At the end of last May I made a trip to London, just days before the celebrations of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, to find that a country which had once flirted with Republicanism so intimately it was, as they say, on farting terms, had now revealed that its heart was mainly monarchic: eight out of ten citizens had assured various survey-takers that they felt they were better off with Elizabeth Windsor than without her. This could be, of course, due to the verifiable fact that the Queen is the only living member of the Royal Family who has not at some stage made a worldwide wally of him or herself: on the contrary, she has stayed her particular course with a dignity flawed only by a penchant for flagrantly unprepossessing hats. As a result the Union Jack – semiotically in hock to various far-right parties for the last thirty years – has now been reclaimed as the Jubilee symbol. It was hanging sheet-sized from the roofs of the railway stations, it was strung like so many onions just above head level at countless pubs, it was fluttering at the cash tills of the supermarkets, and a ubiquitous brand of English sparkling wine had wrapped its bottles up in it. All this flag-waving, frankly, got on my breasts and it was a relief to finally fly away from so much bunting. I realise, however, that there are people who cannot abide flags no matter what their colour, who might say that it wouldn't occur to me to complain in the same way about the almost equally frequent senyeres which now hang all year round from numerous balconies in just about every urban nucleus in Catalonia. But irrespective of how I or anyone else might feel about such Catalan flags, it cannot be denied that they – especially the be-starred ones (which express an undisguised wish for political independence) – are at least winking at a possible future. They are aspirational, so to speak. But standing in London's Victoria Station and staring up at the Union Jacks tied to the steel rafters, it struck me that these flags were, on the contrary, winking at the past: specifically, at the venerable Age of Empire itself. By coincidence, two days before I left Britain, the Scottish National Party launched a major campaign in favour of independence ('Scotland Yes'): a wee reminder that the Union Jack's design may soon be due for an overhaul. After all, if you wink at the future there's a chance it might just wink back at you. The past, by contrast, as almost everybody knows, is irrevocably, irremediably, irreparably, unrectifiably over.
Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, juliol-agost de 2012