I have been inhibited from blogging this week as, whilst I have a long list of things to write about on my phone (e.g. ‘Pimms? Portion sizes? What does a Kindle smell like?’), I rather feel that I can’t write until about any of that until I have written about The Elephant in the Room.
Yes, the French Open.
No, no not really the French Open. In fact I don’t really know what the French Open is. I just took the first thing I saw from the front page of the BBC news, the Dark End of the front page headed Sport. I’m guessing tennis or possibly golf?
Anyway I digress. I feel it would be rather ignoring the spirit of the age, or at least the weekend, if I didn’t write about the Jubilee.
The problem is, though, I don’t actually have an opinion on the subject. Thirty years ago, even twenty, I would have been able to produce an opinion about the royal family. A strongly-worded, if not strongly-felt, opinion with some wild hand gestures and possibly earnest hyperbole. I probably even managed an opinion about my first jubilee in 1977 and even the second one ten years ago. In fact I’m possibly just suffering from Jubilee-fatigue.
But even the old flip-flopper David Cameron has an opinion about the Jubilee. I heard him on the radio yesterday, opining that the country had joined together, ‘to celebrate something VERY IMPORTANT.’
VERY IMPORTANT?? You see that’s the kind of talk that makes me very itchy. I am not sure what this weekend has been about but I’m pretty sure that it’s not been anything VERY IMPORTANT. Unless I have completed missed the point. Not for the first time. But I think that, if you asked the 60 odd million in the country and all the currently homesick Brits, what this weekend was about, and what we were celebrating, they’d all give you a different answer.
Some of them would have said, I guess, that we have been celebrating what it’s like to be British in 2012; and I think on that score we can chalk up a resounding success. A lot of brave and stoical partying in the rain, steadfast damp drinking and some really rather well-organised events. Macca in a bad wig and a ridiculous overdose of Gary Barlow, who has taken the short route from national joke to national treasure and even – God have mercy on us all – a heartthrob.
We have also been celebrating, perhaps, a sense of community. Big Dave is terribly keen on that as we all know, planning to replace hospitals with community-run plaster-and-Germolene boxes before too long (if he doesn’t change his mind in the meantime of course).
But on the other hand I’m not sure that we need the Jubilee to bring us together, do we? I mean this weekend I was indeed standing in a field with many of my close neighbours drinking Pimms in the lightly drizzle and wishing I’d brought a (hip) flask – but that’s not that different from any other chilly June Saturday to be honest.
The British sense of community is, I’d say, fairly robust, in village, town and city alike. Last year we looped bunting round for the royal wedding and just a few weeks later we all got cross together when the Extreme Shoplifters smashed up windows and nabbed a few pairs of trainers. Yes, we came together for this, but we didn’t really need the excuse. We’d have found one anyway. Almost every weekend communities come together in all sorts of ways and they don’t need to wave flags or sing the national anthem (basically unsingable in every key by the way) at the end to give the occasion meaning.
I guess what DC was implying was that we are celebrating the Queen being on the throne for 60 years. The fact that she has lived so long. Can we get behind that? As I say, I’m not sure what I feel about the Queen. I certainly don’t love her. I don’t have any strong feelings about her at all if I’m honest. I worked for her some years ago and I would say 1. She was surprisingly short and 2. She pays very well and provides lovely sandwiches. But that’s not enough to move us much further forward.
The truth is, when I think about her sixty years of rigid duty, of endless dinners and openings and tedious engagements, I can feel only pity. I am sure this is my own personal prejudices at play here. The idea of so much scrutiny, so little privacy, the tight, tight boundaries of protocol – it’s pretty much my worst nightmare.
And all the gorgeous trappings of luxury cannot, can they, make up for the extraordinary lack of choice she has faced in her life. Can the knowledge of duty tirelessly and assiduously done ever compensate for the thousand other possible lives and pathways that a lifetime could have taken her?
And when I hear my children singing songs of gratitude for all the factory openings and civic wavings and hand shakings – I can’t help but think, well, that’s a bit paltry isn’t it? A slightly rubbish song of thanks, in exchange for a whole life? We made her. It was us. She had no choice. Our thanks aren’t really enough.
And so, maybe, before we wheel out the festives again in ten years time (because the smart money’s on a Platinum jubilee isn’t it?) how about we give her ten years off. Not an abdication (soz Charles). Just a gap decade. Time to ‘find herself’ and take drugs on a beach in Goa or ride in a Cadillac down Route 66 or whatever she might want to do.
That would really be a celebration, and a genuine vote of thanks for everything she has given to this country. But come your 96th birthday, we expect you to get back to opening stuff again.
I’d say that seems like a fair deal. Ma’am. And thanks for those lovely sandwiches back in 1993. I honestly still think about them.