Flags and Madness

One hundred and fifteen years ago…

In 1897, a stately procession in a landau was all Victoria got. No wonder she looks a bit glum. This year’s model borrowed the transport for the same journey but there were a few more bells, whistles and hip-hurrahs than last time. Every blogger north of Antarctica has had his shout about the whole Jubilee business, which has driven the UK and half the rest of the world into a frenzy of red, white and blue. America hasn’t got one – a Queen, that is – except for Hillary Clinton and she don’t count. So, Washington is as afroth as Wilmslow, but they’re constitutional infants and thus are more interested in the other Middleton girl rather than HM and the Greek. Poor old chap, being in hospital for the Cliff Richard gig; however will he get over it? Brits, it has to be admitted, do the big event very well indeed, vast crowds turn up obediently, wafting flaggery, while HM, Gawd bless ‘er, cracks a smile to the brassy thump of military bands which struck terror into Napoleon’s chasseurs before Waterloo. A friend posted on FB that she was ‘PTBB’ which I thought at first might have been a ‘code secret‘ on HM’s Facebook page for ‘pretty tired and bloody bored’ but was told aloofly that it meant ‘proud to be British’. If I knew what it meant to be British, I might, I suppose, be proud of it, but I’m really not quite sure what it means any more, not having sat in a traffic jam on the M25 for quite some years. So, it was with more than my usual detachment that I watched the shenanigans and buffoonery last night. Elton John in pink penguin jacket, an avuncular Tom Jones with a white beard, the bass player from the Beatles twirling a vintage Hofner bass, impossibly bedecked in the Union Jack. . . Despite the best efforts of Grace Jones doing her usual impersonation being of a woman temporarily evading the clutches of a group of psychiatric nurses and a thirty year old hologram of  Dame Shirley Bassey, the highlight was Madness, looking portly and almost Establishment, performing ‘Our House’ and ‘It Must Be Love’ on the Palace roof. It was genuinely spectacular, a solitary, iconic moment that even the most implacable, bah-humbug opponent of the monarchy might have felt themselves softening at least a little to the event. Even me. To be fair, the old girl has done a marvellous job, doing all that standing up at her age – most pensioners don’t have to stand that long to wait for a bus. Being monarch can’t be a soft career option despite the fact that she was rudely thrust into the job at quite a tender age, barely out of diplomatic potty-training.
She was there before the Information Age, postmodernism and the Sex Pistols and has had to put up with twelve prime ministers – however did she deal with Gordon Brown, the vicar’s son, or the woman from Grantham with a first in Chemistry from Oxford? With remarkable patience, and the knack of being mentally in two places at once, it seems.
In an age of uncertainty, perhaps all of us have a primeval instinct to run home to mamma, the security of a thousand years of tradition holds people’s emotional and social tillers steady when unemployed yoof roam the streets armed with spray cans and cynicism, and the world’s dangers loom large. Am I going soft, I wonder?
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