Happy St George’s Day. Happy anniversary of Shakespeare’s Birth and Death. Happy World Book Night. And, perhaps most important of all, Happy Launch of my Bookclub.
23 April is a busy day for literature, nationalists and romantics. And as is in my opinion- a good day to celebrate.
I’m English, and proud to be, so I’m on board with St George’s Day. In my younger years I lived in Glasgow and Girona, and learnt that there’s nothing like living in cities full of proud nationalists and ‘independentistas’ to make you aware of your nationality. From the moment I moved into student halls in Scotland I was made to feel English, similarly, moving to Cataluyna to teach my mother tongue involved constantly explaining the culture of and defending my home country. And so yes, as well as being British, I’m English. Happy St George’s Day.
In Cataluyna I learnt of what soon became one of my favourite traditions which I’d like to adopt (I hope my fella is reading this). Sant Jordi, the Spanish version of St George, is almost the equivalent of St Valentine, and sees Catalan couples celebrate their love by exchanging gifts; women receiving a red rose from the men, who are decidedly better off and receive a book in return. The streets of the cities are filled with booksellers and florists (my dodgy flatmate while I lived there was arrested for flogging roses without a licence), and people flock to buy tokens of their love.
There is at least some level of logic to the gift exchange of Sant Jordi. In the legend of the patron saint, when George, or Jordi slays the dragon, the spilt blood magically forms itself into a rose which George plucks out of the beast and presents to the princess whose life he has just saved. Then the men waded in with their demand for paperbacks in honour of the anniversary of the death of not only Shakespeare, but also renowned Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes.
It is the anniversary if the demise of these two famed penman that helped UNIESCO to dub 23rd April World Book Day, (although the UK went rogue and instead celebrates on the first Thursday of March) to promote reading and the publishing of books. Here in the UK we will be indulging in World Book Night, organised by The Reading Agency, with a focus on encouraging people to read books, with a special emphasis on those that don’t normally read. World Book Night also published a list of twenty titles that come highly recommend that might encourage people to read. It was from this list, and inspired by the notion to encourage people to read and to celebrate reading that prompted my fella and I to launch our Bookclub today. We picked a title and found a venue and went into a social media frenzy in order to find some members. Tonight we will find out how many people show up; we’ve already had two drop outs, which isn’t the most promising start, but fingers crossed for a success.
Happy reading. 🙂