I missed the lineup in the playground this morning. By the time we arrived all the children had gone in, their parents stopping to chat as they wheeled siblings back home. My girlfriends clocked me and some punctuality comments were tossed around, before I headed off to take J in through the front door.
As we entered I could see her class, lined up by the wall, standing quietly with their teacher. J spotted her latest “best friend” and I quickly bent to shush any spontaneous outburst of dramatic reuniting because the melodic strains of “O Canada” were drifting through the tannoy system, mingling with the dust motes in the sunlit air of the corridor. Another woman was standing in the hall, frozen to the spot. Everyone was quiet and still, eyes doing all the talking.
Canada is a little like the US, while there is no Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem is played in schools every morning. Coming from the UK, I’m bemused by this kind of pomp and ceremony in school (it’s reserved for the Last Night Of The Proms); as I remember it we just had assembly, which seemed to be a thoughtfully provided opportunity to power nap before class.
But I digress, here’s the rub: I’m never sure what the protocol is when the national anthem is playing. Do you stand completely still? Should I remove my hat? I don’t think I’m required to salute.
I must confess, I did think of standing, statuelike, until the music stopped, but then remembered my cup of Assam cooling on the table back home and, in hushed tones, wished J a good day at school, gave her a squeeze and a kiss and made my exit, leaving the tinny orchestra behind and stepping back into the sunlight of a bright autumn morning and the freedom from social constraints. What is the expected behaviour in this situation? Can anyone give me some pointers? Anything in Debretts that covers this? I don’t want to become a social pariah, at least, not just yet…