Sunday, June 03, 2012
It's June 3, Jubilee Sunday, and the rain is falling softly outside my window. It rained torrentially last night and the road was flooded on our way back from my brother's pizza and beer party. It isn't raining hard this morning, but that soft penetrating rain is falling, which soaks you through. It's much colder than it has been for a while, a day for fires and cardigans inside.
My mother has gone to bed, feeling tired from two late nights after late meals and sleeping badly. My nephews stayed overnight and she got up early and made them pancakes while they forced her to watch wrestling on the tv and fought over the computer, but she looked worn out and rather grey-faced when they left, and I told her to go to bed and rest, and she did. She's looking forward to the Diamond Jubilee flotilla thing, but the pictures from the Guardian's website make the crowds look bedraggled and thin on the ground so far.
Maybe it's a bit early, it doesn't start until 2.30pm, and I suppose that people may have put off leaving in view of the weather. I imagine a nationwide searching of cupboards under the stairs for cagoules and waterproofs, wellies and umbrellas. Really, it's an old fashioned English summer... raining gently.
I have mixed feelings about the Jubilee. I don't believe in an hereditary monarchy, notwithstanding the fact I have traced my family back to Edward III. It seems to be mostly sentimentality: if anyone suggested we should have an hereditary prime minister, or Council Leader, or doctor, or dentist, people would rebel. It's the fact that an accident of fate meant that we had our revolution and then lost our way and begged the monarchy to come back, which has left us in this situation. I wonder if they feel threatened by the gradual eroding of the hereditary peers and the changing of the house of Lords?
I don't wish the family any harm, but I don't think they should still be there. I consider them an anachronism, a puppet group who have very little to do with anything, people we think we know and wheel out when anything with pomp and circumstance is required, like performing monkeys. In fact they are our very own zoo of royal animals, required to perform to order when we choose to enact one of the ancient rituals, like the state opening of parliament or this jubilee. Feeling this way, it doesn't seem appropriate or necessary to celebrate the fact that Elizabeth Windsor is still breathing after all these years. But of course people talk of the events that have punctuated their lives, and in England, the celebrations associated with Monarchs are one of the things people remember.
It's complicated by the fact that so many people do celebrate the royal family and drink up any reports of their doings as voraciously as the accounts of film stars: our own posh family reality show, still going after all these years. People assign real meaning to pieces of metal pinned to their chests, or arbitrary titles assigned by the action of the monarch in touching them on the shoulders with a sword.
It's always seemed weird to me that the Queen should assign a lot of titles to her children - Charles has a dozen spurious titles granted by his mother. Why bother? If you are the son of the monarch and heir to the throne then you can give yourself any stupid title you might wish to have, so why bother with any at all? Why not stick to "prince"? It bemuses me. As a Quaker I ought not to recognize any of the titles, should stick to Elizabeth Windsor and Charles Windsor, and I know that many of the Quakers have written to both refusing to acknowledge any other title.
My children have actually been deprived of more than royal celebrations. I refused to go to or look at the Millennium Dome, as I considered it a dubious waste of money, and I retain that view. I'd have spent the money in burying all the miles of overhead electricity cables. In the end, I think that might have been the cheaper option, and it would have been a legacy worth having, I think. I refused to celebrate the millennium when the rest of the country did, as they celebrated on January 1, 2000, which was the last year of the previous millennium and not the first of the new one, as there is no year zero in our calendar. That annoyed me a lot. Perhaps I am just an old curmudgeon and would rather grumble than celebrate?
Anyway, I may not be a monarchist, but I do have empathy for other people, and thus I am sorry that they are soggily awaiting the flotilla of ships on the Thames in the rain. I think that those who choose to watch it will definitely get a better view on television than in person, but of course they cannot be said to be a part of the event in the same way as someone who queues and pushes and experiences the real life drip of rainwater down the back of the neck. I feel sorry for the many organizers of street parties, urgently trying to organize shelter to avoid a washout. Hopefully the rain will stop, but it shows no sign of doing so. But then, maybe it's what we English do best, resilience in the face of adversity. Maybe the tales will be better, more interesting, for it not being a warm June day of sunshine. Maybe.
Postscript: I may not be a monarchist, but I can still deplore the treatment of elderly people. How was this a thank you to the monarch- making her stand in the cold and wet for such a very long time. I should think she thinks we hate her, poor thing.