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St George's Day

PUBLISHED: 10:07 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 15:06 20 February 2013

St. George

St. George

Bring out the boar's head, Yorkshire pudding and gravy ... it's time to celebrate our patron saint, says Adam Edwards.

Football, a game invented by the English, can be blamed for many of the country's ills including hooliganism, Wags and the stadium 'death burger'. It is responsible for the public wearing of nylon soccer shirts and the fashioning of some appalling lagers. And let's face it; it has created a score of haircuts from hell.



On the other hand it has given us back something that is much more important than the game itself - the English flag.



It was the Euro 96 competition held in England when English football fans to a man decided to replace the Union Jack with the flag of St George, a flag that had until then been reduced to the status of fluttering above the occasional Cotswold church or advertising a fast food van hidden in a lay-by. For unlike the Union Flag it didn't represent 'swinging London' or 'Cool Britannia'; furthermore some Commonwealth countries complained that the duster, a red cross on a white background, was war-like while left-wing councils thought flying it politically incorrect.



And then our national game reclaimed it. White van man followed, as did the pubs, the producers of English comestibles, advertisers and the media. Within a decade our then Chancellor of the Exchequer the fervent Scot Gordon Brown - a life-long supporter of Fife's Raith Rovers - was forced into saying that he would be supporting England rather than Scotland in the 2006 World Cup.



English patriotism is back in fashion. And now that the flag is in circulation it is time to celebrate St George's Day and all that is English.



It was Richard the Lion Heart who officially claimed St George as England's patron saint in the 12th century (during the Crusades an apparition of St George reportedly appeared on the walls of Jerusalem waving his sword and encouraging the English onto a victorious assault on the Holy city). A hundred years later the creation of the noble order of St George and the Standard of St George, which was always carried into battle, gave rise to the rallying cry of the English army 'God for England, Harry and St George'. After victory at Agincourt, St George's Day was, according to author H P Maskell in his book The Taverns of Old England, 'made a double feast and ordered to be observed with the same dignity as Christmas Day'.



And in those days a 'double feast' would include a boar's head, Yorkshire pudding and gravy with swan as a side dish.. Also available would be cygnets, heron (the neck always worried cooks), peacocks, cranes, roast venison and a tart vinegar sauce to serve with the rich brawn. Drink was wine, mead or cider.



However in the following centuries after conquering half the known world, the English suddenly became reluctant to make a fuss about their patron saint - it is after all very un-English to show off - and so it is some hundreds of years since anyone had a double St George's Day feast.



In fact the situation had got so bad that three years ago a magistrate refused to extend a publican's licence on April 23 because he said, in the eyes of the law "St George's Day is not a special day".



But recent events have forced a change of heart among the stout-hearted people who claim citizenship of the perfidious Albion. Its neighbouring chums, in particular the Scots and the Welsh, have now got the devolution they so dearly wished for and yet, to the fury of many Englishmen, they still want to vote on English matters in the House of Commons. Furthermore while the Celts flaunt their independence, they take to the English Courts of Justice at the first whiff of prejudice.



It is no surprise therefore that a recent British Social Attitudes survey, which tracks public attitudes on key issues, found that the proportion of the English who describe themselves as British has declined from 52 per cent to 44 per cent since 1997.



And what is it that over half of England wishes to claim as its own? According to the late author George Orwell "Englishness stretches into the future and the past, there is something in it that persists as in a living creature".



A rough list of Englishness would include Shakespeare (who was born on April 23rd) King Arthur, Robin Hood, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling and Empire. Eric Clapton, Peter Doherty, Liz Hurley and Kate Moss would be on the list. So too would a Test Match at Lords, the last night of the Proms, punk and the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival.



A love of real ale would be mentioned. The Cotswolds, The Bank of England, the BBC, Coronation Street, a gin and tonic and of course the football would all be there.



And so would manners, irony and in particular an even temper.



It takes time to make an Englishman cross said the late Beatle John Lennon. "You can hit an Englishman once and he'll smile," he said. "You can hit him a second time and he'll smile. But hit him a third time and he'll kill you."



And that is the way the English now feel towards their immediate cousins who so busily show off on St Patrick's, St Andrew's and St David's Days. It is time to kill off the opposition by a glorious celebration of St George's Day that will eclipse any Celtic endeavours.



And so how, you may well ask, will an Englishman like myself be celebrating this great day?



