July 23rd – Flag Day

Hopefully the weather will be good today. Flag Day is always better when the sun is shining, and there is a good, strong breeze. One of those kite-flying beach days, your hair all in your face. Walking down the City’s streets on a good weather flag day is a singular pleasure, the flags all hanging out the windows, strung between the washing lines, there’s even the occasional broomstick flagpole. A cacophony of fluttering colour.

On Flag Day you could walk through thirty different principalities in as many paces, although often streets join together under a single banner, peaceful annexations based on persuasion and popularity. Some streets, blocks even, are awash with one colour; the greenish blue of the Soralm Sea Nation, for example, or the stark red of the Eternal Worker’s State. The true number of segments that Buentoille is cut into today is uncounted; it tends to change each year. Thousands upon thousands of hand-painted flags twist and turn in wind-blown collage.

They call it the Condominium of July, or sometimes the Commonwealth, or the Commonality, but mostly folk call it flag day. Representatives from each of these micro-states meet on street corners to conduct negotiations with each other, for natural resources, political union, to form migration treaties or establish new relations. Some of these representatives are also their only citizens, proudly waving a flag of their own devising. Generally they range in age from five to sixteen, although occasionally older siblings get dragged in to act as chancellors or vice presidents or even serfs. These tiny nations are mostly utopian, filled with abundance and happiness, although there is the occasional totalitarian regime spotted here and about.

It’s important to remember that the physical nature of the City isn’t the extent of these magical lands. They extrapolate outwards at imaginary angles, and our world is only a signifier of what lies beyond; that hydrant is a great mountain, or a well full of fizzy pop, the little stream that runs down the middle of the street is a gushing torrent, the centre of a thriving trade network. States may inhabit several different locations here in the streets of Buentoille, but they are one unified space out there, where the state really is. Some of these principalities and nations might exist on the same planet, but others are planets unto themselves, back gardens made enormous and wrapped around a celestial globe somewhere in the great out, only represented here, a strange embassy.

Some of them are flat, great disks hovering in space, their undersides covered in lava and strange beasts, their rivers flowing off into space and propelling them onwards. There are volcanoes that spew fresh fruit out periodically each day, represented in Buentoille by a lupin plant in the back garden, or the pit where mum always makes the Midsummer fire. Younger siblings are often gifted small sections of land, part of the garden or the house or the street that suddenly evaporates and becomes a new planet, hanging somewhere in this infinite universe.

There are some of the flags hanging out today that have seen many years, that were made long ago by some creative young person who is now long dead. The Gareval family have a particularly old example, made by great aunt Trelly when she was fourteen way back when. Deep in closets and under beds are many thousand other flags, the state they signify long abandoned. Other original flags have been lost, but their nation remains, several streets remaining loyal, the design handed down through generations of children. Some of these oldest states have long-standing relations with their similarly venerable neighbours (yet neighbours only here, in this City of impossible embassies), with whom they have gone to war and then reconciled many times; empires have risen and fallen, grand narratives have been carried out over many years.

It started with a school project assigned by an imaginative supply teacher, they say, back in the 1800s. Some don’t agree, the Union of Children states that an adult could not have started a celebration so filled with imagination and life, and that it must, therefore, have been the work of children. Whoever started it, it’s been a long time since you could walk down any Buentoilliçan street on the 23rd of July and not see the flags, potato printed and proud, no matter what the weather.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Hoarsest Folk Voice
  • The Feathered Band Day
  • Stretch Yourself Tall Do Not Fall Festival