I am sat here in my front room watching some chaps who don't live on the estate hang flags on the lamp posts. This is because it is only a couple of weeks until that annual orgy of all things "orange" and "protestant" gets under way.
This year there are a lot less flags, mainly due to the fact that when the wee toerags whose appear to communicate in monosyllabic grunts, groin scratching and positioning of a Burberry/Rangers FC baseball cap at varying angles upon their echoingly empty heads, came to the door and asked "wannagiveussomemoneyfurdeflagseh?" I, like many of my neighbours when we had taken a moment or two to decrypt this strange request replied "Ah no". This could be because folks are a bit strapped for cash this year or it could be that being surrounded by 100's of flags all flapping in the ever present Norn Iron wind roughly level with your bedroom window was just a bit intrusive. "Tradition" or not, sleep deprivation can be a right royal pain in the arse.
Now it has to be said we have a plethora of flags and for some it is a requirement equivalent with breathing that they fly every fecking one from every lamp post in the province.
At the top of the heap the Union Jack, the flag of the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" to give it the full rather boring name.. this one
Then you have the "Government of Northern Ireland Flag" which is the sort of official flag of the six counties
Then you have the "Alternate Northern Ireland Flag" Which has no crown and a wee union jack in the top corner. This is perceived to be a UDA (Ulster Defence association - an illegal paramilitary/terrorist/drug dealing group)
Then you have the flag of the Orange order, a protestant religious organisation famed for it's bowler hats, sashes and it's unofficial war cry of "Fuck the Pope" (i am being crass here, however on the 12th july when certain songs are played at the BIG parade you will hear this with a monotonous regularity and on walls in Belfast you will see FTP scrawled on walls and it is not the work some underground group of TCP/IP graffitioso)
Then there is the King Billy Flag .. another sort of Orange order flag
Not to be left out the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force - Another illegal paramilitary,terrorist organisation) and the YCV (Young Citizen Volunteers - Much the same as the UVF but without the moustaches)
And here are more.. including Dutch flags (King Billy was Dutch) Scottish flags and even Israeli flags (The Meyer & Cohen Hassidic Loyal Rising Sons of William temperance and Ohi Vey Battalion perhaps??) Anyway there are lots and lots and lots of flags on BOTH sides and as they fly in estates all over the north each flutter picks at the scabs of a 1000 insults both real and imagined.
So here I sit watching a plethora of flags flutter in the stiff breeze and there in the background several of young Ulster Protestantism's finest are singing along to the not terribly well played battle flute. "We are... We are... We are the billy boys! We are up to our necks in Fenian blood, surrender or you die" whilst necking a bottle of Buckfast tonic .. well after all it is traditional so it must be right... isn't it?