Did you miss it, then? Chances are that, if you blinked, you would have. I am, of course, referring to St. George’s Day.
You know – flags with the red cross on a white background, that sort of thing.
I was up early and drove 67 miles during a day which didn’t finish until after 10pm.
Granted, I didn’t pass any civic buildings, but other than my own cufflinks, I clocked only one ragged emblem of St. George clipped to a white van on the A500 – along with the flag fluttering half-heartedly in the breeze above Sentinel Towers.
This sense of apathy makes me incredibly sad.
On St. Patrick’s Day you can’t walk down the street without being accosted by some halfwit wearing a leprechaun’s outfit staggering from an Irish-themed bar and claiming pseudo-Irish ancestry.
So why oh why are we so poor at celebrating the day of our own patron saint?
I know that the patronage of St. George isn’t the exclusive preserve of the English and that stories of the life and exploits of the said individual are many and varied. Dragons don’t exist either, apparently.
But does it really matter? The point is the national emblem of the English, along with the three lions, is the flag of St George. Why then are we so reticent to wave it about and celebrate our own heritage?
Let me give you an example. A bloke contacted The Sentinel on Thursday to say he had gone into a North Staffordshire pub on St. George’s Day dressed up as the mythic dragon slayer – only to be turfed out by bar staff who were afraid he may offend some of their customers.
Pardon? How, pray tell would he have offended them? Do some of their punters have an aversion to chain mail? Was it his plastic longsword?
Unfortunately, the reader asked us not to publish the story after his mate intervened and pub staff did a swift U-turn (having presumably realised they had overreacted just a tad).
This is exactly the kind of political correctness masquerading as multiculturalism which shames us all.
Stoke-on-Trent is strange place.
On the one hand it is a city with a proud history of tolerance. A city which has welcomed, and continues to welcome, people from different ethnic backgrounds from all over the world.
Examples include exiled Poles during the war and doctors from the sub-continent during the 1960s who went on to form the backbone of family medicine in the Potteries for generations.
We are also a city with several democratically-elected councillors belonging to the far right British National Party – which, in the eyes of Whitehall, is the equivalent of having leprosy.
Of course, the BNP isn’t slow to wave the red and white flag, which makes everyone else rather jittery.
This is presumably why we are forever apologising for our colonial past and falling over ourselves not to offend all and sundry while neglecting our own proud culture and traditions.
Forget my politics – I am very patriotic. If England were playing Ecuador in the final of the World Indoor Tiddlywinks Championship I’d probably watch it. Or at least set the DVD player for record.
You see, the flag of St. George doesn’t belong to the BNP or the Tories, Labour or the Lib Dems.
It’s mine… and it’s yours whenever you want it.
If you fancy dressing up in medieval garb and having a couple of glasses of your favourite tipple while toasting the health of Her Majesty and England’s cricket team ahead of The Ashes then you should be able to do just that – without fear of recriminations.
I mention sport because it brings people together like few other mediums can. When England play a football match it is as if our fears of being labelled extremists suddenly evaporate.
If Andrew Strauss has toppled the Aussies by August 24 then suddenly everyone will be a cricket fan and you won’t be able to move for red and white flags.
Poor old St. George deserves better than this. His emblem shouldn’t just be dusted off for major sporting occasions.
If our Glasgow-born Prime Minister wants to cheer up the majority of the electorate amid all the doom and gloom, then he could do far worse than making April 23 a national holiday in England – never mind what the captains of industry think.
At a time when we are all supposed to be pulling in the same direction, a time of unprecedented hardships, what better way than coming together as a nation once a year to celebrate whatever it is that Englishness means to each and every one of us?
Read my Personally Speaking columns every Tuesday in The Sentinel