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My English Roots

So Cornbread asked me all these questions pretaining to London and the Queen’s Jubilee, since my Father is English and I have many relatives across the pond. Well, interestingly enough, I received the following email from my British Cousin Nigel, who lives in the city of London and had a great account of the events so far. I will share. Although lengthy, it is very interesting when he talks about the politics of England! Enjoy!

Dear all

I have had certain enquiries, mainly from overseas, about the royal stuff which has just ‘happened’. So here is my personal take on it.

This is not a good time for Republicans (a term which, I trust my American readers will realise, has an entirely different meaning this side of the pond). A token protest demonstration took place, and thus the traditional British respect for freedom of speech was upheld. Sadly the Metropolitan Police, despite their normally accurate and reliable estimates of the size of public demonstrations, did not even bother to report the numbers. Organisers tried to put it down to the rain on the second day, but somehow you knew their hearts weren’t really in it, even if, according to one report, the chosen phone booth was almost half full. As for the rest…

Millions of people came out to wave flags and many more millions appeared indifferent but thanks for the four days off. The Bank of England, miserable as ever, said this would cost the country billions. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, no less, got rained on – which will teach them a sharp lesson about busking! They actually were on a boat, one of many and varied vessels, forming a convoy along the main part of the River. As the song goes: ‘Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head’. We went down to the river afterwards and watched some of them forming a disorderly queue trying to get into a dock farther downstream. (Mind you, four hundred boats at a time was a bit much – all those oars and hats – especially as the poor harbourmaster seemed to have lost his megaphone. ‘Do what I tell you or you can’t come in!’)

The Queen looked bored much of the time, except when horses and airplanes came into view. Prince Philip proved that the royals need to empty their bladders just like the rest of us; the poor man is still in hospital. Still, future Queen Camilla got to ride in the main royal coach.

Things looked up on the second day. There was an official concert, and it didn’t rain. The pride of our entertainment industry performed, though the early ‘artistes’ were all too young for me, and much too young for the Queen, who didn’t turn up till half way through – perhaps not wanting to risk a double waterworks event. Prince Philip had asked to be excused altogether as, plumbing problem apart, he apparently doesn’t like music much.

My musical hero Cliff Richard was, unusually for him, in less than perfect voice. There’s a very unkind joke in there about ‘It’s so funny, how he can’t sing any more’, but my guess is that the monitors weren’t working and the stage a bit too bouncy for a 71-year-old. I thought Elton John did the best performance of the night – which makes it twice he’s upstaged a royal event. Tom Jones chose a song about murdering his lover. The Archbishop of Canterbury knew the words to ‘Two Little Boys’, but unfortunately Australian national treasure Rolf Harris got cut off crying in mid-song as the show moved swiftly from under-running to over-running. (For the uninitiated, the chorus goes ‘Did you think I would leave you crying…?’) Gary Barlow (who?, doubtless soon to be Sir who?) and Andrew Lloyd-Webber (he’s already Lord who?) had written a special song called, er, oh dear, I’ve forgotten already. (No, that’s not the title. I really have forgotten.)

Prime Minister David Cameron turned up wearing a tie, only to find that the younger royals hadn’t bothered. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, former Prime Ministers, weren’t invited – after all, it’s a politically neutral event. Lenny Henry (black British comedian), quite rightly remarked on the shortage of black people among the stage performers, other than a couple of Americans. One of these, a certain Grace Jones, managed to miss the point by yelling “Happy Birthday Our Queen” – thus scoring at best two words correct out of four (and the Queen looked pretty miserable too). Stevie Wonder wisely chose ‘Isn’t she lovely?’ rather than his song ‘Happy Birthday to yer’, and perhaps his opening number, ‘Sir Duke’, was a hint about getting an honour.

Then Paul McCartney (who else) closed the show. Even Princess Anne, normally hatchet-faced, managed to mouth the words to ‘All My Loving’. So Paul tried ‘Live and Let Die’ – a strange James-Bond-theme song, though good intro for the fireworks – whose title couldn’t possibly be expressing what Prince Charles was thinking: “Mummy, isn’t it my turn yet?” Then, the wonderful Paul, perhaps thinking that ‘She Loves You, Yeh Yeh Yeh’ was a bit presumptuous, finished with ‘Ob La Di, Ob La Da’, which got everyone singing. Now – sorry, but as a Beatles aficionado, I can’t resist this – the words to the chorus are actually ‘Ob La Di, Ob La Da, Life Goes On, Bra’ – no, really, look it up for yourself – which makes for a million people, royal family included, singing a chorus that mentioned womens underwear!

To be fair to Charles, he did rise to the occasion and make a decent speech – a rare thing indeed. Then the Queen lit her ceremonial beacon, looking much relieved and actually smiling, when it flared up OK without scorching her hairdo or earrings – unlike the silver jubilee in 1977, when someone accidentally set the thing off early (Woops!). There were supposed to be 4000 of these beacons, but I went to the top of our local hill (with a view right across London) and couldn’t see any of them, not even the one the Queen had just lit. Still, Venus did a beautiful and rare transit across the Sun yesterday, which was either a fitting end to the celebrations and a mystical astronomical event, or else a complete coincidence.

Now on to the Olympics in July/August. We’re only 4 miles away, but tickets are so scarce that we’ll watch it on TV like everyone else.

Further questions on a postcard please.