The New Flag
‘What about a buffalo?’ asked Grig, shaven-headed focus of the New Flag Committee.
‘Buffalo?’ Jones, the smartly-dressed Home Minister was perplexed.
‘You know, a nice big fierce buffalo. In profile.’
‘What does that represent?’ asked Bell, the Foreign Minister.
‘Well, buffaloes,’ said Grig.
Bell furrowed his deep brow and took another sip of what should have been coffee but wasn’t. He needed a moment to think, make sure he wasn’t missing something. Polonius Grig was a respected flag designer, and the Foreign Minister didn’t want to look like a eunuch at a pissing contest.
‘I see,’ said Bell. ‘But what’s the significance to Newdonia?’ He finished stirring his uncoffee and set the spoon down in the saucer.
‘Isn’t it obvious?’
‘No,’ said Jones, to Bell’s relief. Evidently he was not in a minority of one in not following the designer’s train of thought.
‘Buffaloes are a great symbol of this country,’ said Grig.
‘Er, we don’t actually have any buffaloes in Newdonia,’ clarified Finch, the young Arts minister. ‘Not one. Including the zoo.’
‘But they are a great symbol of strength,’ said Grig. ‘Powerful. You don’t take shit from a nation that acts like a buffalo.’
‘I’m not sure Newdonia is planning to act like a buffalo,’ said Jones.
‘Really?’ asked Grig, with just a hint of desperation. ‘What about all these mock-ups I’ve done?’
‘Sorry,’ said Bell firmly. ‘You might just as well propose we use an elephant.’
‘And what’s wrong with elephants?’ protested Grig, fearing that his un-revealed backup design was shortly for the trash heap.
‘We don’t have any of those either,’ pointed out Finch.
‘But you don’t take shit from…’ began Grig.
‘The taking of shit, or otherwise, from this new nation is not the raison d’etre behind the flag design we are seeking. I thought that would have been clear from our brief.’
‘Designers don’t always stick to the rules. That’s why we’re called designers.’ Grig’s tone bordered on patronising.
‘All we want is a bold design,’ said Jones, trying to smooth over things, casting his gaze around the room, placating the rest of the Committee.
‘A horse?’ proffered the designer.
‘No animals!’ insisted Finch and Bell in unison.
The designer sighed and tweaked his ear pensively.
‘Okay, what about this?’ Grig picked up his felt-tips and sketched something roughly on a sheet of his notepad. He nodded satisfactorily and held the pad up for all to see.
‘Er, isn’t that the Union Flag?’ asked Finch.
‘Yes,’ replied Grig, confused.
‘Well, aren’t the UK using that?’
‘Are they?’ asked Grig. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Pretty sure,’ said Finch.
‘Completely sure,’ said Bell.
‘Okay,’ thought Grig. ‘But do they like it?’
‘It is popular. It’s also got a lot of history behind it.’
‘You don’t have any history though,’ said Grig, stating the obvious.
‘Or a flag, as things go,’ mumbled Finch.
Grig, unfortunately, had heard the Arts minister’s under-breath jibe. His eyes lit up. ‘I’ve got it!’
Everyone perked up.
‘Don’t have a flag,’ the designer stated triumphally, slapping a hand down on the large mahogany table.
Jones’ mouth fell open. ‘Don’t have a flag!?’ Bell just shook his head. Finch pulled a face.
‘Look,’ said Grig, rising to his feet, ‘What do you need a flag for anyway? You’re Newdonia. You know that. I know that. Your neighbours know that. The world knows that. They have atlases. What do you need a stupid flag for?’
‘To hang on the flagpoles,’ said Bell.
‘All the flagpoles were torn down during the revolution,’ pointed out Jones.
Bell nodded sagely. It was true.
‘The Olympics,’ stated Finch.
‘Olympics?’ Grig stopped striding and faced the raven-haired Arts representative. ‘What chance have you got of qualifying for the Olympics? Do you ever see Liechtenstein at the Olympics? You’re not even that big.’
‘World Cup?’ suggested Bell reluctantly.
‘Don’t make me laugh.’
‘Well what about all the T-shirts, souvenirs and such,’ asked Finch.
‘Think how much money you can save! No flagpoles, no tacky souvenirs. You can re-use all the picture postcards – the scenery hasn’t changed. You’re a young nation. You have to build, establish a solid fiscal platform. You can’t start plundering the publics coffers for some stupid symbol of nationhood. Keep your money. Have a big party.’
There was silence for a moment, followed by gentle nods from all the ministers.
Jones stood. ‘Well, thank you Grig. This has been a very productive session. Thank you for all your effort.’ The men shook hands.
‘Yes, thank you.’ Bell, then Finch, exchanged a parting handshake with the designer.
Grig pulled an envelope from his top pocket and handed it to the Home minister. ‘I’ll show myself out,’ he said, heading for the double wooden doors at the end of the room.
‘What’s this?’ Jones asked after him.
‘Oh,’ said Grig, pausing momentarily, ‘The bill.’
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