Today, the 23rd of April, is St George’s Day. Who is he, you might ask? The man is, rather absurdly, our patron saint. Few English people could tell you offhand when his big day is. Fewer still could probably recount his story. Which is disappointing, given how many versions there are to choose from. Pick one. Any one will do. Alas, you’ll probably have to ask a fair number of people before any account of substance is offered. Yet he has left his mark on the country. Our national flag bears the red cross of St George for starters.
There are campaigns to have April 23rd made into an official holiday or to at least promote and popularise the date on the English calendar. The campaigns do often originate from Little Englanders, or worse. I knew the UKIP party wouldn’t disappoint me. They are a fringe political party who are trying their hardest to have the UK pull out of Europe, spreading messages of doom and gloom about how Johnny Foreigner is sneaking over the border, taking over the country, stealing our jobs, bringing unwanted multicultural values to our shores, failing to assimilate, fornicating with our women, breaking the law, fomenting religious dissent and making ourselves easy prey for terrorists. Or something like that…
How ironic that St George was born not in Wessex or Northumbria but in modern day Turkey, to Greek nobility, some 1800 years ago. He joined the Roman army, but became a turncoat, rebelling against the authority of the land in pursuit of promoting new and dastardly religious beliefs. He may even have come to England*, probably without a passport, and killed a dragon. Which was most certainly an endangered species. At best he was pilfering the job of a good English pest controller. I also have my doubts about just how good was his command of the English language. And he probably wasn’t even white.
On the plus side, he did a fine job of uniting Europe with his patronage of many countries including the likes of Germany, Italy, Russia, Serbia and other. How ironic indeed. And the shame of it. There are some appropriate links to the UKIP party though. St George was also the patron saint of lepers. And much like UKIP’s manifesto and sound bites, much of his story is unbelievable, populist, unverifiable through factual sources and largely nonsense. Perhaps he is the perfect fit for their brand after all.
Is St George really a fit for the brand that the UK attempts to project. He’s hardly exclusively ours. He’s most definitely not English. But who would we replace him with? Why not take our Scottish cousins example, who party hard for Robbie Burns in preference to St Andrew? There is the most obvious of obvious choices. The great bard. William Shakespeare. You’d not even have to change the day of our national feast, regardless of whether you’d want to pick his birthday or day of death. Conveniently, both fall on April 23rd, St Georges Day.
Let’s pick his birthday. He’s 450 today after all. We could organise street performances up and down the country. We can flood BBC 1 with movies taken from his library of plays, and BBC radio with recitals. Supermarkets can run recipe cards from the 16th century with Shakespearean quotes for inspiration. The Globe Theatre in London can be a centre point for celebrations. We most definitely should give the day over as an official public holiday. But most of all, it shouldst be absolutely compuls’ry fo’r the entire population to speaketh Shakespearean English f’r the whole day. Anyone caught utt’ring a completeth sentence without a hint of olde english to be puteth in the stocks and hast rotten tomatoes flung at them.
It won’t happen, I’m afraid. It’s as likely as UKIP winning a majority at the next General Election. The next election of any sort is for the European Parliament in a few weeks and I will have my first opportunity to cast a vote since 2005. Who shall I gift my patronage upon? That is yet to be seen. Suffice it to say, as far as UKIP is concerned, I will elect for them ‘Not To Be’. That’s most definitely the answer to the question. Because they are just a bunch of cu….no, I can’t bring myself to put the worst word in the world to
paper screen. Even though it was invented by Willie himself. Shame on him. So I shall bid you farewell and a very Happy St Georgios Day!