Public displays of affection

I can’t help but love the story of the British government flying the Union Jack the wrong way up at the signing of a trade agreement with China. It’s the kind of Basil Fawlty-esque commitment to getting things ever so slightly wrong that marks the UK out from the rest of the world.

Actually, it’s perhaps not surprising that nobody’s quite sure which way the flag should go, given that the last few years have seen the flag’s importance to the nation diminish slightly. With dubious right wing factions effectively purloining the Union Jack for their anti-immigration and – let’s face it – racist views, flying a British flag has become less and less common.

In contrast, if ‘loving flags’ was an Olympic sport, the United States would be the undisputed gold medallist every single time. If there’s a city block in New York that doesn’t have a single Stars & Stripes on it, I am yet to see it. From bumper stickers to billboard sized enormoflags, America loves to wave its charms in the air (and wave ’em like it just don’t care, I hasten to add).

But for some people, it seems, the Stars & Stripes just isn’t a great enough commitment to the holy principle of flag flying. Certain folk have obviously decided that they’re not truly making use of their fundamental right to pin their colours to the mast if they’re only flying the American flag.

At least, that’s the only explanation I can think of for the fact that walking around my neighbourhood last night, I saw at least five banners on poles outside homes, proudly proclaiming “Happy Valentines Day”.

Now, last time I looked, St Valentines Day was a private thing between two people who love each other. Sure, you might make some grand public gesture (although the sight of one person proposing to another on a giant screen at a sports game is enough to cause me involuntary wretching), but essentially February 14th is a reminder to tell your nearest and dearest that you love them rather than giving your postmanmailman, pizza delivery person and general passers-by a virtual smooch. Obviously, you haven’t seen the guy who lives opposite us, but rest assured that the last thing I want him doing is getting the wrong idea.

Clearly Hallmark et al have tired of creating new holidays, and have decided to expand into flag creation. Next thing you know, people will be unfurling ‘Have a great funeral!’ flags, or ‘Happy Administrative Professional Day’ banners outside their homes.

Rumours that a special bong-shaped flag is being worked on for Michael Phelps’ London 2012 campaign could not be confirmed at time of going to press.

13 thoughts on “Public displays of affection

  1. Silverback

    The US is certainly in a league of it’s own when it comes to flag waving and just you dare burn one, let one drag on the ground or diss it in any way, and you’ll be extradited faster than you can say ‘Uncle Sam.’

    Knowing I’d be surrounded by US and even Canadian flag bearing motorhomes and trailers in this park, I tried to buy a George Cross flag (a what now ?) in Leeds before coming here. I couldn’t find one anywhere ! I think we’ve been around (historically speaking) so long that we think we don’t need to wave a flag about it. Let these new countries have their flutter.

  2. carrie

    I should probably know whether this is fact or fiction as I am an American but I do not… but I have heard that it is actually considered treason or something equally punishable to burn an American flag in this country. You can talk all the sh*t you want about how much something may suck in this country as part of our constitutional rights but dare not ye burn the flag. Go figure.

  3. doodledandy

    I cant imagine why you equate flying the Union Jack with racism, but do find the wall to wall american flag-flying in the US remarkably bombastic and nationalistic. No wonder we are so disliked abroad – no other country flourishes its flag in so aggressive a way.

  4. Michael Harling

    Carrie: there was talk of making flag-burning (as a protest) against the Constitution some years ago but cooler heads prevailed. I do not know if it is actually against the law, but it is a good idea not to burn a US flag within sight of a VFW Post, Construction site or similarly patriotic gatherings.

    As an American in the UK, I find it impossible to explain just how much we Americans revere the flag. We say an oath to it every morning, we have manuals on how to display and respect it, it is not a symbol of our country, it is, in many peoples minds, our country itself. I never really thought about it while I lived there, but from a distance, it looks a bit scary.

    Sorry to bang on.

  5. Michael

    Whether or not it was upside down the Union Jack only means one thing to me.
    As a European the main time I see a Union Jack is not as a flag but a pair of shorts, or on a T shirt. These are normally worn by young men, mostly lying in the gutter in their own vomit, mumbling about how they won WWII and in 66.

  6. Naomi


    Since you’ve written about the onset of the ‘romantic season’ I’m contacting you about something which will certainly appeal to your UK readers; the chance to win pairs of tickets to far flung destinations. I would like to send you more info so could you please contact me on ?
    Many thanks

  7. Apsidal

    Hi, Dylan
    Far be it from me to correct your spelling, but I think you’ll find that the involuntary prelude to vomiting which you describe as ‘wretching’ has existed for quite a few centuries – if not for ever – without benefit of a double-u. With one, however, it has to be said that it does take on the whole miserable connotation of its homonym. But then you’ll have to admit that it becomes somewhat inappropriate for gag-provoking gestures of love.

  8. Dylan Post author

    Oh the shame, Apsidal – W retching is of course the involuntary reaction to thoughts of this country’s most recent ex-president.

  9. Trixie Trouble

    It’s not just America, I also like to wave my charms in the air.

    Sorry, I’ve had a bottle of white Bourgogne tonight.

  10. Alasdair

    Dylan – Wait and see … the current wretch in the White House is rapidly assuming all the honesty of a Harold Wilson …

    Ramirez has a cartoon today that *nails* most of the current crop of Cabinet potential – see it here

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