Last weekend I found myself among the crowds at a Saint George's day parade in an english country village. Above me red and white flags draped the sides of 18th and 19th century vernacular architecture and spanned the streets setting their colours against a clear blue sky. The chattering of the crowd was overcome by amplified announcements and wandering folk musicians would occasionally make themselves heard as they weaved their way through the throng. The aroma of frying meat drifted on the air where it mingled with the scent of sweet donuts and pungent smell of alcohol from the pub and beer garden.
Despite the jovial atmosphere I remained a little awkward. I have never been fond of the notion of nationality, it has always felt like a mandatory club you are instantly a member of and are expected to conform unquestioningly to its requirements. I stopped for a while to watch a local theatre group telling the tale of Saint George and listened to a few words from the village church leader before drifting away to stand by the small stream trickling its way through the heart of the village.
By the stream I found a most welcome sight. Traditional wood crafters were using pole lathes, turning bowls and wares. A few children were encouraged to try their hand as they showed interest. Sitting quietly under a tree was a bush crafter carefully working and shaping the elements of a fire starting bow. Once he was happy with his preparations he set about assembling the bow and the process of creating the hot embers. He had no need to herald the attentions of the people near by, they were drawn as moths to the prospect of the flame. After smoothly working the bow for a short while the tell tale signs of smoke began to appear and his demonstration concluded with the glow of the embers suitable for starting a fire should he wish it.
For me the noise of the crowd, the lure of entertainment and ancient words from across the stream faded away. I sat for a while and waited for my good lady and my friend to join me away from the people. With the sound of the running water, the scent of smoke, the warm earth beneath me and young leaves set against a clear blue sky I feel I have found the true heart of the land. For me it dwells within the structure of the landscape itself and with those who understand and can harmonise with it, the colour of the flag are pale by comparison.