Game of throne

Hey, I celebrated the Queen’s Silver Jubilee along with everybody else in 1977. I was 12 and not yet a republican. The country had three TV channels and most cinemas had one screen. We didn’t have a street party in Winsford Way, because it was a through road, but there was a modest crisps-and-jelly affair for the kids in Jean and Geoff’s back garden, which I seem to remember appreciating, despite being the oldest there and approaching the quagmire of teenage. Mum bought us Jubilee-themed t-shirts – white with a Union Jack “J” on them, I think – and we wore them without protest and certainly without irony. My brother and I rode our bikes round the estate to see which houses had decorations outside. It was quite a few.

I must have been dimly aware of the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen but if so, it is not mentioned in my diary, only the fireworks on telly and the day off school and the lighting of the beacons, also on telly. Perhaps news really did travel more slowly to the provinces in those days. Punk certainly didn’t enter my life until 1979.

As a fully grown adult in 2002, I had to sit through the Queen’s Golden Jubilee as a card-carrying armchair anti-monarchist; by this time I had long come to regard the Monarchy as an outmoded, offensive and defunct proposition. The very idea of a bloodline denoting an income based upon tax and a caste system that actually categorises the majority as “subjects” is surely a relic from another century, and not even the 20th.

We may not be able to stop landowners handing down their wealth to their heirs (well, we could tax them harder like the postwar government did, but unless we’re going to stage an actual revolution – in this heat? – the rich won’t be stripped of their assets any time soon), but we can surely take the Royals off the civil list. No? Even at cut price and by selling off their yacht and putting a gift shop in Buckingham Palace, they still cost the state £32.1 million a year in grants and direct subsidy, and the fawning celebrations for this latest Jubilee are not going to come cheap. Not with all those boats! (Although it’s delightful to know that tourists will have to pay to enter certain public thoroughfares at the weekend. Glad you came?) Actually, in the fine tradition of public events, it’s being mostly funded by private money, but the taxpayer is stumping up for the not-inconsiderable security bill.

The Queen herself has a personal fortune of £310 million, mainly from property, so she doesn’t need to work again. She’s old; let her retire. So is her heir; let him retire too – he’s got plenty of retirementy things to be getting on with. If we’re going to keep this eccentric family as living waxworks for tourism, which is an option, then cut them loose, turn them into a private corporation and let them manage their own finances without state handouts. If they want jobs where they don’t have to pay tax, then they should become the head of the IMF. (Surely the Tories would stand up and cheer the notion of privatising them?)

I think what I’m really against this weekend is not the Queen asking us to celebrate her not-insignificant 60 years on the throne, but the four-day weekend itself. Two bank holidays? Really? (And this was originally a New Labour initiative, I believe.) And there was I thinking the economy was in peril. I’ve just received my weekly email from Transport For London and it basically tells me not to bother going into Central London between Friday and Tuesday. Similar advice will be sent out for the Olympics and the Paralympics, a grotesque carnival of corporate self-interest and cross-promotion whose admirable sporting achievements will struggle to be seen and heard above the din of product placement. (Cheery cartoon posters on the trains warn those of us who live here and whose council tax paid for the Olympics to avoid certain key stations, change our journeys, work from home and generally get ready to have our working lives disrupted for the best part of a month. Other posters ask us to volunteer to clean the streets of London for nothing, and entice us to do so by jokily telling us that it’s like when your Mum comes round your flat except your flat in London and your Mum is the “rest of the world”. This initiative is sponsored by Fabreze and other cleaning brands linked with huge multinational petrochemical corporations, which begs the question: why don’t they put their sponsorship money into paying people without jobs to clean up? I thought that’s what this recovery was all about?)

This is no summer to live in the capital. (And God help you if you are disabled; I saw a report on Channel 4 News which showed a wheelchair user getting on the Piccadilly line at Heathrow and being literally unable to get off the train for the whole line, having to travel all the way back to Heathrow to escape the London Underground. Still, they did rather spring the Olympics on us, didn’t they?)

