St David’s day tends to pass unremarked in England. Perhaps because England has had more vested in the concept of Union than the other constituents, the concept of Englishness has subordinated itself to Britishness, and there is no British holiday or date celebrating the United Kingdom entire.
I’ve looked on with curiosity at the energy that other people put into their national days. It does not sit well with a certain natural reserve, and the frequent tub thumping jingoism is actually distasteful. Here we celebrate the monarchy, and all the goes with it, as long as they sit quietly in their corner until called upon to open a hospital, and we celebrate our sporting successes, but those only because they are rare and we know not to be repeated within living memory.
All that changed in 2012 largely thanks to a man born on these shores of Irish parents. Until the opening ceremony of the Olympics most Britons, like me, were sceptical. There was no way we could put on a show like Beijing. It would be a limp, cucumber sandwich of an event. And then that show happened. Sometimes a little bonkers, sometimes a little macabre, but overwhelmingly just the right tone: warm but not effusive, celebratory but with dignity, honouring the strength that has been tempered through an inclusive and accepting culture. And the Queen parachuted in with Jame Bond. How fucking cool was that?
Suddenly we had a language with which to express pride, in our way, not with tickertape parades and fireworks, but with a modest opening of arms and remembrance of what it means to welcome.
We’re not the same since you hung up that mirror Danny Boyle.
We still don’t have a national day for the United Kingdom, because we don’t need one, the rich tapestry of colours and creeds get to do their own thing, in their own way, and frankly everybody is fine with that.
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