Today, as you may know, from your calendars and the post below, is St. George's day, being the patron saint of England, amongst a vast array of countries, cities and professions. And on this day, we (ought to) celebrate the recognition of saint and country. Am I English? Partly. I have spent the vats majority of my life in England and if there is anywhere I would call the home of my heart then this it. I am a mix of English, Filipino, Chinese and Irish, and this is the heritage with which I regard myself. If you talk to me, you would think I am English, my manner is, my personality is. Yet, I still struggle over particular words (despite English being my only language), my food habits are clearly non-English and I hope I think with a wider view.
What is it to be English? Is it tea and biscuits, cream cakes on the lawn? Is it bowler hats and newspapers and black umbrellas tightly bound? Is it country folk and hunting folk in the countryside and chavs and gangs in the city? Is it pride in three lions or is it the darker side of pride? Is it binge-drinking and queuing and funkiness and cheese rolling and grouse shooting on an autumn day? Is it multiculturalism, racism, terrace houses and bobbies on bicycles, two by two? Is it wandering the hills, canal boats and pubs, crowded trains, Dr Who and the Beano? Is it losing at world cup semifinals, cricket, rainy bank holidays and football in the park, jumpers for goalposts?
What is it to be English? With our many dialects and accents, with our tightly held allegiances, our slowly shed prejudices, our memories of Empires and war and kings and queens so bold? With our ingenuity and inventiveness, with hand-shaped stone centuries and millenia old?
I don't know. I am English in so many ways, and yet I am not. I am proud to be English, at times, and, at times, I am not.
But, on St George's Day, a little part of me glows with all that it is right with being English, and hopes that one day all that is wrong with being English will fade away.
Once there was a vigour and a self belief about being English that seems to have been lost in the mire, subverted and crushed and unnecessarily scorned. In the past the English have done many horrible things, and the atrocities of those times reflect and echo into the modern day, twisted and turned to darken honest pride into something less welcoming.
Being English on St George's day isn't about nationalism, it isn't about blind patriotism or uneducated prejudice. It is about recognising who we were and who we are now. It is about celebrating all that which has been achieved, and reflecting on all that which went wrong. It is about recognising that we are changing, have been changing, have always changed, as a culture and a nation. It is about looking to the future and carrying ourselves there, with hope, with pride, humility, dignity and, most of all, with self belief.
That is what being English on St George's day means to me.