Even if Dali and Magritte had put their heads together and thought up a country, chances are it wouldn’t be half as surreal as Mangrovia. The newest sovereign UN member combined tropical coastlines with a frostbitten inland, rugged inhabitants with a language that floated on poetry. It produced fauna straight out of a Jeroen Bosch painting and curious music made by instruments that sounded unlike any other. Even its continent – all of them seemed to have a valid claim – was a hotly debated topic at topography summits. To say Mangrovia was a unique country would be a massive understatement.
Hence, the challenge that befell Ambrose Ghormlay, Mangrovia’s Flagmaker Royal, was as daunting as they come. Give me a banner that embraces the broad diversity of our realm yet champions its inimitable distinctness, the president-elect had asked him three weeks ago. Tomorrow she would expect the result. But Ambrose – less than twelve hours from the deadline – still hadn’t settled on a definitive design.
He’d tried the most unusual colours: from auburn to mauvelous and urobilin. He’d shaped his flags triangular, hexagonal, even made one in the form of a spiked cog. He’d used peculiar figures to break the classic stripy flag patterns. Yet whatever he tried, none of his designs screamed ‘Mangrovia’.
Even though he’d worked the whole night through, exploring the most innovative designs any flagmaker had ever concocted, by the time the Mangrovian president arrived at his doorstep Ambrose still had no spanking new flag to show.
Meekly but honestly the Flagmaker Royal confessed: “I have no flag for Mangrovia, Mrs. President.”
“How quaint. How unusual. How utterly useless,” the president belted.
Ambrose expected a severe scolding.
The president joyfully darted outside to see the new banner already flying on hundreds of empty flagsticks in the capital.
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