Sunday 10 June 2012

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

I thought that by now the red, white and blue bunting would have come down but then I remembered that we still have the Euro Cup and the Olympics coming up. So, it will be a while before the colours that identify the Union Jack are put away. Not that I mind, though. They're also the colours of the Cuban flag.

Anyhoo, I hope Lizzy II had a jolly good time. It was a pretty decent shindig by the looks of it, even if it ended up costing us, taxpayers, £1.4bn according to Simon Jenkins in The Guardian, half of which came from lost production because of the long weekend bank holiday.

What I've seen in Britain so far is a love-hate relationship with the Queen. It's hard to fathom that the amount of people who turned up for the Jubilee concert on Monday (10,000 balloted ticket-holders inside Buckingham Palace, plus a further 250,000 in the park outsidet) was roughly the same number who marched against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. So, one could say that the country dances to the tune of  "Not In My Name" on the one hand and Cliff Richards on the other.

To say that opinions were divided on the matter of the royal hootenanny is the understatement of the century. But to say that the rift was obvious is going a tad bit too far. Probably the most conspicuous opposition came from BBC4 which broadcast the first installment of its three-part series "Punk Britannia" the day before the pageant. Yet, even that was somewhat toned down by the fact they omitted The Sex Pistols' anthemic God Save the Queen (God save the queen/She ain't no human being/There is no future/In England's dreaming). Maybe Prince Charles called Auntie to tell them to treat Mummy well.

Apparently it's a good time to be a royal right now. Their PR machine has been gaining ground ever since that "small business" with Diana made Elizabeth II seem a little out of touch with her subjects. To neutrals, this whole aristocratic revival and the various reactions to it, is like mana from heaven. It provides an invaluable update on current British attitudes towards the monarch and her progeny.
The British and Cuban flags: they share the same colours and not a dragon in sght

Of course, I'm talking from a London-centric point of view. I doubt the denizens of Wales share the same impartial opinion. For starters the Union Jack, created in 1606, includes Scotland and Northern Ireland, but no Wales, as the latter had already been part of England since 1282. Never mind, my dear Cymru chums, there's no dragon in the Cuban flag, either, and we share the same colours with the Union Jack. Plus, we were a British colony for eleven months back in 1762. And you know what? I don't harbour any hard feelings towards her majesty. Here, dear, have another jubilee-themed cupcake.

Going back to the PR machine that's put he royal family centre stage again, I think that they've pulled it off. Talking to older British people, I get the impression that it's a new type of monarchy that's coming to the fore. Prince Charles turns up to read the weather with his wife in tow. Last year his elder son, William, married his longstanding girlfriend, Kate Middleton, someone who would have been considered a "commoner" years ago and no one bat an eyelid. In fact, we, taxpayers, paid for their lavish wedding. And I didn't get an invite. Maybe, the Welsh have a point. Prince Harry goes from a swastika-wearing 20-year-old to a faux-Jamaican-patois-speaking Usain Bolt admirer. Whatever Clarence House is doing, it is hitting the target right in the middle. In austerity-ridden Britain, people came out on the streets in their thousands, if not in their hundreds of thousands, to celebrate the sixty years on the throne of a woman whose husband, Prince Phillip, once asked the black politician Lord Taylor of Warwick: "And what exotic part of the world do you come from?" And yet, there was more concern for the poor, old codger's bladder last weekend than for the 30 upaid jobseekers left stranded under London Bridge before the river pageant on Sunday.

How to interpret the reactions to the queen's jubilee? I don't know. That's my honest answer. The majority of people I've spoken to, seem to be quite blasé about it. In fact they go as far as saying that it's better to have a queen who doesn't seek publicity (she doesn't give interviews) than politicians who whore themselves out in public in an attempt to seem "normal". I have to admit that these people have a point. Standing alone, sans husband on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on Tuesday (her consort was rushed to hospital on Sunday), Lizzy II's grin cried out "The Loneliness of the Long-Reigning Monarch". And yet, she soldiered on.

That last element, resilience, might be the key factor in this royal renaissance. One image from Sunday's jubilee pageant is still engraved in my mind. It is that of the members of the Royal College of Music chamber choir standing on the deck of the Royal Philharmonic barge, singing their hearts and souls out whilst the rain lashed down on them. That, as many of those interviewed averred, is the image the queen conveys, despite the fact that she's not one of the 99% who're bearing the brunt of the cuts introduced by a coalition with no mandate to do so. I would go so far as to say that many people in the UK do not expect the queen to rule, just to entertain them. And based on the spectacle of the last few days, that's reason enough to get the bunting out.

© 2012

Next Post: “Let’s Talk About…”, to be published on Wednesday 13th June at 11:59pm (GMT)


  1. Wot? Punk Britannia with no Sex Pistols?

    Just watched the video of GSTQ. Of its age or what? Policemen with sideburns! Well, at least there was no future for sideburns.

    I was also struck by what a cultural bombshell the Pistols were. They did for the 70s what the Beatles did for the 60s.

  2. Dominic, mate, there was Pistols on Punk Britannia! But they didn't show the "God Save the Queen" clip, God knows why. And it was interesting to see all these bands I knew so little about like Dr Feelgood. I'd seen a couple of clips on The Old Grey Whistle Test and You Tube but was completely ignorant of their origins and reach. Great programme. I'll be watching the second part in a little while on the BBC iPlayer. Whilst doing the ironing! :-)

    Thanks for your comment.

    Greetings from London.

  3. With no horse in the race, so to speak, I enjoyed the Jubilee concert staged before Buckingham Palace. An older friend, who had attended the coronation, remarked how different the cast of characters were (in terms of color and class) and asked, "Did the grandchildren pick the performers?" :)

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  5. Great post, Cuban, and probably the only one about the Jubilee that I've had any interest in. I'm not a monarchy lover, I admit -- no interest at all, but I do love your judicious musings on the subject.

  6. I am a monarchist, and like the constitutional role that the monarch plays in this country. So I had a ball, decorated the cottage in a distinctly over-the-top fashion (particularly for a Scottish village) and took a horde to the nearest big hill to light a beacon. And drink gin-and-tonics.

    One thing that does bug me is the trotting out of the phrase 'accident of birth', as if all nobility, Kings, Queens etc. somehow fell out of a birth canal near a title. They are who/what they are because of their family history, just as I am who/what I am because of mine. At some point in the past someone in their family shone in battle, conned a King, made a load of dosh or married up. Being born into such a family is surely not an accident? It happens, as it does for all of us.

    And how can punk have been so long ago? I fret that it feels like yesterday. God Save the Queen!

  7. You make some telling points - the number of Iraq protesters being close to those at the palace etc. They'd say, of course, that the Queen is non-political - another brain teaser.
    An enjoyable post and very good to get the views of an outsider - if I can call you that with no disparagement intended. A great read.

  8. One important function of a monarchy, someone has written, is to put on a good show. The Jubilee was a good show, and the queen an example of constancy.

    Her hats are part of the good show.

    Best regards from Boston

  9. Many thanks for your kind comments/

    Greetings from London.



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