“Britons Brave Weather For Jubilee”. Well we are marvellous I know, and I don’t wish to detract from the many who carried on regardless, but we were hardly “braving” anything. We had the traditional, albeit continuous, British drizzle, interspersed occasionally with slightly more forthright rain, but it took precious little bravery. Hurricanes, tornadoes, mega-floods, blistering Equator-esque sun – that requires bravery. But this is Jubilee Britain where the English language has been forced into a battle against its own eloquence in order to provide ever worse metaphorical flourishes for desperate commentators. One and a half hours of boat pageant commentating was certainly taking its toll on the BBC reporters charged with explaining what we could see perfectly clearly on our television screens. The ‘Spirit of Chartwell’ may have managed a “perfect tactical manoeuvre” according to the reverential commentator, but on screen it looked pretty much like a boat chugging out from the jetty to join a bunch of other boats.
I thought the boat thing was nice, and I’m impressed that one and a half million spectators lined the Thames to see it (encouraged by the rain, which will have ensured no other events were likely to be up to much after all). This compares with the hundred or so republicans who chanted rather forlornly outside City Hall, but they were never going to be able to compete with the full weight of the British ceremonial establishment. Since the days of the gladiators grand spectacle has managed to buy public support and I don’t see things changing anytime soon. But the Queen’s stamina was impressive. Kept smiling, didn’t sit down on the cushiony throne seats, looked permanently interested, and she’s 86! I know students in their teens who struggle to show interest in anything for longer than about two minutes, and as for standing up for any length of time beyond what’s required for ordering a drink at the bar, well.....so let’s not detract from the Queen’s achievement.
The pageant, a homage to Canaletto, was a triumph and even the street parties carried pluckily on. Although not in my village, where they apparently re-located to the church hall, although the really good news is that the Morris Men are due today to perform their impenetrable dances, so we haven’t missed out on this peculiar piece of English culture. I’d like to hear a BBC commentator turn that into a language-torturing reverential piece of verbal sophistry.