Posters with the above phrase were splashed in tube stations across London (they were for some local event or the other, but there’s never time to read these things carefully while trying to escape the crush of people in the tunnels). I felt like it pretty much summed up my experience with the massive buildup, small moments of spectacle and inconvenient aftermath involved with the Jubilee festivities.
The first big event was the river pageant on Saturday afternoon. It was touted as the event to see, and I was stoked for what I expected would be the Rose Parade on water.
My roommate and I had a leisurely 15 minute walk from our apartment to the river, where we found an extremely tight spot on Waterloo Bridge to settle down in. The bridge was packed with, from I could tell, mostly locals, waving flags and wearing very creepy masks of the Queen. There were lawn chairs, thermoses full of tea and trench coats everywhere.
We had an hour to wait before the flotilla was to pass by, and by the time it arrived my body was chilled stiff and the rain had started. So after the first gilded, royal-looking, albeit tiny ship passed, my roommate and I figured we had seen enough and squeezed our way out of the river area and dove into the first warm coffee shop we spotted.
We read later that a million people attended the pageant, and some had even camped out overnight to secure the perfect viewing spot. The last thing I camped out for was a midnight showing of Star Wars Episode III—and I guess for Britons the historic parade and the chance to see one of the longest-serving monarchs in the country’s history was an event of comparable magnitude. I guess.
It’s hard for an American to understand the relationship the royal family has with the people of the UK. How can a modern country like Britain still be bending knee to a monarch, still be honoring a bloodline with all the privileges of royalty? There are of course dissenters; representatives from the anti-monarchy organization Republic were in full force at the pageant, waving signs reading “Votes not Boats” and the like.
I’m sure this is something discussed in classrooms, pubs and homes across the UK on a daily basis. But when a little boy scrambles on a fence, waving his binoculars and screaming “The Queen is coming, the Queen is coming!”, no one seems to remember any of that. After all, it was a day off and a chance to rub shoulders with others taken by patriotic fever. I’m just sad that I won’t be home to do the same on the 4thof July.
Monday night, day one of the two-day bank holiday, was the concert at Buckingham Palace featuring Paul McCartney and Elton John (sidebar: as I make my way through Game of Thrones and recall one of my favorite books, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, both of which feature knights in shining armor, the idea that these guys are knights seems…an interesting statement on what it means to be a knight). With tickets booked months in advanced there was no chance of getting in the concert, but I figured I might as well check out what’s happening on The Mall in front of Buckingham. Giant screens were set up for the thousands milling around in the area surrounding the palace. I watched half a Paul McCartney song and left. This wasn’t my scene, and, again, it was freezing. Apparently it’s a tradition that every bank holiday in Britain has miserable weather.
And then there was Tuesday. More Jubilee events, including a carriage processional and balcony appearance by the royal family. My last chance to see the queen. Instead, I took the tube in the opposite direction to get ready-made falafel at my favorite Mediterranean store (falafel in London deserves a blog post of its own) and then hid out the rest of the afternoon in the National Gallery. More rain. More cold.
So I didn’t see the Queen, and I did a lot of standing in the rain, but the five-day weekend did feature some non-Jubilee fun. This included a ridiculously indulgent sundae at Harrods’ Ice Cream Parlor, afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones, jasmine tea and clotted cream (obsessed with that stuff), an exhibit of ballgowns at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a gorgeous falconer pin bought at the Portobello antique market, and the highlight of it all, Thriller Live, a Michael Jackson tribute show at the Lyric Theater that made me fall in love with MJ all over again.
I think I’ll go an try to moonwalk in the kitchen now.