It all started because there was flagpole bracket above his front door when he bought the house. Then he stumbled across a pole at a hardware store that came complete with a Canadian flag. He thought that would be the end of it. The project seemed complete.
But it was actually just the beginning.
The happenstance turned Mr. Neil into a budding vexillologist. (That’s a fancy word for flag nerd.)
The following year Neil picked up the Stars & Stripes on a trip south. He’d fly it on the Fourth of July to honour our American neighbours, he thought.
Then things snowballed, in the way hobbies tend to do.
“I’ve always liked the Union Jack, and so on, and so on,” Neil said. “I learned quickly that eBay is an easy way to purchase flags. My wife would say too easy, way too easy. She has a certain roll of her eyes when the mail arrives with another flag-like parcel.”
Over the next few years Neil amassed more than 30 flags, kept neatly in a hanging shoe organizer he found at a thrift shop.
While not exactly the talk of the town, his flags have become something neighbours tend to look for, and look forward too. They’ve served as an easy ice-breaker in a day and age when stopping to chat with folks on a walk around the block doesn’t seem as common as it once was.
“The whole thing has been a great way to meet many of our neighbours,” Neil said. “Some come to the door asking what it’s all about, others are curious as to what some of the more obscure flags are. I like to give them a choice; I can just tell them, or if they like I can give them clues and they can guess. I’m also very impressed with how many people really know their flags!”
He’s got some pretty cool ones.
“First, are flags of places we’ve visited and liked, such as Spain, Hawaii and New York City. The second group are flags I just really like their design, like Texas, California and Vietnam. The third group includes flags for things we have connections to, or interests in. We have a New Zealand flag because my wife grew up there, a BC Lions flag we try to remember to fly on game days, and a Zimbabwe flag as we have family there.”
The list goes on.
And while it’s not as quick as Facebook or Twitter, it’s become a bit of an old-school way for passersby to learn where the big events of the day are happening.
“Sometimes the choice is based on the news, sadly often to mark a tragedy, such as Hurricane Harvey in Texas, or terrorist attacks in France and Britain,” he explained.
Otherwise, he just flies what he feels like: usually something that hasn’t been hoisted in a while.
“If we have friends visiting from outside Canada, it’s nice if we can fly their flag,” he said.
It’s not earth shattering news by any means, but it does kind of showcase the world in an uncommon way.