The Diary: A blunt response to St George's sword

Share
Related Topics
St George's Day had been gathering dust over the years and the St George's Society promised a revival this year, so much so that we were invited to perform several duties in celebration. Sing "Land of Hope and Glory", recite bits of Shakespeare (it's the Bard's birthday too), prepare a medieval banquet and raise our voices to the melody of Blake's "Jerusalem".

With Scotland drifting off to some kind of independence, and Wales too, and heaven and Ian Paisley knowing that Ireland is likely to become one state, some voices said that the quest for national identity among the English was bound to increase support for St George. Surely there was no better place to test this than Eltham, where a strong national sentiment, exclusive in its English identity, put Stephen Lawrence to the sword. A dragon slain, six years ago almost to the day.

I left bomb-scarred Brixton just after lunch with reports drifting in that three more right-wing groups had claimed responsibility for the mayhem caused a week ago when a nail bomb exploded in our shopping centre. On my way to Eltham I pause at 439 New Cross Road in memory of the 13 party-goers who died in a fire 18 years ago. "A bomb caused the fire" was one of the slogans used in the demonstration against what was seen as a neo-Nazi attack against a black celebration.

I HAD never been to Eltham before. Blackheath, where my daughter was born, was as far as I had ever been in that direction. It turned out to be classic English suburbia: leafy, quiet and demure. Nevertheless it had concealed a deadly assassin, blade in hand. I made my way to the spot where Stephen fell, to "drown an eye, unus'd to flow". There was little sign of St George's Day celebrations in these parts: flags were on display in only two houses in what is an all-white suburb. No sign of medieval feasts, no sound of Blake's "Jerusalem", no quotes from Shakespeare. I turned into Dickson Road, down which Stephen's assailants had escaped. I was looking for Brooks Estate where two of them lived. I strained my neck seeking out the estate of my imagination - a place of high rises housing the poorest of the poor. All I could see were tiny, elegant cottages where hate once resided and the red rose formed a crown of thorns. Eltham with its hint of rural peace must feel the weight of this sad time, drawn out of its anonymity by the rabid supporters of St George's Day.

Just across the way in nearby Charlton locals were celebrating with an evening of English music. There was a village hall atmosphere where "Land of Hope and Glory", "Rule Britannia" and "Jerusalem" were sung with much jingoism. I sat quietly and tapped my feet only during the medley of Beatles songs. St George's Day? John Lennon? I couldn't reconcile the contradiction.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Defendant Personal Injury 2+PQE

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - NICHE DEFENDANT FIRM - Defendant Pe...

Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: JAVA DEVELO...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Developer

£475 - £550 per day: Progressive Recruitment: MDAX / Dynamics AX / Microsoft D...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Fist bumps will never replace the handshake - we're just not cool enough

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on