I bow to no one in my level of regard for my country. As a nation we are - by and large - brave, funny, compassionate, diligent, fair, cynical (in the positive, questioning sense) and, when pushed, given to doing the right thing.
For better or worse, I follow the fortunes of my countrymen in their sporting endeavours – sadly, often out of familiarity and a shared birthplace, rather than for the shining brilliance of their performances.
I’m happy with my brand of patriotism, which neither blinds me to my nation’s flaws, nor renders me unable to appreciate the finer attributes of other countries and their peoples.
I want England to be recognised as a separate component of Britain. But I still can’t quite fathom why the hoary old argument about making St George’s Day a national holiday comes up every year.
“The Irish enjoy a national holiday for St Patrick’s Day, and the Scottish celebrate St Andrew’s Day – why should we not celebrate our own Patron Saint?” says the St George’s Day website.
To me, it seems petty arguing for a national day of jubilee on the basis of indignation and jealousy – ‘THEY’VE got THIS, why shouldn’t WE have THAT’? Anyway, a quick glance at the web confirms that the St George’s Day activities that are planned across the country at least match up to those on March 17 or November 30.
In fact, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t celebrate our patron saint on April 23 - and many people throughout England will be doing just that.
Neither do I subscribe to the point of view that, because most of us live in the country of our birth (and for that reason celebrations would not simply be for expats missing home, and therefore inappropriate), we shouldn’t be able to have a big party.
Anyone who suggests that, as former imperialists and colonisers, it is wrong for the English to be celebrating England will get very short shrift from this writer, too.
We should apologise for and move on from the behaviour of ancestors that is deemed unacceptable in modern eyes, not flay ourselves to death for it.
I’ve already listed just a few of our qualities that are worth honouring. Throw in Shakespeare (whose birth and death days also happen to fall on April 23), Churchill, the invention of football, rugby and cricket, Lennon and McCartney, the countryside, Morecambe and Wise, and a genuine acceptance of diversity – and you have plenty others to be getting on with.
The use of flags is another potentially emotive subject - no discussion of St George’s Day celebrations seems to be complete without reference to the famous red cross on a white background.
Throughout the year it is largely seen as the banner of the English sporting fan. Bigger festivities on April 23 would no doubt involve more widespread employment of the flag.
I can remember bristling at an article by broadcaster and commentator Darcus Howe in which, speaking against the campaign for a St George’s Day holiday, he spoke of central London being ‘clean’ of flags, as if the mere presence of the red-on-white sullied the capital with overtones of nationalism and racism.
While it has certainly been adopted by some organisations of dubious ambition, which is to be regretted, a flag is a bit of cloth, and it hardly seems fair to blame it for the actions of a minority of those who wave it.
But while attacking the flag is picking on the wrong target, we should at least be asking why we are so bothered about observing the memorial day of a fourth-century Turkish-Palestinian soldier.
George was a soldier in the Roman army who protested about Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians, and as a result was beheaded in AD 303.
He’s our patron saint, largely thanks to the writings of medieval religious figures and the stories and beliefs of soldiers from the Crusades right up to the Hundred Years’ War.
But this being the most secular country in the world – arguably, another reason for celebration – perhaps it’s time that, while recognising our history and the part St George as a unifying figure has played in it, we found a less religious character to provide a focal point for national festivity.
By all means let’s organise a big old knees-up at some point in the year to extol the excellence of Englishness. Let the best of England, both ancient and modern, be on display. Let there be words, music, dancing, drinking and revelry.
But let’s make sure it’s a festival of inclusiveness, not division. Let’s celebrate the diversity that has made us great, and let’s not hang it all on poor old St George.
Chas Early is a journalist. He is proud and happy to be English, but doesn’t feel threatened by the bits of him that are Irish and Indian.
This article is the opinion of Chas Early and not necessarily that of BT.