Sticking To Ones Colours

Flags fly on the moon, atop Everest and at both poles. They help us to identify, even relate to many things. Insignia on material has existed from the time that our ancestors decided to form groups or ‘gangs’. Nations would display on high their sheets of cloth with pride as they charged towards their enemies in anger. The word usually associated with a flag is pride. A pride in ones own country, region or group. People have died ensuring that theirs flutters above this or that building: even replacing that of their enemies. My first experience of the meanings of what flags can represent was during my childhood discovery of Nelson’s signal at Trafalgar: a message to the fleet using many flags to denote one single communication. The BBC children’s programme Blue Peter was named after one of the flags flying above the Victory on that day. Then I discovered that my parents had a large pristine union flag that was attached to a dowel pole at the bottom of their wardrobe. It was their souvenir from the coronation in 1953. I pestered and pestered them to let me play with that flag until they finally surrendered. What should have remained a treasured family memento of a great national occasion became gradually destroyed at the hands of a child. My family in Canada proudly display their Canadian flags outside their homes, indeed as one travels around Canada or the USA, one is immediately struck by the normal and outward exhibition of patriotism displayed by respective national flags that one simply wouldn’t experience here in the UK. Some flags are controversial: they cause offence, with two in particular vying for numerous newspaper columns and editorials in the past weeks, namely the black flag of Isis and that of the southern American states throwback known as the flag of the confederacy. ‘Nailing one’s colours to the mast’ carries with it great responsibility: it points the world in the direction of your ethos.

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