England has curious national holidays. They are for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Today is the 29th of May, otherwise known as May Day. Genius eh? And it’s a national holiday because….errr… it’s May. That’s it. Nothing happens either. No parades, no parties. 23rd of April is St George’s Day, the patron Saint of England, the guy who rode out to slay the dragon, a metaphor for England’s quest and dominance of the globe and in it’s shaping. But we don’t celebrate it. The Queens birthday is an opportunity for tens of countries to get drunk; we’re working.
Without the English, more correct to say the British as the Scots proved themselves excellent engineers and battlers, once they put the whiskey away, the world would be far the poorer. From our great explorers of Drake and Cook to leaders like Churchill, inventors like Stephenson, Faraday and Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the web), writers like Shakespeare, Austin, JK Rowling and Dickens, musicians like the Beatles, the Clash, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones and Massive Attack, artists like Bacon and Turner (an art form we have never really taken to heart unlike continental Europe), scientists like Darwin and Newton. The world plays our sports, knows our history and uses our language.
It’s not nationalism and I don’t want to hear that we are better than others. It’s just due to the English character, unless we’ve got a lot of beer in us or and rabid from war, we’d rather slide back into our houses and put the kettle on than make a fuss. That’s admirable in itself but as the nation state is under threat from devolution within and integration with Europe and the wider world, often welcomed but it’s time for the English to stand up and say I am English. A Scot would always tell you he is Scottish, the Welsh display their nationhood everywhere and the Irish have made a business of exporting Irishness. Good luck to them. We’re not a country of foodies. Why? Cos while some were spending hours cooking, we were out doing stuff.
We have nothing to ashamed of. Let the World Cup follow on from the Ashes, continue through to the Ashes and the rugby World Cup and let’s get St George’s Day and the Queen’s birthday into real days of celebration. A trip to the British Museum is a telling tale. Full of artefacts from a round the world, often taken without permission for sure but seeing the way many nations have failed to preserve their history, in many ways this has saved their cultural relics too. At some point they could be handed back but I imagine most who visit who disagree.