As anticipated, our London to Brighton expedition was a booze cruise of Swedish proportions. The main seaside event was supposed to be Elaine Paige in concert at the Brighton Dome courtesy of our London playmates. I say, supposed because Ms Paige cancelled at the last minute. She was laid up with a throat infection – a killer for any singer or porn star – and no amount of gurgling loosened the famous pipes. Elainey may only be a minor deity in the pantheon of demanding divas (not a patch on drunken Judy, mad Barbra or po-faced Madge) but she can bang out a tune better the most and was the definitive Evita. We drowned our sorrows in a cabaret bar that served up warm wine of excruciating awfulness. We drank it anyway.
The next day, the wind powering up the English Channel blew us into the Royal Pavilion. Despite multiple trips to the bright lights of Brighton down the decades, I’d never ventured into the Pavilion before. The pastiche fantasy – styled in onion-domed Disney-Mughal on the outside and lavish Chinoiserie on the inside – was the extravagant pleasure palace-on-sea of serial slut George IV. Oriental imagery was all the rage during the Regency period and not a penny that Fat George didn’t have was spared. It’s still fabulous but, as I toured the opulent salons, I wondered what the huddled masses made of the folly they had paid for. Ironically, it’s owned by the council now.
We were rather relieved to leave Brighton in the end. There’s a sadness about the town, something I hadn’t noticed before. I must be getting old.
Today is St George’s Day. As most people in Britain know, St George is the Patron Saint of England and his flag is also the national flag of England. But George isn’t the exclusive preserve of the English. As a patron saint, he’s rather popular all over Christendom – Georgia (the name’s just a coincidence), Portugal, Malta, Ethiopia and plenty of cities and regions. His status as a soldier saint (rather a contradiction in terms, I would have thought) may explain his popularity. Everyone loves a dashing hero, especially one that goes around slaying dragons and rescuing maidens. Of course, George wasn’t English either. He was born in Roman Judea and his father came from Cappadocia in present day Turkey.
George rose in the ranks to become a member of the Emperor Diocletian’s personal bodyguard but came a cropper when he refused to renounce his faith. George was rather handy with his fists and the Emperor virtually begged him to drop the whole Christian thing (or at least keep quiet about it) but mouthy George wasn’t having it. He was martyred in AD 303, enduring a slow and horrible death.
I’m not much into the trappings of nationalism, though I am quietly patriotic. I have written before that it’s fine to be proud of where you are from, it’s not fine to think you’re a cut above the rest. The English Defence League (EDL) and other right-right nutters have rather hijacked and debased the symbols of English nationhood. Consequently, people like me wouldn’t dream of waving the Flag of St George in the same way that the Irish, Scots and Welsh proudly display their own national emblems.
I’m hoping the EDL thugs will eventually slide back to the bottom of the pond. Their travelling circus of clowns is looking increasingly thin and desperate. I really can’t take seriously those who think that The Royal Pavilion in Brighton, the pleasure palace built in oriental style for George IV, is a huge mosque. Oh, the irony. The best way to counter the idiotic is with ridicule because the EDL is ridiculous.