Living In The Past For One Long Weekend

Christopher Fowler

(Most embarrassing Jubilee product tie-in this week: Krispy Kreme's pathetic memorial doughnut)

I'm not braving the crowds to stare at an LED screen.

I know I spent the Queen's Silver Jubilee on some kind of march in Windsor because there's an old photograph of me (tall and impossibly rangy, with long hair) outside a Windsor bookshop wearing a crown. I missed the gold and diamond events because I possibly had more urgent matters to attend to, like painting the kitchen ceiling. If you're a Londoner you know how these things go. There's a regular supply of beautifully constructed parades and processions taking place just a few minutes away but you don't go because of the crowds and you won't be able to see anything. At least at the Lord Mayor's show they used to sell periscopes. Now, as at the 02, you find yourself braving the crowds to stare at an LED screen. The days of a concert or parade taking place just a few feet away from you have passed. Instead there are wristbands, stewards, headcams and barriers. No longer will there be a photograph of a policeman hoisting a little girl onto his shoulders. Except that I notice this year the sight of the Queen lighting the first of the beacons that blaze out across the country is relatively lightly attended, and appears that it would have been easy to be there. I had sworn not to attend anything this time, but the Platinum Jubilee slowly wore me down. I couldn't miss the Red Arrows and another seventy aircraft conducting their flypast so I popped over to Columbia Road, which was on its route. I admit I stayed for the corgi parade and sundry parties to catch up with a group of friends who're old enough to have attended this bunting-tastic nonsense the first time around. I'm not a royalist, although I have admiration for Queen Elizabeth, the exemplar of a dutiful life who inspired various members of my family in different ways over the decades. After her passing I would not keep any of the rest for their use as ceremonial tourist mascots or their value in securing arms deals. With the eventual loss of HRH they could shut up shop, return the remaining commonwealth territories and do something more suited to a modern country that has largely switched from manufacture to new media. But of course we live in thrall to the handful of ossified Tories who initiated the unmitigated disaster of Brexit and are attempting to bring back imperial measurements. No doubt they're campaigning right now for the return of polio, Lord Lucan and 'Crackerjack'. Britain moves slowly; despite the fact that we have become a mainly secular nation, shops still stay shut on Sunday mornings in deference to the church. In my part of town you won't find any Christians, let alone practising ones. But Columbia Road provided the right tone for the celebrations, its cosmopolitan mix of people being part old school Cockney, part wealthy youngsters, and all local. The sun shone and the spirit was all a bit 'Passport to Pimlico'. The most glorious sight was seeing the roads closed so that people young and old could bring tables and chairs out of their houses and sit chatting to all who passed, as WWII planes in a configuration of 70 flew overhead.


Alan R (not verified) Fri, 03/06/2022 - 14:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

One must be careful when criticizing the monarchy. Henry V adopted the motto "Dieu et Mon Droit," or "God and my right", in the belief that the monarch has the divine right to govern. Queen Victoria survived 8 assassination attempts on her life and Elizabeth 1 survived 4. This proves that this claim cannot be taken too lightly.

James Earl Ray was confused and shot a King but of course not being a real King, there was no divine intervention and he lived a long and happy life in prison and only died at the age of 70.

If Britain had no Monarch, I would think one would have to be invented for the people. People need a monarch to make them feel safe and secure and to remind them to know their place. I would put forward Michael Caine, Colin Firth, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Idris Elba as models/examples of a new King. And as for Queen, only Dame Judi Dench could be considered.

To avoid any risk of divine intervention on my person, I sing "God Save The Queen" loudly at every opportunity. CF, I would advise you to do the same. All together now ........

snowy (not verified) Fri, 03/06/2022 - 15:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh... alright then.....

