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30 April, 2006

New nationalism

I'm not into caravanning*.  My parents had a touring caravan (I think it'd be more accurate to say it was my father's, in hindsight), and I have a fairly clear memory of sitting in it on Anglesey in 1978 whilst my father explained we'd have to cut the holiday short as he'd obtained work in Norway.  Again in hindsight, that was a life-changing event – nothing was the same from then on.
Throughout my teens, family holidays were taken in static caravans in the same location in North-west Wales, but I haven't been in a touring caravan since the age of about seven.

All of which is to make the point that I'm not necessarily abreast of recent developments in caravanning. I saw something whilst cycling today that was new to me, but may have been established years ago: flags. I don't mean little triangular pennants, but full-size rectangular flags, on (telescopic?) flagpoles.

I know that national flags are a prominent part of the culture in countries such as the USA and Norway, but one of the things I quite like about the UK is that we don't feel a need to visibly affirm or celebrate nationhood. It's just... not done. Not doing so is part of what makes the British British.
Flags fly from churches and town halls sometimes (not routinely), and people wave flags at royal occasions. The flag is prominent at sporting events, but I'd say garments in the appropriate colours tend to outnumber actual flags. Schools don't display the national flag, and it's rare to see one flying from a private house or garden.

So where have these caravan flags come from? What inspires someone to travel to a different part of the UK and visibly proclaim his/her Britishness (or, rather worse, Englishness), especially when he/she doesn't do so at home?
I wonder if it's that people feel less inhibited about making such a gesture amongst strangers than in front of their everyday neighbours. In which case, I suppose it's only a matter of time before the inhibition is defeated and flagpoles appear in gardens. Which I definitely wouldn't applaud.

That's not answering my question, though: never mind how this might develop, what inspired it in the first place?
I wonder whether it's significant that it's associated with caravanning – would those people who go camping, or those who visit hotels, have the same attitude to flags?

*: Yes, 'caravanning' is a word, though somehow one feels it shouldn't be....

Comments

You don't think, perhaps, maybe, that's it's got anything to do with both St Georges Day just past, and the sodding football?

In town, yesterday, there were flags everywhere.

"St George's Crosses, 6 fer a pound"

BTW, is it just me, or have you spotted that guy selling lighters outside Next has started foaming at the mouth most days?

Posted by Siobhan Curran at April 30, 2006 08:45 PM

I have to confess I hadn't thought of that.
You could be right, but I'm not sure. These were proper, half-metre wide flags, on proper, 6m+ poles. I didn't get the impression they were for one-off events, nor cheap enough to have been casual purchases.

Posted by NRT at April 30, 2006 08:54 PM

I don't mind flags so much, especially as they're only one of the more inoffensive (to me) reminders of the "sodding football" World Cup (nice phrase, NRT, btw ;-) ). Better than being reminded of it every five minutes, or having adverts for a *whole series* of programmes about "The Shirts of 66" shoved down my throat, anyway. But then maybe I watch too much telly.

Besides, I happen to think we could be more patriotic, and I laugh at people when they compare hating the European Union to being patriotic; the Irish are one of the most patriotic nations in Europe, and they love it.

I'm not worried, though. When politicians start saying "God Bless Britain" (or, more likely, England), THEN I'll worry. What does God need with two Jags?

Posted by Jeff Rollin at June 16, 2006 09:34 PM
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