Happy St George’s Day by Alistair Woodgate 24 Apr 2020
“Winston Churchill said “There is a forgotten, nay almost forbidden word, which means more to me than any other. That word is England.” When we think of England what could be more quintessentially English than, among others, a pint of beer in the pub, a portion of fish and chips from the chippie, and a good old cup of tea. But as we know, it was the Romans that gave us the road network that led to the creation of inns where travellers could enjoy a beverage, fried fish was actually introduced into Britain by Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain, and tea came to us via China and India and the tea bag was invented by a New Yorker.
And of course, St George, had he come to England, would have been an immigrant. He was born in Turkey to a Turkish father and Palestinian mother and as a tribune in the Roman army, George fought for a Europe-wide state but one that let its inhabitants keep their local traditions, standing up for beliefs, justice, and equality in society.
As such, St George truly is a multi-national figure celebrated by many nations – the patron of a national consciousness by which we in England can hold different, sometimes plural, identities that we mutually respect – the perfect symbol of multiculturalism.
So this leads me to think that quintessentially English means displaying chivalry, bravery, tolerance; respect; diversity, and inclusivity – the ability to absorb different cultures and traditions into harmonious cohesion. Perhaps some in national and international politics could take such ideas on board.
And maybe the adventurous spirit of our knightly saint can inspire us on our quests in the service of good.”
At this extraordinary time, so many people across our nation are demonstrating the very best in human nature – those elements of bravery, tolerance, respect, support, and inclusivity. Thank you to everyone in the NHS, our emergency and support services, essential workers, and all friends doing their bit to bring their community together. Let’s hope when we emerge from this current crisis we can hold on to these values and to this spirit of mutual cooperation and service – and as a result, become a better society.