23 April 2006

Happy St George's Day

In case anybody is interested, today is St George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday. St George is the patron saint of England so today is our national day. Our national flag is St George's cross, that is to say a simple red cross on a white background which became the centre piece of our union flag (see Julian Wiseman "How to draw the Union Jack — accurately").

Australians, New Zealanders, Hawaiians and many other states and territories around the world have incorporated into their own flags. Possibly the licence fees on all those reproductions would make a good little earner for HM Treasury - if, Gordon is reading, I am sure a lot of barristers at the London patent bar would be happy to consider getting them in for you on a CFA.

Anyway getting back to St George I was agreeably surprised to learn from the BBC yesterday that St George - who was part Turkish and part Palestinian - is highly regarded in the Muslim community. Apparently the day will be marked by a style magazine for young upwardly mobile Muslim professionals. The editor said that the saint's origins made him a perfect symbol of modern Britain and in the generous spirit in which the remark was intended I would happily agree.

For most of my life the St George's cross was hardly ever flown. The only time I ever saw it was on Hampton church across the Thames from Molesey Hurst on special festivals. Now we see it everywhere - particularly when there is an important football tournament. I don't like that development for two reasons. First, a red cross was marked on the doors of victims of bubonic plague during the 17th century. Secondly, like our other national emblem the red rose which New Labour has adopted, the red cross has been adopted by other political parties for which I have even less time than I do for New Labour.

When I lived in the USA, I was a bit miffed that 17 March was almost a national holiday there but 1 March, 30 Nov and 23 April were not celebrated at all. The appearance of all those plague crosses everywhere today has persuaded me that things were better as they were.

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