Wednesday, 6 June 2012

I went to London to see... the Jubilee (and the Queen - I wish!)

"What did you get up to over the Jubilee Weekend?" is the question on everyone's blog at the moment and it's a question I'm happy to answer as I had been thoroughly looking forward to the occasion and the chance to celebrate Her Majesty's remarkable achievement.

Congratulations, ma'am!

Being firmly in the Royalist camp, albeit in an understated fashion (no Union Jack waistcoats, giant flags and whatnot here), the bunting had been hung by Tuesday of the previous week and plans were tentatively being made.  As it happens they weren't really followed, but a fun time was had nonetheless.

On Saturday I went to the local Jubilee party in the nearby park, although it was advertised as simply an "Afternoon Fun Day" to cater for everyone no doubt.  I say "advertised", but a badly-handwritten fabric sheet draped over some railings (such that the top part was folded back over itself rendering the first line invisible) was the only real advertising the thing got (as far as I know) so it was a pleasant surprise to see it garner quite a crowd.

Considering the poor level of advance notice and the fact that the organisers were the same people whose "Victorian Christmas Fayre" consisted of two opposing Cats' Protection League and RSPCA raffle stands and a dilapidated cup-and-saucer ride all manned by people in jeans and fleeces I wasn't expecting much.  It turned out to be a bigger event (not difficult after the winter's "fayre") but still mainly featured lucky dip stalls with silly prizes such as giant inflatable hammers; also present were a couple of bouncy castles, the CPL offering free neutering(!) and some dance troupes jumping around to modern bass-heavy music.  All right for the children, no doubt, but little to keep me there so I took a turn around the rest of the park instead.


I had a half-formed plan in mind to head to London on the Sunday to try and catch a glimpse of the royal barge but a wall of grey accompanied by heavy rain as early as 11 o'clock dissuaded me.  I have nothing but admiration for those who braved the weather line the banks of the Thames and feel a bit silly for wimping out, but I resolved to go to Town on the Monday instead and contented myself with watching the proceedings on the television.  It was certainly a drier experience, although I began to believe that I would have seen more of interest had I actually gone to the City.  I'm glad to see that I wasn't alone in deploring the B.B.C's coverage.  I know they're having to cut costs, but honestly it was a bit of a shambles I thought.  What say you, who saw the broadcast?

So to the Tuesday, and I hopped on a train to the metropolis at 11:30.  I'd decided again to miss the crowds at St Paul's and instead take a leisurely stroll around all my old City haunts and just take in the Jubilee spirit.  My "stroll" ended up taking me from Fenchurch Street all the way to Waterloo Bridge, via Leadenhall Market and the Thames Path and with the odd stop to snap the near-complete Shard and the Tate Modern.

The Jubilee spirit was still very much in evidence, with lots of tourists, Union flags and families around the South Bank, obviously seeing some sights before waiting for the procession/heading to the Mall.  The giant picture of the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Silver Jubilee was still in place on the front of Sea Containers House and mightily impressive it was too.  It was lovely to see all the Union flags hanging from buildings and lamp posts.

I was pleased to be able to again peruse the second-hand book stalls beneath Waterloo Bridge that formed so integral a part of my lunchtimes at my old job and although I was tempted a few times nothing really called out to me so I headed back towards Fenchurch Street, this time via the Millennium Bridge and Cleary Gardens - one of the City's green spaces, the site of a Roman bath and vineyard, later a bomb-damaged area and now once again a vineyard-inspired terrace.

But for the sound of passing trains, you'd hardly think this was central London

"Fred Cleary 1905-1984, Tireless in his work to increase open space in the City"
The City itself was all but deserted, as it usually is on Sundays and bank holidays, but I did see some church service attendees around St Paul's (the bells of which were still pealing at 2 o'clock) wearing naval uniform, morning dress and tailcoat & frilled shirt, with their partners in their smart dresses and formal hats.

Speaking of smart dress - a little tip, chaps within striking distance of London.  Around the Cannon Street-Bow Lane-Cheapside triangle there were/are a large number of off-the-peg tailors - independents and chains such as T.M. Lewin - who were having closing down or summer sales with as much as 50% off.  Sadly they were closed, but surely there is a bargain or two to be had.  I may well go back and see, but for now that was the end of my Jubilee weekend.  I'm glad to see so many fellow British vintage bloggers celebrating in style, and look forward to reading yet more descriptions of Jubilee fun.


  1. Hello Bruce,
    Although to be truthful we have no interest whatsoever in either the Queen or the Royal Family, we are delighted that the Jubilee has clearly given so much pleasure to so many people over the past extended weekend.

    We have very much enjoyed the glimpses of London afforded by this post and to see so very many changes. When we lived in London we always felt the City to be a wonderful place of refuge at a weekend.

  2. I have seen The Queen twice before, once in York and again on her last Jubilee tour. Londinium was a wee bit far to go but I did see a lot on the TV box, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Glad you had a fab weekend too. X

    1. The one time I saw Her Majesty was at St Paul's, funnily enough, although the circumstances were far less happy - it was the memorial service just after the 9/11 attacks.

      The Jubilee tour visits East Anglia on the 13th & 14th June and the south-east on the 25th, so I may yet see The Queen again!

  3. Sounds like you celebrated in the best possible way - soaking up the atmosphere in the city and catching the best bits on tv. And a fun day offering free neutering, well, what more could the average loyal subject (human or feline) possibly want from their Jubilee celebrations?!

  4. I had great plans, but they had all fizzled out by Sunday as I was so tired. So I just stayed at home watching EVRYTHING on TV! Must say the BBC coverage of the flotilla was a bit pants- they skipped all the boats I wanted to see!

    1. I'm sorry to hear that, Tups. I hope you're feeling fully rested now. How'd the display go?

  5. I watched it all on TV and loved every minute. You get to see everything, not just a 10 second slot as the queen passes! The BBC did just o.k. I'm a bit sick of he likes of Fern Cotton, and so was a bit disappointed that hey had dumbed down a lot of the coverage! Nevertheless, a big UP for the UK. It slightly made me feel a bit more confident about what we can do for the Olympics opening ceremony. More of the same I hope. We do pomp so well!

  6. Here in Canada the BBC world feed kept breaking up, normally I would have been really upset, but what I saw of the coverage on Sunday was appalling! to the lowest common denominator, whats happening?
    So I turned to CNN, not usually my channel of choice (lets not even talk about the Canadian Broadcasting Service) Piers Morgan was the anchor and surprisingly good, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, perhaps he is looking for a light sentence.

  7. I'm glad you managed to get into the city. It had such a wonderful atmostohere over the long weekend, very magical. I agree with you about the BBC shambolic Flotila coverage, but I guess a lot of was to do with the weather and them having to swtich cameras and sound. There was no excuse for the emabrassing filler bits and the lack of boat coverage though. The procession was much better.


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