Monday, 25 April 2011

St George and all that

On Saturday it was St George's Day. A day to consider and celebrate all things English. So we did.

We went to a farmers' market. Very English indeed. Lots of people gathered about to sell cheese, sausage and beer with silly names. You can't get much more English than that, can you?

We took a diversion as Katie wanted to get her eyebrows done. So we went to an Indian beauty parlour in Moseley for a threading session. In the manner of all hopeless men - English or otherwise - I sat down and watched a Bollywood film for a few minutes while the eyebrow engineer (or whatever they're called) did her thing. Seems reasonably English to me.

The film was great. It was in Hindi with subtitles, but even without them I could get the gist due to the heroic over-acting going on. Just as we were leaving a small boy had hidden in a basement and was praying for help. But he was interrupted by a football appearing out of nowhere, followed by a princess character in flowing white robes. I would have liked to see how it ended, but Katie had been successfully threaded. We joked with the girl on the cash desk and headed off for the market. Yep, still comfortably English.

The market was a blaze of colours, shot through with the aroma of different cuisines. Caribbean, Asian, African, Chinese, Indian. We ate our ostrich burgers and reflected on the general English-ness of it all.

We drove home in our German car listening to American rock music on the radio. English? Undoubtedly.

What better way to mark the life of a Syrian soldier who served in the Roman army, died in Turkey, was buried in Palestine and remains a key figure for Christians, Jews and Muslims?

Because that's what Englishness is about, isn't it? It's not just about half-timbered houses and Shakespeare. It's not just Spitfires and Churchill. It's not only the preserve of shaven-headed gentlemen hanging flags on their cars. It's about different people, different cultures, different influences.

If my grandparents, coming over from Ireland 90 years ago, could see that, then I think it's something I can get down with too.

It's about the whole. And quite often, that's greater than the sum of the parts. How terribly English.

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