Had I not known what the Turkish flag looked like before I arrived in the country, it would have become abundantly clear within minutes of being there. The red and white cloth was flown gaily from every suitable orifice and there were more bronzed statues and busts of Attaturk, the Republic of Turkey’s founding father, than you could shake a kebab stick at.
The overwhelming sense of national pride was rather touching and I started wondering when our own emblem, the Union Flag (known to you and me as the Union Jack) became such a symbol of shame it only gets dusted off for sporting occasions.
I think the crux of the matter is that countries like Turkey and commonwealth countries in the West Indies and Africa, who also fly their flags high, have something to celebrate and be proud of. For them, their flags represent freedom and new beginnings, while the Union Jack carries the stink of a history of oppression.
When I think about the Union Jack I instantly conjure images of the Empire and all its trimmings such as slavery and colonialisation (though it did bring us a good cup of cha!), Geri Halliwell in skin-tight lycra at the Brit Awards (a heinous crime, if you ask me) and, of course, racial intolerance especially since the flags hues of red, white and blue have become synonymous with the far-right BNP.
Growing up as one of the few black faces in the North East, I was a regular recipient of the charming racist slur, "There ain’t no black in the Union Jack", which carried a sting then and still saddens me now that people should be allowed to remain so ignorant.
The flag which incorporates the crosses of St Andrew, St George and St Patrick has also long been criticised for neglecting the cross of the Welsh patron St David so it seems the Union Jack is also devoid of unity.
But where do we go from here? Do I want to see the flag redesigned? To which my answer is not really. The country doesn’t need an empty politically-correct gesture.
Maybe the country needs the Union Jack and all it represents as a constant reminder of how far the nation has come, and the distance it still needs to go, in creating better opportunities for marginalised groups.
And perhaps once the balance has been redressed, we can hoist our flag and truly be proud to be British.