Simple - I plan to balance a pint on my beer gut, tend the barbeque and sing 'Vindaloo' whilst wearing a St George's cross tea-towel tied around my head....that's after a couple of pints of Hook Norton of course.


Football, a game invented by the English, can be blamed for many of the country's ills including hooliganism, Wags and the stadium 'death burger'. It is responsible for the public wearing of nylon soccer shirts and the fashioning of some appalling lagers. And let's face it; it has created a score of haircuts from hell.



On the other hand it has given us back something that is much more important than the game itself - the English flag.



It was the Euro 96 competition held in England when English football fans to a man decided to replace the Union Jack with the flag of St George, a flag that had until then been reduced to the status of fluttering above the occasional Cotswold church or advertising a fast food van hidden in a lay-by. For unlike the Union Flag it didn't represent 'swinging London' or 'Cool Britannia'; furthermore some Commonwealth countries complained that the duster, a red cross on a white background, was war-like while left-wing councils thought flying it politically incorrect.



And then our national game reclaimed it. White van man followed, as did the pubs, the producers of English comestibles, advertisers and the media. Within a decade our then Chancellor of the Exchequer the fervent Scot Gordon Brown - a life-long supporter of Fife's Raith Rovers - was forced into saying that he would be supporting England rather than Scotland in the 2006 World Cup.



English patriotism is back in fashion. And now that the flag is in circulation it is time to celebrate St George's Day and all that is English.



It was Richard the Lion Heart who officially claimed St George as England's patron saint in the 12th century (during the Crusades an apparition of St George reportedly appeared on the walls of Jerusalem waving his sword and encouraging the English onto a victorious assault on the Holy city). A hundred years later the creation of the noble order of St George and the Standard of St George, which was always carried into battle, gave rise to the rallying cry of the English army 'God for England, Harry and St George'. After victory at Agincourt, St George's Day was, according to author H P Maskell in his book The Taverns of Old England, 'made a double feast and ordered to be observed with the same dignity as Christmas Day'.



And in those days a 'double feast' would include a boar's head, Yorkshire pudding and gravy with swan as a side dish.. Also available would be cygnets, heron (the neck always worried cooks), peacocks, cranes, roast venison and a tart vinegar sauce to serve with the rich brawn. Drink was wine, mead or cider.



However in the following centuries after conquering half the known world, the English suddenly became reluctant to make a fuss about their patron saint - it is after all very un-English to show off - and so it is some hundreds of years since anyone had a double St George's Day feast.



In fact the situation had got so bad that three years ago a magistrate refused to extend a publican's licence on April 23 because he said, in the eyes of the law "St George's Day is not a special day".



But recent events have forced a change of heart among the stout-hearted people who claim citizenship of the perfidious Albion. Its neighbouring chums, in particular the Scots and the Welsh, have now got the devolution they so dearly wished for and yet, to the fury of many Englishmen, they still want to vote on English matters in the House of Commons. Furthermore while the Celts flaunt their independence, they take to the English Courts of Justice at the first whiff of prejudice.



It is no surprise therefore that a recent British Social Attitudes survey, which tracks public attitudes on key issues, found that the proportion of the English who describe themselves as British has declined from 52 per cent to 44 per cent since 1997.



And what is it that over half of England wishes to claim as its own? According to the late author George Orwell "Englishness stretches into the future and the past, there is something in it that persists as in a living creature".



A rough list of Englishness would include Shakespeare (who was born on April 23rd) King Arthur, Robin Hood, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling and Empire. Eric Clapton, Peter Doherty, Liz Hurley and Kate Moss would be on the list. So too would a Test Match at Lords, the last night of the Proms, punk and the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival.



A love of real ale would be mentioned. The Cotswolds, The Bank of England, the BBC, Coronation Street, a gin and tonic and of course the football would all be there.



And so would manners, irony and in particular an even temper.



It takes time to make an Englishman cross said the late Beatle John Lennon. "You can hit an Englishman once and he'll smile," he said. "You can hit him a second time and he'll smile. But hit him a third time and he'll kill you."



And that is the way the English now feel towards their immediate cousins who so busily show off on St Patrick's, St Andrew's and St David's Days. It is time to kill off the opposition by a glorious celebration of St George's Day that will eclipse any Celtic endeavours.



And so how, you may well ask, will an Englishman like myself be celebrating this great day?



Simple - I plan to balance a pint on my beer gut, tend the barbeque and sing 'Vindaloo' whilst wearing a St George's cross tea-towel tied around my head....that's after a couple of pints of Hook Norton of course.


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