Today is St. George's Day. It's meant to be a day to celebrate the Patron Saint of England (and therefore celebrate England itself), but, predictably - and depressingly - the day has, as is so often the case, been used by some of this island's racist morons (every country has them!) to spout bigoted nonsense.
Because ridiculous idiots like to use today to preach anti-English hate to anyone who'll listen, a huge number of their fellow countrymen and women tend to ignore the day completely, lest they're lumped in with the Nigel Farages of the world.
But I say no.
I say today doesn't have to be a day given over to ignorant racists, who want to "keep England for the English," nor do we have to pretend it doesn't exist, for fear of being accused of being a UKIP supporter.
I am proud to be English and I think it's about time we reclaimed today from the "no more immigrants" brigade and simply celebrate what makes our nation great.
And you know what? One of the things that does make our nation great is that we are so multicultural. England is a nation made up of all kinds of ethnicities, contributing to a dynamic society. The irony is that pretty much every single one of those morons who use St. George's Day as an excuse to wave a flag and preach against "immigrants," would, if they traced their family history back far enough, discover that they're not 100% English. I'm a quarter Greek Cypriot, so I can most definitely say I'm not "pure." But I identify as English and surely that's the important bit? This funny little country is my home and I love it and I welcome anyone who wants to contribute to it and who will love it as much as I do.
And that's the thing about the English. Take away the rotten apples and you'll find that, on the whole, we're a very welcoming, polite bunch. The kind of people you could literally bump into on the street, who would instantly apologise to you for being in your way. That's not to say we're a load of pushovers. Oh, no. We're the type to stand our ground. But we have a fantastic line in sarcastic responses, rather than outright insults. On the whole, we'd really rather roll our eyes and tut than start yelling and screaming.
That said, we can do "passionate" when necessary. I mean, look at the way we support our national sports teams. It's pretty much universally acknowledged that England are almost always the underdogs. At everything. But when it's time for the football World Cup, we'll stick tacky flags to our cars, sing the national anthem with (usually slightly inebriated) pride and we'll tell ourselves that it doesn't matter that it's been fifty bloody years since we won it; THIS IS OUR GAME AND WE CAN DO IT.
And then we cry when we get kicked out of the contest in a penalty shoot-out.
We don't just get behind our sports teams, either. The English are rightly proud of the art that has come from this little island. We might be a small nation, but we've given the world The Beatles, Queen and The Rolling Stones (and One Direction... Sorry). We've given you Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and, more recently, JK Rowling. Bored of music and literature and want something funny, instead? Try Morecambe and Wise, Monty Python, Victoria Wood or Bill Bailey. Even our YouTube stars are massive all over the world. England is a hotbed of creative talent in all fields and we should be proud of that fact.
England is a place where puns are used with gleeful abandon, everyone moans about the weather (no matter what it's doing) and nobody can resist a queue. It's a country with a love of dogs, tea and double entendres. It's a place where the accent changes dramatically from one end of the country to the other. It's a land in which the countryside is breathtakingly beautiful and the cities are full of character. The people of England are too varied to be put into boxes; for all the stereotypes (some of which I've happily gone along with for this blog), English people are a real mixed bag and that is a good thing.
But one thing we usually do have in common is that good old Bulldog spirit. We merrily insult every other county in England, besides the one we live in, yet we'll join together to slag off any country that throws shade our way. We'll fight our corner when necessary and that makes us tough cookies. And when we do fight, we do so fairly, because if there's one thing that's ever so English, it's playing by the rules.
We are, on the whole, a nation of people who believe in fairness. That's why we take to the streets to protest when things aren't fair. That's why we've fought for what's right over the years, from votes for women to gay marriage. Don't be fooled into believing that the English are a stuffy, uptight bunch. We're more forward-thinking and passionate than you might have thought.
We're also generally self-deprecating enough to laugh at ourselves and our nation. We know England isn't perfect and we're the first to take the mick. We don't take ourselves anywhere near as seriously as the inhabitants of other countries around the globe seem to. But when it counts, we can come together as one to sort out the serious stuff.
England is a beautiful place with a diverse population and a unique character. It's home and I love it. And I'm not ashamed of that.
Happy St. George's Day.