Monday, April 24, 2006

Young England

In 1914 Saki (Hector Hugh Monroe) published a novel When William Came a fantasy in which Germany invades Britain with hardly a murmer of opposition from the supine ruling and aristocratic classes. The social whirl continues much as if nothing has happened. The first true resistance comes, at the novels end when the Boy Scouts are due to parade in honour of the German Kaiser.

"Under the trees at the back of the crowd, a young man stood watching the long stretch of road along which the Scouts should come. Something had drawn him there, against his will, to witness the Imperial Triumph, to watch the writing of yet another chapter in his country's submission to an accepted fact. And now a dull flush crept into his grey face; a look that was partly new-born hope and resurrected pride, partly remorse and shame, burned in his eyes. Shame, the choking, searing of self-reproach that cannot be reasoned away, was dominant in his heart. He had laid down his arms -there were others who had never hoisted the flag of surrender. He had given up the fight and joined the ranks of the hopelessly subservient; in thousands of English homes throughout the land there were young hearts that had not forgotten, had not compounded, would not yield.
"The younger generation had barred the door.
"And in the pleasant May sunshine the Eagle standard floated and flapped, the black and yellow pennons shifted restlessly. Emperor and Princes, Generals and guards, sat stiffly in their saddles and waited.
And waited...."

In 2006 despite the number of people flying flags of St George from BMW and Audi cars Germany has not invaded and on April 24th which, as any fule knos, is both St Georges Day and the anniversary of Shakespeares birth and death. The Norwich District Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts, Cubs and Beavers had their annual march through the City of Norwich to present their colours to the Lord Mayor.

"Do y'think they'll ken we're not English"

England is not very good at this kind of patriotic event; something symbolised by the Scouts utilising a Scottish Pipe Band to play the music. If you counted the insignia on the musicians uniforms and instruments there were more St Andrew's Crosses than St George ones. The participants did not just march out of step to each other and the music they more accurately strolled out of step to each other and the music. They walked through the City in this manner talking to each other out of the corner of their mouths and you felt that if someone had spotted a special offer on Gameboys in one of the shops there would have been a mass detour to investigate. It was a glorious sight and far more heartening then any clockwork manoeuvring Trooping The Colour in Whitehall. I went to scoff but came away touched.

This Chap started off waving the flag quite bravely but by the time the parade arrived his arm and the flag had dropped (or even drooped) behind his push chair. From time to time after that he would give the odd imperceptive flick of the wrist as a gesture towards the day.

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