Some thirty-plus miles in the area between Reading and Windsor: damp air; temperature no higher than 60F, a good 20 degrees cooler than it has been; a stiff breeze from the south-east and a slab of grey for sky. Another English Summer day.
The weather deteriorating just as the Royal Diamond Jubilee celebrations officially start, along with a four-day public holiday and the opportunity that represents for lots of people to get a week-long break at the cost of just three annual leave days, is perfectly English. It could be worse: in 1975 it snowed in England.
There’s a lot of bunting, flags and what-have-you around the place although it would be a mistake to say a majority of properties are joining in – the more the typical commuter village, the more the bunting. I suspect the well-off like to play at ‘community’.
I’m not sure what I think about the Jubilee. I don’t resent it and I don’t want to kick against it particularly; I imagine there’s some good coming out of it one way and another. But it doesn’t do anything for me personally, emotionally, and I can’t help but suspect the costs involved are unjustified. (A Bank Holiday day is reputed to cost about £1bn to ‘the nation’, and this is the second extra one we’ve had in as many years because of Royalty. That said, the estimated costs vary wildly.)
I can’t bring myself to be a republican in any practical sense because of the calibre of politician we have in this country. The thought of any of them as a president is deeply unsettling. We need a root-and-branch clear-out of the political classes before notions of republicanism can be entertained.
I also can’t help but think that if we could stand back and try to understand what we do and what happens on an occasion like this, we’d realise that any good that does come out it could be achieved anyway, and in a far more lasting way. We just need guidance and leadership to that end. If only genuine leadership weren’t so rare.
As it is, most of the jubilee parties and major events are planned for the next three days and the forecast is rain. England, in best bib and tucker, in glad-rags, will end up with mascara runs and bedraggled buttonholes. It’s probably completely appropriate.
(I’m referring just to England consciously: I have no idea what the Scottish or the Welsh or the Northern Irish think about the Monarchy – to listen to their nationalists you’d imagine they’re burning effigies of the Royals as I write but I doubt the vocal few are representative.)