I admit it: I dislike forced jollity. I’m all for fun, don’t get me wrong, but I like to decide when I’m going to have it. (I’m not much use on New Year’s Eve, either, but I am great at spontaneously getting the beers and rosé in and turning an afternoon into a long night without warning. And not always on my own!) I find it difficult to get worked up about things the Royals have achieved, as they have the biggest head start in Britain. When one of them found a girlfriend willing to sacrifice all vestiges of normality and privacy in return for marrying into his eccentric family a year ago, I was expected to be excited about that. I wasn’t.

If you’re interested, the Guardian did a very informative pictorial spread on the weekend’s festivities, with all the sailing ships and everything. It’s here. (It being a republican paper, it also shows you how much the Queen costs.) I’m planning on avoiding the whole thing by going to the cinema for four whole days (cool, dark, serves chilled beverages etc.). It will be good practice for the Olympics. If I may risk an athletics allusion, don’t get me started on the Olympics.

(Oh, I’m really looking forward to Euro 2012. I hope those far-right Ukrainians are excited that their Mum ie. the rest of the world, is coming round their flat.)

11 thoughts on “Game of throne

  1. I’m a bit split on not just the Jubilee but the whole monarchy. On the one hand I totally take your point about it being a completely outdated model. But on the other hand, events like this do bring people together don’t they? I’m not particularly patriotic at all, but I found myself being drawn in to the wedding last year. I didn’t expect to be, it just happened. It made me feel part of something. Which incidentally, is one of the reasons why I love football.

  2. I love the tradition and the way such celebrations bring the whole country together. I’ve seen houses adorned with flags with people outside who at first glance I wrongly judged to not give a toss about anything. I am tired of how everything is only seen in terms of pounds and pence on news an radio, and I’m disappointed that you hav taken this oh so now familiar path. I love that part of our culture that celebrates our unique togetherness. As far as I can see the Conservative trick of tuning us against each other, denouncing religion, telling us how much everything costs and to do more or less because it’s patriotic while giving tax cut to the rich has not only spread to the news but also seemingly brainwashed yourself, a writer who I always look to for a fresh, non sponsored view. I respect your opinion wholeheartedly and don’t expect everyone else to live the monarchy in the way I do, but please don’t go down the cost rhetoric direction of everything that is going on this year. The govt has plenty of money, but wants us working people to forget celebrating anything, r taking a day off, because it costs x amount to the economy, e royal family costs x amount, etc etc. They want us to fight within ourselves, taking TE attention away from the corruption and growing riches of the top 1 percent. Let’s celebrate our rich past and culture nd be proud of who we are, let’s enjoy ourselves, it’s not all about markets, money and so called cost.

    • A passionate response, Matt. I have no problem with celebrating our past. It’s when the past is the present that I get worried. And I hope everybody has a brilliant time over the long weekend, doing whatever they want to do. Just count me out – that’s all I was saying.

  3. I wish it were your council tax paying for the Olympics. I can’t help feeling that somewhere along the line I’m paying for it too. As if the Games weren’t enough we have this endless chuffing torch relay – as if someone in London honestly thinks people elsewhere in the country haven’t seen fire before. There’s something horribly school sports day about it.

    And the Jubilee is the school fete: tat with bunting. I think I said at the time that I went out actively seeking anyone celebrating “the wedding” and found no one. But there they all were on the local news nonetheless – some street parties that looked about as convincing as a nightclub scene in a movie.

    I’m sure some people *are* looking forward to the Jubilee. I’m sure some are even looking forward to the Olympics. The sheer numbers involved render it likely. And if Wills and Kate and that arse woman aren’t selling newspapers and magazines then I don’t know what they are doing. The fact that I couldn’t care less about the wedding or the Jubilee or the Games shouldn’t blind me to this. But I don’t know anyone who does care about these things. I don’t care if we keep the monarchy or abolish it – I’m indifferent to it. I just wish there was less of this hysteria about everything.

