The bunting has been strung, Union Jacks tethered and, as I write this, the vessels are mustering at Hammersmith and Battersea. Yes, the Jubilee weekend is well and truly underway. There’s nothing we Brits like more than an excuse to dust off our patriotism and order a party-platter.
Whatever your views on the monarchy, the Queen does a fantastic job of bringing us together. In fact, this sense of unity, is, I think, the single most significant feature of her reign. Governments come and go, and political crises dog every generation, but the House of Windsor endures. Tomorrow, we shall go back to ignoring our neighbours, but today the forced bonhomie of a street party will bring together people who haven’t spoken to each since they moved into the neighbourhood. Children will be wearing red, white and blue, pensioners will be reminiscing about the Coronation, and dads stoking up the barbecue while their wives hover anxiously making sure everyone has enough to eat and is ‘having a nice time’.
|It's the taking part...|
Pity, then, that it’s raining. So what? Put up a waterproof gazebo, dig out your cagoule and light the chimenea. On with the show! And after watching poor old Engelbert get trounced in the Eurovision Song Contest we need something to celebrate.
The choir I sing with is preparing for its summer concert in a few weeks’ time, under the banner 'Merrie England', and yes, we are singing some extracts from this august work. Composed by Edward German, it is a comic opera first produced at the Savoy Theatre in London in 1902 about love and rivalry in the court of Elizabeth I. It contains such stirring works as ‘The Yeomen of England’, and it does make me laugh, though not necessarily in the way intended. I can be such a philistine.
I wouldn’t want to see an end to the monarchy – and definitely not as the result of a violent uprising – but there are elements of the institution that make me uneasy: all those rooms in palaces while people sleep on the streets, for instance. But it’s better than the alternative.
Anyway, we’ve just about got time to put away the Union Jacks before we have to put up the England flags ready for the football extravaganza that is Euro 2012. We – and by that I mean the England team, for they are us and we are them, apparently – we just have to get past France, the Ukraine and Sweden, and we’re through to the next round.
Of course, if we don’t, it’ll all be over by the 19th and Roy Hodgson will be looking for a new job.