With Easter feeling displaced in the schedule this year, I didn’t even notice that the 23rd, Saint George’s day was upon us. It took the BBC weather gal to point this fact out to me, to both of us actually. It may not be as widely celebrated as the Irish patron saint day, St. Patrick’s in March, but Birmingham like to mark the day with a little frolic and festivity – obviously being careful not to offend anyone’s sensibilities by us appearing to be acting a little too ‘English’.
So in the dazzling sunshine we basked, feeling a tad under dressed not being quite as red, white and blue as many others, nor having donned anything depicting a lion (error); hot pork rolls eaten, cider drunk (real Hogan’s cider, not the park bench, bubbling, gut-rot that so many people believe is cider) and singing and dancing occurred thanks to a rather talented Beatles tribute act, The Fab Beatles. I am not the greatest fan of the ‘fab four’, not really understanding why cool types preferred the melancholic drug-induced warbles of their later tracks but I was happy to have a bop along in the early summer air to magnificent, upbeat renditions of more vibrant 60s numbers. There could have been nothing better to set the mood, and perfectly flanked by the large British double decker bus being utilised as a seating for the festivities.
If that was not enough, watched on by the Town Hall’s regal lion gargoyles (and St. George himself), further entertainment ensued. A small drama collective performed a rather adorable, poetic narrative of George and the Turkish Knight – obviously involving a Princess, a Dragon and a painful amount of panto! It was very entertaining, and none threatening when protected by a line of children and a further line of adults – there was no way I was about to be dragged into the show, despite Steve’s best attempts to shove me forward!
Although there was a distinct lack of morris men (again, much to Steve’s dismay – I think sticks and bells may be on this years Christmas list!) and no May pole on which to get tangled, there were many other truly British sights to behold; the farmer’s market with its chutneys and cheeses; amazing Victoria sponges and other sweet treats courtesy of Sarah Edward’s Cakes (the shortbread was heavenly); children playing in the fountain; Grandparents sporting red rose button holes and face paint to match; pastey-white, beer-bellied men flashing their ornate tattoos after removing their shirts – one gent had a whole back tattoo of St. George on his steed, I would have chanced a snap had I not been a little scared of any potential repercussions.
It was a wonderful way to waste a few lazy Saturday hours. It is always fascinating to people watch on such occasions and attempt to view the English from an outsider’s perspective, to try to understand what stereotype we now project. I know these days that the football-lout, beer swigging, foul mouthed monstrosity may be the strongest picture internationally, that the badly dressed, teenage ‘chav’ may create a more prominent vision, but I sincerely hope not. Yes these elements were present in the patriotic dealings of the day, around the brass bands and strange clog dancing children, but they were in no way offensive to me and certainly did not out shine all the the lovely cultural traditions on display. And the food, which as ever was wonderful!