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

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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before