Monday, June 4, 2012

The Diamond Jubilee weekend

I'm sitting on the sofa watching the Queen's Jubilee Concert, arguing with The Irishman over whether The Beatles originally sang Live and Let Die (I was sort of right, it was Wings) and thought it was the right time to update you all on the Diamond Jubilee festivities thus far. That's me above, with my face through a placard in Victoria Station and it pretty much sums up the weekend: flags, buntings, and Corgis galore.

It started Friday on my walk to work. The pub above is my local, where I had my 30th birthday party, getting ready for the onslaught of the coming festivities. It cheered me up and set the stage for the rest of the holiday weekend.

When I got to work, bunting and chalk drawings greeted me. Can you see the theme yet?

We spent Saturday out in East London at a music festival (a post about that later), but Sunday was devoted to the Jubilee flotilla. We decided to go down to the riverside near Tate Britain, and try to find a spot near a large screen. This is what we saw when we met up with friends at a pub near the Pimlico tube station.

And here is what we saw on our way to finding a viewing spot:

The screens were great, as you got to see all of the goings-on down river in Chelsea Harbour where the royal party was boarding their respective watercraft. When the Duchess of Cambridge came on screen for the first time, a massive cheer went up and the flags went wild. All around me I heard "She's gooooorgeous!" A lesser cheer went up for Charles and Camilla. But of course, the biggest cheer of all went up for the Queen.

And then the flotilla procession began. I had to stand on tip toes, but when I did I could glimpse Kate in her bright red dress and get a good view of the royal barge. It was pretty special. 

The rain started not long after the Queen sailed past, so we decamped to a pub near Victoria Station. This is Elizabeth Street.

We sat outside a street party table, with lovely flower arrangements that reflected the flowers of the British nations.

And some unfortunate spelling on lovely decorative bread. 

In Victoria Station, this cheeky sign was a brilliant symbol of the mood of everyone in the city - despite the weather.

Today we went to Oxford Street, and Regent Street was decked out with bunting and flags.

Carnaby Street of course had a more eccentric take on the Union Jack.

And then we had lunch in Chinatown, where the Union Jack hung next to the Chinese flag across the neighborhood.

Even the drag queens were celebrating, with confetti and balloons during an outdoor concert.

And of course, there was the Jubilee concert this evening in front of Buckingham Palace. It was surprisingly emotional, with Prince Charles calling the Queen "Mummy" and the Queen breaking into a smile as her subjects cheered and clapped for her. But the festivities aren't over; tomorrow there is a service at St Paul's Cathedral and procession down The Mall. I don't think we'll try to attend any of those celebrations as the weather will be crap again, and I want to take advantage of some of the Jubilee sales that are flooding the high streets.

I remarked to The Irishman that I felt sort of weird after yesterday, standing for hours in the rain to crane my neck for a glimpse of a monarch that technically isn't mine. I mean, I'm a native of a country that defined itself by rejecting the British royal family and rule; The Irishman's people were persecuted for centuries and tried to kill the Queen. Yet we both found the Jubilee celebrations to be wonderfully moving displays that we were more than happy to join. The Irishman thought that it was a testament to the Queen's ability to bring people together and lead in such a way that helped mend differences. I think that the Queen is a lovely grandmother sort who has mellowed so much since I moved to the UK. 

There was a lovely piece of footage during tonight's concert that summed up how I see the Queen: in it, she is examining soldiers standing to attention - including William. As she passes him, he cracks a smile and then straightens his face but not before she pauses a moment and smiles herself. That shared look of love through duty is what I've come to see of the Queen in my four years of living in the UK. A lot of articles have been written about the Queen over the last few weeks, many (if not most) of them positively praising her influence on the world and the UK, but I've found the personal portraits the most fascinating. Here is a woman who completely dedicated her life to duty to the Realm, and had to adapt to some of the most changing situations in history. Sometimes she changed too slowly, but at this point, 60 years in, she's found an equilibrium that most of us dream to possess. Whether she likes it or, not, Diana was good for her and the family and you can see her influence in how the Queen treats her grandsons and her subjects.

I'm glad I got to experience the Jubilee, and all of the pomp and circumstance, even if every time I hear God Save the Queen I think of My Country, 'Tis of Thee. It's a special time for a special woman, who sets an example that all politicians around the world should study and heed.


  1. Thanks for your insight from a 'foreign' native's perspective :-)

    You were in the top 5 blogs search re: the jubilee celebrations BTW.....

  2. I'm so jealous you got to be there! But very glad that you lived it up to the fullest :)

  3. @Anonymous - thank you for reading! I'm glad the insights were valuable and hopefully amusing! Thanks also for the nice comment, I'm sure others will jump ahead of me but still it's nice to hear.

    @Betsy - if you were like my mom and watched the coverage on BBC America, you saw much more than I did (and in a much more comfortable way) ;)

  4. You did well braving the crowds down on the river banks! Looks like you had a fantastic weekend.

  5. Hi Kat! It looks like you enjoyed yourself as well! Love your blog, thank you for stopping by! x