men who fought at Harfleur and Agincourt, Acre and Jerusalem!

I’m sure if you searched, you could find many more examples!

Sticking out like a rose between the thorns today is the Daily Telegraph, sporting a red rose in it’s banner, I’ll have to check the others now,……………(might have known, users of the Grauniad’s Comment is Free are babbling on about kebabs, that’s right donner or shish?)

Written by curly

April 23, 2007 at 10:18 am

2 Responses

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  1. Now I finally know what the flag of St. George is about. Last year when I was in the UK, I didn’t know why the St. George flag (didn’t know what it was until today) represented the English “soccer”, “football?” team. Thanks to your blog, Curly, I am learning more of UK politics and history.

    Clare, Clinton, New York, USA

    April 23, 2007 at 2:56 pm

  2. England was not supposed to happen after devolution for Wales and Scotland.
    They have used the racist cosh on patriotic English people to hide their true motives of no England because they still want England carved into regions. They must maintain the notion of a UK or britain at all costs because of “britain in europe”. I notice politicians are even now speaking of Scotland and the rest of the uk, such is their paranoia.England prevails.
    If I may, here is 60 pages of letters to the press on the issue of an English Parliament.


    April 27, 2007 at 11:51 am

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