As our old friend Jamie posted on Facebook recently (via a link to the LRB), it’s not entirely clear what the world sees in the Queen, but more a case of this very nothingness giving her a sort of neutrality that people find it hard to dislike. I’m very much of this mind: no great fan of the Queen (although I’ve always admired Prince Charles, funnily enough, particularly at the height of Diana mania) but with no axe to grind, either. They weren’t elected, they cost a lot of money, but were they not there London and England would somehow seem to be missing something.
So it was that this jubilee weekend we had no great plans but contrived to have a good time anyway. On Saturday we left the house at just after 1pm, knowing that the Queen would be hitting the Thames at 230 or so. Hade works at Chelsea Harbour, a long stone’s throw from Stamford Bridge and a secluded, quiet part of London favoured by the rich and reclusive, as well as visiting football teams (Barcelone stayed there the other week, for instance). Anyway, the numerous guides to the Queen’s boat trip inexplicably started that small bit further along the river so few people thought to go to the Harbour. We got off the train at Imperial Wharf just after 2pm, fizzed down the lift and found ourselves in the midst of a bevy of police and a few handfuls of people. The Queen and a few more police drove straight past us; Prince Philip waved as they did.
How about that then? We’d all seen the torturous TV images the night before. “How long have you been waiting here then?” “Where have you come from today?” “The queen’s great isn’t she?” “”She’s 86 you know?” but were able to trump them all, once more via the underpublicised Chelsea Harbour riverside. A quick snake through the harbour, a backstreet here, a kind steward there, and we were on the side of the river, part of the second row of people and able to see all the boats start their looooong journeys up towards the middle of town.
So that was nice. The concert last night was a bit underwhelming – these things have to be middle of the road by their very nature, and if it exposed the likes of Cheryl Cole rather too easily (does anyone better embody the ridiculousness of modern times than this silly woman?) then at least Gary Barlow’s token Commonwealth combination did feature something slightly different (even if, again, you could have spotted the Barlow signature sound a mile off; remember Peter Kay’s “Winner’s Song”?), and Elton John growled out a surprisingly interesting short set. Kylie Minogue was better than I’d expected, too.
What am I writing? With age comes tolerance and here I am lapping up music that not long ago I’d have turned my nose up at. But again, perhaps this is what the Queen has done; by being nothing and largely doing nothing she has made us all smile, and who can argue with such a thing? It’s been a long weekend (and by the look on the Queen’s face she feels the same) but a good one, and while the real world is only a few hours away again, it’s been terrific to be able to take some time out, forget life’s troubles and celebrate something that is easy to celebrate. God Save the Queen!
Richard Allen founded Craven Cottage Newsround in 2006. He lives in South London with Hady and Stanley, pictured above.