Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Slaying dragons, or perhaps dinosaurs

It took a message from Catalan friends to remind that today is the Feast of St George, the pretext for a huge party out there. And its the day of our patron saint, too, back here in England (not Britain – England).

Barcelona's going to be having fun tonight

At first sight, it’s a curious coincidence that Catalonia and England share a patron saint, but a lot other places share him too, including Greece (and they really need a patron saint right now) and, naturally, Georgia.

St George has become a bit of a thing in England over the last couple of decades. The flag, red cross on a white ground, has begun to rival the Union Jack, that mish-mash that’s supposed to represent the whole of the United Kingdom: it
’s made up of bits from the flags of England, Scotland, which is in the throes of an independence campaign, Ireland, most of which has long since gone, but not poor old loyal Wales. 

More about Wales later.

You see the flag of St George flown quite a bit these days, above all from church steeples. Church of England steeples, I suppose.

Flag of England on a Church steeple
The flag’s growth in popularity seems to be a reaction to the increasing nationalism of the Welsh and the Scots, which is a bit of a cheek, when you think that Welsh and Scots nationalism has grown in reaction to English nationalists lording it over them for centuries.

In any case, the most attractive aspect of St George is nothing to do with nationalism, but with his legendary exploits in slaying dragons. Now that’s something that we badly need again today. Or if not dragons, at least a few dinosaurs.

  • The dinosaurs that inhabit the clubs of London, including the big one that meets in Parliament, and runs the Tory Party on the basis that the measure of a man is his wealth, and the greater his wealth, the better qualified he is to run the show.
  • The dinosaurs in the US senate who’ve decided to react to the killing of twenty kids in Newtown by doing precisely nothing, even blocking the most limited control on guns, though they’ll doubtless react to the three deaths in Boston by clamouring for a war somewhere.
  • The dinosaurs on both sides of the Atlantic who feel that the rights of an embryonic collection of cells in a uterus trump those of the grown, sentient, suffering woman to whom it belongs.
  • The dinosaurs everywhere who think there’s a lot too much love in the world, so that any that occurs in couples of the same sex really ought to be locked away in the dark somewhere or, better still, banned.
  • The dinosaurs who think that the best thing the poor can do is suffer a bit more to make sure that the fine people who run the place, can add a bit to their wealth. Maybe that’s just restating the first entry in this list but, hey, sometimes I feel it can’t be said loud enough or often enough.
So, come on St George! Show us what you’re made of and slay a dinosaur or two.

Which brings me back to Wales. That’s the country that’s not even significant enough to warrant inclusion on the Union Jack, but just when England, proud bearers of the flag of St George, were about to clinch the triumph of a Grand Slam in the Six Nations rugby championship – victory over every one of the other nations – who stepped up to deprive them? Wales, of course.

In the words of an Irish friend of mine, who adds insult to injury by living in Wales, they didn’t just beat England, they trashed England. I phoned to check whether he’d perhaps misspelled ‘thrashed’, but no, ‘trash’ was what he meant. And a trashing was what it was.

So, St George. If you don’t fancy taking on a dinosaur for us, let me point you towards Cardiff. There’s a dragon there on whom you might like to wreak revenge.

Welsh Dragon.
A target for St George if dinosaurs aren't his cup of tea
And, in the meantime, have a great party, my friends in Catalonia. And you Georgians too. As for the Greeks – see if you can at least drown your sorrows for one night.

And everyone else – happy St George’s, even if you don
’t celebrate it.


Faith A. Colburn, Author said...

Wel, since my grandfather (mum's side) was a protestant Welchman, I suppose I've got to have a little celebration. Grandma's family disowned her for marrying him so it's not all celebration.

David Beeson said...

To be fair to the Welsh - and one has to be, doesn't one? - their culture goes back a lot further than ours. Some might say it doesn't come as far forward, but I don't want to align myself with that kind of carping injustice.