Brian Reade says St George’s Day is the day we should remember all the unsung heroes out there, such as the volunteers who run the more than 1,000 foodbanks in England
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I’ve learned from experience that tomorrow is not the day to mention Samuel Johnson’s quote about patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel.
Because it is St George’s Day. The day a certain type of English person goes all misty-eyed over thoughts of Morris dancers merrily skipping, the sound of leather on willow on a village green, elderly maidens cycling to evensong, and stout chaps drinking warm ale talking about their man-crush on Nigel Farage.
There’s no way I’ll point out to those who think it is exclusively a day for English celebration that George was born in Turkey and is also the patron saint of Ethiopia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Greece and Catalonia (and while we ‘re at it, that the Three Lions is a crest brought here by the French Normans).
You won’t find me urging all cabbies to fly the Cross of St George from their windows tonight as a warning to one-night stands they have picked up from clubs what they may be letting themselves in for? What’s that? You didn’t you know St George is also the patron saint of syphilis sufferers?
There’s no chance of me using a holy saint as inspiration for a column on politics. Not after the Archbishop of Canterbury was vigorously told by Tories there is no room for religion in a debate about refugees. Clearly, Moses was a wrong ‘un for leading all
those subjugated Jews in Egypt to the Promised Land.
Gary Neville has felt right-wing wrath too, for criticizing a Tory MP posing before a Union Jack and defending Priti Patel’s refugee policy.
“Look at me, I’m English and I’m proud to send ’em back to Rwanda,” the football pundit tweeted.
Tory MEP David Bannerman was roundly applauded on GB News for pointing out that Neville couldn’t even identify the English flag, before asking him: “Why do you hate your country so much?”
A question millions of us have been asked over the years for denigrating our government and refusing to pledge loyalty to the royals or celebrate a foreign saint called George. We’re not patriots apparently. Which is a load of old maypoles. Allow me to patriotically namecheck some of the real saints in this country: The volunteers who run the more than 1,000 foodbanks in England, ensuring people do not starve in one of the richest countries in the world.
NHS workers who devote their lives to saving ours, many working hideous hours for insulting pay. The minimum wage care-home workers and the families who battled through an obscene amount of red tape to offer their homes to Ukrainian refugees.
All the charity workers who go above and beyond, unpaid trade union officials who fight for the rights of fellow workers and those who developed, then rolled out, the Covid vaccines, only for the credit to be taken by Boris Johnson.
The home helps who go the extra mile, the unwaged carers who look after relatives and neighbours, and the mentors who cajole and inspire underprivileged kids.
Those who fight unstintingly for justice and those who stand up to bullies and racists, some of whom have hijacked the flag of St George to justify their twisted philosophies.
Ours would be a better country if all those living saints were respected and celebrated on this and every day.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.