Gawd bless you, Ma'am
The pageantry is over; the Jubilee has come and gone. So how was it for you? Did you break out the long street-party tables, tug the odd forelock, wave a flag, sing a song or look on with indifference while getting nicely mullered on your extra day off? Ultimately was it about royalists and republicans, pubs or patriotism asks Basement (Union) Jack?
For the record, just to be clear, I'm a big fan of Her Maj and the monarchy. The walls of Chez Jack aren't decorated with commemorative royal plates or anything - but then I'm not 150 years old nor am I a resident at a home for the mentally bewildered. Nevertheless, personally speaking, having a monarchy is one of the few things that sets us aside from the hideous grey, mediocre nations around the globe. We may be mediocre, but we're colourful at least!
For good or ill the legacy of our royal heads of state down the centuries, the tyrants, the explorers, the reformers and George III who was as mad as a brush apparently, is forever entwined in the British identity. It's our history and heritage, it's colourful and compelling and we'd be a poorer nation if we discarded it and became a republic. In fact, advocates of a British republic are frankly a cheerless bunch of killjoys with a massive chip on their collective shoulders who point to the cost of the royals while steadfastly ignoring the benefits. To those individuals I would say, turn those frowns upside down and/or start going to bed a bit earlier.
This background is important as a context as I have so say that I remained hugely indifferent to the Queen's 60th Jubilee celebrations. No doubt Her Maj has had a cracking good innings and she has my best wishes but, really, the scale of the celebrations just seemed a little bonkers. There's the much-hyped concert, there were music and arts festivals, there's the thousand-boat Thames flotilla and that's before we get to the tens of thousands of smaller events that erupted across the country like patriotic pustules. Seriously, has everyone just been pretending to be cynical when it comes to expressions of national pride?
We all enjoy a party, no doubt, but as a nation we seem to have developed a chemical addiction to bunting and patriotic comedy hats. Card shops, service stations and supermarkets were positively choked with jubilee-related merchandise - whatever folk could slap a Union Jack on, they did with gusto. What's more it was being snapped up by the bushel - no matter how tacky or crap.
Some unofficial jubilee-related items showed some real commercial creativity. My personal favourite of these came from the ever-magnificent etailer shotdeadinthehead.com. Its range of comedy teeshirts (one of which adorns this page) were unlikely to please older jubilee celebrants, but I like to think of it as bringing the celebrations to new, less-engaged markets.
Overall, despite the austere times in which we're living it was estimated that we'd spend around £823 million on jubilee celebrations (stick that up your clackers anti-royalist pig dogs). That's immense and a welcome shot in the arm for an economy that's had little to cheer about these past few years - baffling to yours truly, but welcome nonetheless.
Up and down the land were reports of street parties, the very mention of which bring me out in a cold sweat. Whenever I hear 'street party' I picture those long-tabled, spam-serving events celebrating the end of World War II hosted by terrifyingly pragmatic East End mothers-of-five who kept the home fires burning, who dug for victory and embodied the Blitz Spirit.
Back there and back then it might have been the norm to socialise and celebrate with the neighbours but we don't do that any more, do we? Our neighbours are strangers to whom we might grunt the occasional greeting if there was absolutely no way to avoid eye contact. The idea of having to sit and talk to them over a prolonged period while picking at mediocre finger-food and watered-down squash is the true stuff of nightmares...no matter what the occasion.
But that's what so many of us did to one degree or another. Was it a show of nationalist/royalist fervour? Maybe. On reflection I think it more likely that it was simply a nation that has had to endure a lot of bad news for a long time enjoying a couple of extra days off thanks to Her Maj. And for that, Ma'am you have my heartfelt gratitude.