• sootallures

Coming Home

Updated: Jul 1

I wrote these about twenty years ago and dug them out as museum pieces from an age before social media, UKIP, Brexit, and BLM. But they're not museum pieces are they? Every age rewrites history and, with social media's 'performative platform for the fetishisation of conflict', perhaps it's every second now.

Saint George

Buy George, bye George, by George, It’s my jubilee too this year, Fifty years of hopes and fears, And while you couldn’t call my life A total exercise in active citizenship, You couldn’t call it total subjection either, I suppose. But it’s fifty years of being both English and British: An infant school pupil proudly waving the Union flag, Proudly marching on Commonwealth Day in 1956; A small boy growing up with his parents’ memories, Tall tell tales of true patriotism and killing, Sitting on his dad’s knee after the pub …

Listening to his Chindit tales of jungle warfare, Playing war games behind pre-fab enemy lines, Watching “Dunkirk” at the Saturday morning flicks, Making up the Air-fix kits Of Hurricanes and Spitfires, While the BBC showed yet another Union Jack Sliding down the pole as yet another colony Gained its freedom, As yet another Gold Coast Became yet another Ghana, And your brand new stamp album became sad Imperial History.

But in Geography at grammar school, You still coloured in the pink bits, And had debates about Africa, And whether it was ready for independence, As you saw the rise of Enoch Powell, The rise of the NF, The annexation of the Cross of St. George By the racist right hooligans and xenophobes, The feelings of displaced alienation, Even when seeing the red cross fly on the local church On William Shakespeare’s birthday;

But like many of my generation and persuasion, I have both a visceral and an intellectual patriotism, A deep love of my country and the conclusion That this is my England, my England too; And so I will wear my football shirt this year, (I always used to wear a poppy) And I will re-assert the traditions of which I am proud, And re-emphasise the continuities that I carry, The traditions of the free-born Englishman and woman, And I will also emphasise the future, The future of a pluralist, diverse and inclusive society, A new rainbow millennium Britain, For all those of us who embrace multiple identities, British, English, European, African, Caribbean and Asian global citizens – We take back the Cross of Saint George, And give it a new inclusive meaning, For patriotism is no longer the last refuge of the scoundrel, But a possibility for us all.

‘Come on England’

It’s possible to shout that in umpteen different languages And still mean it. ‘Fee, Fie, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman’ And what does that smell like? It smells of Prehistoric Beaker Folk from Europe, Of Celts and Romans and their Auxiliaries from Africa and Asia, Of Picts, and Scots and Angles and Saxons And Jutes and Vikings and Normans; Of Flemish weavers And Protestants fleeing the Counter-Reformation, And Jews and Africans and Poles and Hungarians And Germans and Travellers and Czechs and Italians Ugandans and Irish and Indians And Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis and Pakistanis And West Indians and Cypriots and refugees from Chile And all the others I have missed out because I am writing at speed Before I miss the ‘bus’; But here is the omnibus.

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