Happy Birthday Johnny Mackintosh!

Today, there are celebrations right across England – it’s Johnny Mackintosh’s birthday. Some might say the public are raising their glasses to the bard, for the 23rd April is also Shakespeare’s birth (and death) day. More likely still, they might claim pubs up and down the land are full to celebrate St George’s Day, that noble slayer of dragons. Isn’t Johnny every bit as heroic?

If Johnny were especially lucky, he might have a cake a little like the one baked for my birthday last year:

johnny mackintosh birthday cake

Readers of Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London will know the book opens on Johnny’s birthday, but it wasn’t originally 23rd April. If I remember, I set the first day of the early drafts as 14 April, but eventually decided I needed to move a little later in the month for the chronology to coincide better with the final day of the football season.

Growing up in Nottingham, every year I’d participate in the St George’s Day Parade (as a cub and then scout), which was generally a pain as it often coincided with the FA Cup semifinals (only highlights) on the TV. It’s hard for people to imagine how starved of televised football we were back then.

More recently, St George seemed to have fallen out of fashion with the absurd position the English couldn’t celebrate our own patron saint. Here in London we’re still in the frankly rather strange position where we have a huge parade from Trafalgar Square on St Patrick’s Day (the patron saint of Ireland) yet there’s normally been next to nothing for St George himself. No offence to our Irish neighbours who I love dearly, but happily George is returning to prominence.

There are also celebrations for Shakespeare at the Globe on the south bank. Being a writer, it’s impossible not to be aware of the shadow of the most famous ever Britain, who looms over all our work. When I moved the date to 23rd April it was actually with a nod to the bard, as I’d heard that he lived in Shoreditch, which is the same part of London as me. Just before Christmas, the site of his original theatre was discovered about half a mile from my house. There’s not a lot left, as it was deconstructed in Shakespeare’s own lifetime with the timbers removed to be used in the building of a new theatre to show off his plays – the Globe. It would be funny if, one day, while performing Henry V there, the final line of the opening scene of Act 3 was spoken as:

Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Johnny Mackintosh!

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~ by keithmansfield on April 23, 2009.

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