Mrs P and I happened to be strolling up the Mall over the weekend. There’s a big Commonwealth of Nations Heads of State conference going on, so the Mall is lined with the 54 flags of the Commonwealth and a small army of police and other security personnel. A particularly astute reader might want to stop me there and add a correction – there are only 53 members of the Commonwealth. But he or she would be forgetting that the Commonwealth itself has a flag. And he or she would no longer seem quite so astute.
I’d like to think I’m quite good with identifying flags. My ten minute stroll made me think otherwise. Where the hell does the one in the above photo come from? Indeed, I started to wonder even how many members of the Commonwealth could I name? This is a bit like the ‘Name All 50 States’ game that Americans play. But so much harder. Let me have a go, without cheating. Australia, Canada and New Zealand. They’re easy because they are ‘just like us’. Then there’s Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India and Singapore. I’ve been to all of them, so they shouldn’t slip my mind. Pakistan and Bangladesh kind of come with the whole India package.
South Africa is another biggy. Lesotho is actually an independent country too, right? Cameroon is more a Francophone country, but famously joined despite never being part of the Empire. There was another Francophone country that came with them. Was it Malawi or Mali? I’m going with the former. I’m struggling with African countries a bit. Kenya and Zimbabwe seem obvious. We fought a war for the Falkland Islands, so I’ll add them to the list. Gibraltar is similarly contentious. Then we have all those islands of the West Indies. Jamaica. Trinidad and Tobagos. Barbados. Antigua. The Bahamas. Belize is nearby.
Ok, I give up. What did I get? A grand total of 24. Appalling. I shall consult a map to see what I missed. Oh dear there are some obvious ones. Botswana, Brunei, Cyprus, The Gambia, Ghana. And Grenada! I could kick myself for that one, famously invaded by the US in the 80s. Jersey and Malta – should have gotten those. Mauritius too.
I told you I was struggling with African countries. Mozambique, Namibia and Nigeria. When did Rwanda sign up?? In 2009, apparently. Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are others that I might have thought of on a different day. The rest? There’s another ten or so to finish the list, none of which I’d ever be likely to remember. But, if you’re interested, click here.
But what you are really wondering – probably – is which country does lay claim to that rather striking flag above? It is Antigua and Barbuda. Which means I have to reduce my final score from 24 to 23 and a half, I guess. But what am I really wondering? Whose grand idea exactly was it to abandon close trade links with the EU in preference to this ragtag bunch of countries??