I almost forgot – but today is actually the most forgotten holiday in the British Isles: St. George’s Day, the national day of the English.
Not the British, that is, for the proud nation of the United Kingdom has no national day at all, only the Queen’s official birthday (what nonsense), but the English. Which is only beginning to become known in later years (ugh, that was a nasty sentence, but I’m too tired to rewrite it).
So while the Scots wallow in haggis on Burns Night and the Irish roll in Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day (quarter irish as I am, I grumpily boycotted the latter event this year simply because my schedule on that day prevented me from joining in the said rolling), the English do not even have a Bank Holiday on their national day, which pases most people by unnoticed anyway.
I am currently reading (and much enjoying) Jeremy Paxman’s The English: A Portrait of a People, where he points out the irony of the mainland of the former British Empire lacking such a national identity of its own. Mind you, we don’t even have an anthem of our own either, so, for example, whenever England wins the football (soccer) World Championship (ho hum), we have to borrow the national anthem of the whole of Britain, which in turn is little else than a prayer for the salvation of the Queen and has nothing to do with the rest of the country anyway.
But then again, maybe the chronic lack of football success is one of the reasons why those of us who were born in that part of the country find it so difficult to muster an English identity.
We recently discussed this at work, where the ever-present discussion on what to name the various bparts of Britain in news texts reappeared. I tried to point out that most people in, say Devon, Cornwall or Yorkshire would be perfectly happy to be called “British”, while writing “Edinburgh in Britain” would probably be enough to spark a new William Wallace uprising, even though it is technically correct.
And while there is an increasing sense of Englishness in England, the truth is that most English would refer to themselves as British rather than anything else.
Or am I wrong here? What say ye English readers of this blog? Your thoughts on this are most welcome in the Comments section.
Happy St. George’s to you while you think about what to write.