I learned this word two days ago. It means the scholarly study of flags.
This is how I learned it. For some reason my wife and I got talking about the “Confederate Flag” which I held was rightly the “Confederate Battle Flag”. The Confederacy had a few flag changes in it’s short tenure so it’s complicated. Seeing as there was a laptop in the living room at the time this lead to the Great Arbiter – Wikipedia and this lead (as Wikipedia does) to other things. In this case US State flags. I have long held they are almost all entirely awful. I have long held the only one I have any time for is New Mexico (BTW what’s happening with Gary Johnson – the only runner for the 2012 elections I could – if I were American – bring myself to vote for*).
Anyway, I got a lovely surprise because it turns out that for once a learn’d society agrees with me absolutely.
According to a 2001 survey by the North American Vexillological Association, New Mexico has the best-designed flag of any U.S. state, U.S. territory, or Canadian province, while Georgia’s 2001–2003 state flag was rated the worst design.
This is the flag of New Mexico:
This is the 2001-2003 flag of Georgia:
For the true horror of it look here.
The New Mexico flag is a simple, striking Native American design in two colours. It sure as hell works for me. That two year Georgian mess – they now have something much better – looks like it was done by kids with clip-art. And herein lies the rub in general. A flag ought to be something that can be drawn by a primary school child but not look like it was designed by one. If you look at the full rogues’ gallery of US State flags then you ought to be struck by the number that proudly emblazon the name of the state on them. For me that is a failure. I am given to understand the art of story-telling is to show rather than to tell and I’m of the opinion this applies to flags as well. As far as dreadful national flags are concerned how about the flag of Rwanda between 1962 (independence?) and 2001:
That is sheer class that is. I know I’m in favour of abstraction and a tricolour is pretty ultimate in those regards but if a country feels the need to stick a bloody big capital letter centre-stage then God help ‘em. I personally don’t like tricolours. It’s like so done and done.
Aside: Round Grey’s Monument in Newcastle (I was having a fag whilst my mother toiled in the mines of TK Maxx’s glorified jumble sale – US readers – same as TJ Maxx) and there was a bunch of hard-lefty students “protesting”. They had flags – mainly Cuban (a reasonable flag) but also a Venezuelan one. Well, I had to tell them they were flying the flag of the People’s Republic of Hugo Chavez upside-down (an international distress signal – I internally chuckled). It’s got an arch of stars and they were running it as a smile of stars if you see what I mean. The lass I chatted to was very nice (pretty good looking too – she’ll hopefully grow out of it). My wife took her to task over the persecution of homosexuals in Cuba. Our interlocutor said it was, “much better than before”. Yeah, right, whatever – I can imagine the skirling outrage if gays and lesbians were being persecuted in England like that but in a worker’s paradise it’s a mere glitch… She also asked me what capitalism had ever done for us. In the heart of a major city on a Saturday afternoon. Indeed here.
Grey Street was built by Richard Grainger in the 1830s with the aid of several architects, including John Dobson. The whole of the western side of the street was designed by two architects from Grainger’s office, John Wardle and George Walker. Dean Street, which continues south from Grey Street was constructed earlier, in 1749. Grey Street contains the Theatre Royal designed by John and Benjamin Green, the southern entrance to Monument Metro station and the Central Arcade. It is renowned for its Georgian architecture, and was in 2002 voted ‘Best street in the UK’ by BBC Radio 4 listeners.
Sir John Betjeman said:
As for the curve of Grey Street, I shall never forget seeing it to perfection, traffic-less on a misty Sunday morning. Not even Regent Street, even old Regent Street London, can compare with that descending subtle curve.
[It's not that "subtle" a curve if you've been to the Bigg Market on the swally and are part of a hen "do" and in heals and going to the Quayside for porpoises...].
It is magnificent and one of the few parts of central Newcastle not utterly fucked over by T Dan Smith and pals.
T Dan Smith was a Communist (and I mean that with the capital “C”). The Georgian heart he and his cronies ripped out of Newcastle was built by very different people from him.
An aside to the aside. She also offered me the chance to buy a CD of the Hamas male-voice choir singing songs of revolution. I politely declined. As with the homosexuals she seemed a complete irony-free zone on this. What would Hamas in Gaza have made of an un-hijabed woman talking freely to a non-mehrem man in the street about the need to over-turn the status-quo?. Talking shite in Newcastle is one thing (it happens all the time – mainly about the FA Cup) but talking shite (or even shi’ite) in Gaza is a whole different game. One that doesn’t end with a polite declining to buy a dreadful CD.
The asides seems to have taken over the post. Sorry! No I’m not – I wanted to say them. There isn’t – by definition – anything to say about flags (apologies to the North American Vexillological Association). The whole point of a flag is it’s instant recognition factor. Our current government is spending a small fortune (only because they don’t have a large one) on re-branding the country to attract tourists. The adverts stress our contributions to the arts, sciences and sport and stuff. It’s terribly un-British of the cads and blighters. Do we really need to badger foreigners about Sir Isaac Newton or William Shakespeare or Bobby Moore? As I said, show don’t tell. Anyway from my experience London in summer is packed to the rafters with tourists getting ripped-off by every Del Boy in town who claims to be a direct descendent of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler. God knows what will happen when they have their 20 billion quid sports-day next year. I guess David Hilbert and Associates will have to get cracking with building that hotel. I love that veridical paradox because everyone gets it (not like Monty Hall – I have seen professional mathematicians in tears over that). To be fair it goes back at least as far as Galileo.
Flags do though matter when it comes to the fighting. You gonna risk life and limb for a dismal duster? Someone round my way once did for a fine flag – or rather to paraphrase General Patton – the other poor bastard did. That would be Legh (of Lyme Park – where Mr Darcey took a dip) had a coat of arms (quite literally) which depicts the severed arm of a Frenchman. During some battle of the Hundred Years War the perfidious Frogs seized our standard and Legh waded through the melee and got it back by the expedient of hacking the French fella’s arm off. The arm remained attached to the pole (limbs can do that if it ain’t a clean cut). Flags, like language (or arms), have history. They have to mean something in themselves and not just say it which is where that short-flown Georgian flag went wrong. That and it’s just dreadful. It is a fundamental failing of the EU. Britain, France**, The USA – those are flags worth fighting for because they have history and meaning and have blood and iron behind them rather than committee meetings in Brussels.
And here endeth the lesson. Sorry I roamed. For my penance I now have to tag it.
*Basically a fiscally sound Republican who isn’t of the “religious” right – he’s even vaguely anti the “War on Drugs”. I guess there is a Libertarian candidate but… Well I was going to mention cats in Hell but knowing my cat… He’d have Satan himself off to the shops to buy kibble.
**Well, not France, obviously. “Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion.” – Jed Babbin. Frequently attributed to General H Norman Schwarzkopf.