    We know why the BBC has to make a big song and dance about both of these events. I’d like to think it was deliberately overplaying them – taking them ridiculously too far. But whether it is or it isn’t, what we’re seeing is a lie. All I remember of ’77 is that the squash was too weak to be drinkable. The Sex Pistols were a lie too, of course. And Keith Richards still can’t get through an interview without saying how much more rebellious The Stones were than The Beatles. I know it’s all lies and I should be used to it by now. But come on! She’s just a woman who hasn’t died yet. It’s just a sporting event. What is there to feel part of?

    I loved the Queen recently being trundled out in her coach to give “her” speech amid all the pomp and twattery to tell us that first and foremost her government is focussing on austerity. If only she’d looked up at the end and said, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

  4. What bothers me most about the jubilee is the way it appropriates patriotism. I am very patriotic, which I don’t see as a dirty word. Not in a ‘British is best’, knee-jerk way, but in being proud of the extraordinary, disproportionate impact we’ve had on the world, from the trivial (we invented football!) to the significant (the seemingly unstoppable rise of the English language) and many, many points in between. And yes, of course we did some terrible things along the way, but most of us realise that, and we’re dealing with it.

    I am also profoundly anti-monarchy. I’m not bothered by the cost, it’s a drop in the ocean of our debt repayments, I’m bothered by the principle that accidents of birth lead to automatic pre-eminence. These two viewpoints, as far as the jubilee celebrations go, are apparently incompatible. It is perfectly possible to love your country and hate your monarchy, but you won’t find any jubilee celebration which isn’t festooned with union flags, as if (as someone said to me the other day) “the Queen IS Britain”.

    And don’t get me started on the national anthem, which in its opening line asks me to care about two institutions in which I don’t believe.

  5. Really interesting points and the great thing about this country is we can all freely have a view and pick and choose whether to get involved in celebrations. I know from my perspective, as a Chirch of England Christian, the Queen is us in our church the head of our church and god’s representative to us, but I understand that the Queen is different thing to different people. And to me that’s what makes our country great and the envy of many. I just cringe at the usual view of everything in the UK put into financial terms, like the CBI representative on BBC news every bank holiday telling us how much a bank holiday costs to the economy, a cost that doesn’t even exist as it hasn’t been earnt or lost yet!

  6. The Jubilee has made me vaguely excited about the red white and blue colour combination and that’s about as far as I’ve thought on it. Like a model subject. (Do wonder though if the beauty of r/w/b decoration has something to do with the appeal of a Jubilee.) I’m excited, anxious and embarrassed over the Olympics. It’s not easy trying to be innocent/ romantic about it. No doubt the closer you are the harder it is as well. In another world the torch relay could have been magic (for more than a day at least); in this world we have a 47 vehicle convoy (non-electric) and something that seems like any other celeb-sprinkled roadshow. It should be unique. It shouldn’t be aiming for ‘fun’. It should be soulful theatre, like all the Olympics should be. The Olympics will still be theatre for me so er thanks!

  7. I really can’t be bothered with all this Olympics & Jubilee malarkey, but I do think it’s refreshing that a lot of us Brits are taking pride in our country for once. It’s something that Americans do all the time and can sometimes be seen as arrogance but bigging up Britain is something that we probably need at the moment and we don’t do enough. Normally the only time you see any flags or hear any talk of being proud to be British it seems to be in relation to football hooliganism or racism, i.e. “keep the non-British out”. For once I’m not getting a chilling feeling when I see rows of flags outside pubs & houses.

    • I think pride needs to start outside our front doors. We don’t need to be proud of “Britain”, whatever that is, but of ourselves, individually. I don’t need a Royal Family or the Olympics to make that point. I am proud to be British, and a Londoner, when I hear about a dozen different languages being spoken on a train, which happens often here.

  8. Funny how now everyone loves the Pistols; back in ’77 not even R1 would play them (Peel excepted) let alone R2 (where even Ken Bruce plays them now) As for Queeney, what can I say? She’s had the gig so long, she’s become part of the furniture. She helps to shift a fair bit of merch – mugs, tea towels etc. Something an elected President would probably struggle to emulate.

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