♪God save the queen
'Cause tourists are money
And our figurehead
Is not what she seems♪

♪Oh, God save history
God save your mad parade
Oh, Lord, God have mercy
All crimes are paid♪

*pogos up and down*

*gets dizzy*

*falls over into a puddle of other peoples gob*

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Fri, 03/06/2022 - 15:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Alan R Alan, what I suggest to keep CF happy (and Lord knows we must if we're to have any chance of getting another B&M installment out of him after 'Peculiar London') is that perhaps King Charles-to-be stays on --- and Queen-to-be Camilla, if you insist --- and maybe Wills and Kate and their 'adorables' --- but the rest fittingly bring the House of Windsor full circle by moving to the ancestral home of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in Thuringia, Germany to build and operate the 'Royaltyland' theme park. Although no longer technically qualified, Harry and Meghan could put in guest appearances.

Peter T (not verified) Fri, 03/06/2022 - 18:17

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

As Mr F himself wrote, the country has moved on from manufacturing. The objective is to create the world's greatest theme park, better than Disney because it's real, real kings and queens and princes and princesses, castles, palaces and ancient universities; all reduced to the greatest show on earth. Is there a place for us plebs in all this? Well, there's still those famous service industries: someone has to cook the burgers for the tourists. God save the PM!

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Fri, 03/06/2022 - 18:40

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Peter T Uill thuirt! Theme park? Or the most expensively produced reality show ? And just to be clear --- those burgers are 'handcrafted.'

Joan (not verified) Fri, 03/06/2022 - 18:41

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The Pomp and Pageantry provided a nice distraction for us riding out a Provincial Election in Ontario. It was hardly mentioned except at the end of the evening! Times have certainly changed, I remember a picture of the Queen in every classroom when I was little, admittedly a long time ago. Now people really don’t seem to care much, when Chas and Camilla was here it was downplayed on the News. I’m not sure it would be easy to replace the Monarchy here, a lot of bother would ensue for the Government and cost. And most importantly who would be on our money, when we start using it again! I guess we will be stuck with King Charles III for a while.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Fri, 03/06/2022 - 19:04

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Joan Joan, there's always Celine Dion or Tim Horton. And btw, isn't it about time you actually have a loon on the "toonie ?' Truth in currency. The polar bear I get, but Helen Mirren again as the Queen on the 'heads" side strikes me as a bit odd.

Joan (not verified) Fri, 03/06/2022 - 20:18

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Céline Dion is not popular here, only in Quebec and Las Vegas. And Tim Hortons has just been accused of gathering private information from its App. What can a Canadian do, what do you think Helen?

Richard (not verified) Fri, 03/06/2022 - 20:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Peter T: See England, England by Julian Barnes .

Roger (not verified) Sat, 04/06/2022 - 11:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

surely Canada has a good solution to problem of heads of state, Joan - someone who lives in another country and no-one makes a fuss about, so it's nice and peaceful. The other alternative, as I said elsewhere, is a dead head of state.

Christopher Fowler Sat, 04/06/2022 - 15:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy - May I suggest the ragtime song 'Boadicea' by Kenneth Williams?
'She said it's queer still being single,
But I'm a Queen and a Queen can't mingle.'

From the very suspect album 'On Pleasure Bent'.

roxanne g reynolds (not verified) Sun, 05/06/2022 - 01:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

escaping the burdens of supporting a monarchy hasn't been working out too well lately for us over here stateside. i'm open to suggestions, as long as they don't include any of the dim bulbs currently running MY state (Texas.)

Helen+Martin (not verified) Sun, 05/06/2022 - 18:58

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

We had to watch it on ABC from Seattle but we did watch the Party at the Palace Saturday evening and my husband swears he saw you in the crowd, Chris. Are you sure you didn't show up there?

Jan (not verified) Mon, 06/06/2022 - 07:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I enjoyed the Jubilee. Thought it all went off ok.

The Queen for me more than justified the role of hereditary monarchy with that speech she gave as the Covid pandemic took hold in the UK the "we will meet again" speech. This being at a time when many people took a deep breath on their way into work - or even on their way to the shops - and wondered if they would be better off staying at home. A speech of level headed reassurance which gave many folk confidence to keep calm and carry on. Perhaps a speech made all the more powerful being made by an elderly person most at risk from the virus.

