Those of you who read my weekly musings regularly will know that I am no fan of the style of knee jerk, jingoistic, patriotism espoused by the likes of the BNP and the EDL. However that does not mean that I am not proud of my country, quite the opposite.
There are many things I love about being British. For example, I love our overall commitment to fair play and decency, the central role of tea in our daily lives, and the fact that we regularly take the mick out of ourselves (mostly so no one else can). But one of the things I love above all is our sense of tradition and ceremony.
I was reminded of this while I was watching the Trooping of the Colour this morning, part of the Queen's Official Birthday celebrations. What other country in the world could pull off something as amazing as that? Not only does it look amazing, and almost perfectly choreographed, but it is insanely well rehearsed for months in advance. It is hard to picture any other country having the reason, or the time, to pull off something like this. And yet we pull it off again, time and time again, year after year.
We demonstrated it last year with the celebrations for the Jubilee as well. I dare those of you who watched it to say that the river pageant wasn't inspiring, amazing and downright beautiful at times as well. The same was true of the Olympics' Opening Ceremony. When we as a country want to show off, when we pull out all of the stops, then prepare to be amazed.
There are lots of things wrong with the country at the moment, not least the fact that we have a government beset with infighting, which seems to be making an extra special effort not to make people's lives better, but to make them much, much worse. Our economy is still not great and not showing any signs of getting better, and it can seem at times as if we have lost everything that once made us a great nation. It is this feeling that groups like the BNP and UKIP feed upon and use to gain positions of influence and power.
The thing is they are wrong. All the things that used to make us a great country still do. The recession hasn't dented them, nor has it destroyed them. The things that make us great were never physical things, like industrial prowess, or an empire. They were things I mentioned earlier, our shared sense of history, our shared culture and traditions. They still exist. They are not physical things, but things that exist in the very fabric of our island, that are bound into the very souls of the people who live here. They are eternal, unaffected by the stresses of daily life. All we have to do is look at the Trooping of the Colour, or the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, or take a walk up to a building older than some countries, to discover that we are still, and always shall be, great.