NICKY MARR: Jubilee events left me cold – even in the sunshine
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Well, it didn’t take long to get that bunting down, did it? That might be because we didn’t put any up. Did you? If you did, I didn’t see it. The only house I saw displaying any patriotic bunting belongs to the (Conservative) councillor who lives a few doors down. But the lights under the Ness Bridge in Inverness looked pretty, didn’t they?
A Platinum Jubilee is an impressive milestone, but the wall-to-wall coverage of the nation’s “Four Day Weekend” (tell that to healthcare workers, retail staff and those in hospitality) pretty much passed us by. It wasn’t a snub, more we didn’t feel the slightest inclination to celebrate. What was happening in London or on telly seemed nothing to do with us.
So we opted for a weekend on the west coast. Just the two of us, our motorhome, a campsite on the beach and wall-to-wall sun. We sunbathed on golden sand, swam in turquoise sea and snoozed on the beach. We ate well (not a cucumber sandwich or dodgy sausage roll in sight) and poured another glass of chilled white. You could go so far as to call our weekend happy and glorious. I bet we had a better time than the Queen.
Of course, we weren’t completely out the loop. 4G meant we could keep an eye on the headlines. We watched Boris Johnson booed going into St Paul’s for a service the Queen didn’t attend. Maybe, after a life of duty, this 96-year-old has decided to finally please herself.
We tried to keep up with who turned up to which event and who might be snubbing who (Harry and Meghan featured in most headlines) but it seemed more important to watch the changing blues of the sea and sky, to follow the swallows as they swooped and dived, and to notice the seals giving paddleboarders a scornful snort as they sank back under.
Our Ross-shire weekend was hundreds of miles from the concerts and pageantry, the golden carriage parades, and the “who’s who” of the Buckingham Palace balcony. “Platty Jubbs” seemed of no relevance at all.
I have nothing against our Queen, in fact, I feel sorry for her. It’s the institution of the monarchy that leaves me feeling uncomfortable; the opulence, the protocol, the apparent detachedness, the scarlet-suited guards wearing bearskin hats, the royal list.
For 70 years our monarch has fulfilled a role foisted upon her by accident of birth. Hers has been a life of doing the right thing, of duty, public service and self-control. And as far as we know, unlike some of her children, she’s not put a patent-shod foot wrong.
Elizabeth didn’t apply for the job; it only came her way because Uncle Edward failed to fulfil the duty imposed on him and abdicated. And while it’s easy for us in 2022 to say she could – or should – have done things differently, the world was a different place in 1952.
The world was different in 1977 too. That was the year of Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee, and to this 10-year-old, sitting cross-legged on the floor of the assembly hall at school, waiting to be presented with a silver coin, it was unbelievably exciting. A silver coin of my very own? From The Actual Queen? I have no idea where this treasure might be hiding today, but eBay tells me I could buy a replacement for £2.99 (plus P&P).
I think I remember a day off school and a street party. And I think I remember feeling British, which I don’t really feel any more.
So, what has changed? Is it me, or is it Britain? Is it that I find the contrast between state banquets and food banks grossly unpalatable? Or has my childhood adoration of The Crown been chipped away by decades of scandal and apparent entitlement?
That’s lots to unpick. I may need another glass of white.
I’ll raise that glass to Elizabeth and commend her on a job dutifully done. And I hope the next in line are from closer to home than to 1952. For all our sakes.