In a strange sort of way this Jubilee became the end of pandemic knees up. (Not that this IS the end of our run in with covid to be sure). At the end of the day, as someone has already written, someone's head has to be on the coins and banknotes. Times change + the next monarch will not have the power or gravitas of Queen Elizabeth but I've got no big issue with there being a next monarch. When they appeared together on the balcony at the end of the pageant yesterday the next 3 kings and the Queen it made me wonder about the future for a bit. For most of us all our lives have been lived in the reign of this queen and the Jubilee marks a changing of roles within the Royal Family. Whatever your opinion of the individuals there's something in that continuity.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Mon, 06/06/2022 - 13:04

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Jan Jan, if nothing else, it gave most (many ?) a chance to feel good about something for a moment, before the realities of everyday life again closed in.

Andrea Yang (not verified) Mon, 06/06/2022 - 20:37

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

That Paddington Bear bit and the concert were great! Heard on NPR that the approval rating for Chuck is below 35% so I think the Monarchy has a good chance of dissolving after the very admirable Queen leaves the scene.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Mon, 06/06/2022 - 22:33

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm with you, Jan, even though there is a strong "Let's move past this" element in this country. Some of it is immigrant people who find they've unexpectedly chosen a monarchy as their new home, some of it is First Nations people who only want the monarchy if the treaties are going to be honoured and some is Canadians by birth who just don't like the monarchical pattern. One comfort about Charles and Camilla is that there is no way we'd have Charles for anything like as long as his Mother.

Jan (not verified) Fri, 10/06/2022 - 10:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It's a strange old do this monarchy thing.

Don't get me wrong H I am no rabid royalist but getting older and watching p.m.s and Presidents come and go and being less convinced with these individuals and their fellow politicians as they succeed each other as time goes on - i am sort of getting the point of there being a working monarchy.

At least the monarchy forma a fixture that's not so obviously part of politics - they do co-exist with politicians but monarchy is also a thing apart. Now the Commonwealth countries are filled with people from all over the world and represent truly global communities I see that the British Monarchy IS and must be less relevant to all the Commonwealth nations + perhaps particularly Canada, Australia and N.Z. I can see they all will become Republics and respect that this will happen. In a sense though and however imperfect the UK is there would have been worse templates for the commonwealth countries to have been based on. For all the evils of Empire valid systems of government arose from it.

Do you reckon Charles is ever destined for the throne? If his mum can stick round till she reaches HER mum's age (even if she's off her legs) Chaz might never make it into the role he's been preparing for all his life. Will there be a point in crowning a man edging toward his eighties? His lad will be looking toward his sixties!

That might even suit Charles' present missus who seems far to sensible to want be anything other than the Duchess of Cornwall (and likely could have done without that!) Incidently it would also have suited his 1st missus who was pretty keen on Chas stepping aside for HER son.

See one of the functions of monarchy being that they perform the role of being a model dysfunctional family for us all to gossip about. Maybe that's why the British soaps are all about little streets, squares, villages and the like we have got Dynasty for real at the Palaces.

Hope you are well Helen. God Save the Queen!

Paul C (not verified) Fri, 10/06/2022 - 11:55

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Talking of the queer old dean (a spoonerism - dear old queen), has anyone read The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett ? Genuinely funny short novel in which the queen stumbles across a mobile library while chasing a runaway corgi and gets hooked on reading. Really cheers you up

In reality, the queen only reads books about horse racing apparently......

Helen+Martin (not verified) Fri, 10/06/2022 - 18:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Paul, that was a really funny book and I laughed several times while reading it.
Jan, all going well here, relatively speaking. My big rose bush exploded into pink bloom two days ago, just in time to be hit with a violent rain and wind storm. It seems to be reviving. My yellow peony is just blooming for the first time - an extremely sunny addition to the yard. There is a wheelchair bound lady who takes a daily walk with her husband and their dog and always stops to see what has developed in our yard. It is an inspiration to go out and prepare something new.
I had an experience with an American who objected to me criticising the current President (Ronald Reagan). That's the problem with an elected Head of State, criticisms are often not well received.It does make for a rather exposed life for the heritable people, though, in this public age.