Oh, look, it’s Nile Rodgers! Could that be Nile Rodgers? Wow! Don’t worry, blink away, you won’t miss him …
Apologies but I cannot be alone? For months, now, the guy I, once, only associated with that record, ‘Le Freak’ by Chic, has, seemingly, become God-like, worshipped by the entire music industry and a coveted guest on every programme. So it was that I half-expected him to appear on the balcony with the Queen! I suppose, in the end, it was enough that he was in the Paddington suit sharing a sketch with Her Majesty which stole the whole weekend. Respect.
I wanted to write this before watching Piers Morgan, Uncensored. Interested to hear his thoughts on the Platinum Jubilee Weekend, I would rather submit mine to paper in advance thus avoiding any accusations of plagiarism! To be honest, his Instagram post on Saturday lunchtime – a photo of himself at Lords impersonating someone who had been pulled through a hedge backwards but, somehow, managed to glean a magnum of champagne in the process – suggests his powers of reason, henceforth, may be somewhat impaired. Hilarious. Believe me, I reckon Meghan could have been pulling pints behind the bar and he wouldn’t have noticed, such was his merriment! Then, again, probably the best state – or only state – in which to appreciate Saturday night’s Party at the Palace.
Let me rewind … Pomp, circumstance, pageantry and wonderful tradition. A description worthy of both Thursday and Friday’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Who could fail to appreciate Trooping the Colour, the military parade which has marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign for over 260 years? With over 1400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians making their way down The Mall from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guard’s Parade, accompanied by members of the Royal Family in carriages and on horseback, there can be no greater spectacle. The military precision is captivating, accompanied by the music of the bands and pipes; the colours of the uniforms and the glistening horses reminding one what it is to be British all culminating in the Balcony appearance of the Queen and her family to watch the traditional fly past and, of course, the Red Arrows. I grew up with Trooping the Colour, my parents never missing it, and, thus, I was in front of the television screen from start to finish on Thursday. Uplifting. Joyous. It set the bar for what was to follow, mischievous Prince Louis, it turns out, just warming up! Harry and Meghan? Caught through the window of the Major General’s Office overlooking Horse Guard’s Parade with the children. If the cap fits. Of course, they were still recovering from the journey – private jet from Montecito. Have several bathrooms, will travel!
Friday brought the Thanksgiving Service at St Paul’s. Once again, I was there from 10am, enthralled by the build-up as the chosen throngs made their way to their seats, hours in advance. Frontline and NHS workers very much in predominance, I believe. Nothing of the teachers who, stoically, soldiered on online, ensuring the education of future generations! What, too, of those who stacked the shelves and manned the tills of our supermarkets, the delivery drivers who transported the coveted toilet rolls, the bin men? No, apparently, we only survived the pandemic courtesy of the dedication of the NHS. Wrong. We have an army to thank. Seriously! Blinkers, or what? Something about which I feel very strongly.
St Paul’s looked suitably magnificent; the music, hymns, the readings and the sermon of the ‘stand-in’ Archbishop of York just perfect, the aforementioned daring a familiar, humorous tone which captured the joy of the occasion. No Queen but her family, in abundance, representing her and supporting her. A gloriously formal and traditional ceremony, yet one with an over-riding personal tone enhanced, moreover, by the respect and allegiance of an audience of millions … Lighting of the beacons in the evening?
It started off so well. The ceremony and tradition worthy of a historic monarch who has reigned for an unprecedented 70 years. She deserved nothing less … but, then, the lighting of the beacons on Friday evening. As she, symbolically, pressed the ball lighting up the lattice of lights all the way to Buckingham Palace and the ‘Tree of Trees’, we were with her but the overview! The ‘Tree of Trees’ in front of Buckingham Palace was situated in what looked like a gypsy encampment – or, perhaps, a fairground! Whatever, the backdrop was anything but grandiose. Cheap stands, boarding, a world away from dignified, all majesty had been stripped from the dignified facade of the Palace. A mere hint of what was to come …
At almost 800 words, I shall try not to dwell on the unworthy. However, suffice to say, the Party at the Palace served to undermine the grandeur of the previous two days. Uplifted by the unprecedented performance – and acting ability – of the Queen, alongside Paddington Bear (aka Nile Rodgers), what followed was a proverbial downhill spiral. Queen? Yes, for the name and old times’ sake but … What the hell? Who suggested – or sanctioned – what followed? Where were Coldplay, Take That, the legend that is Paul McCartney? Britain’s best? In the words of Mark Beaumont in Sunday’s Independent:
‘No wonder the Queen, herself, gave the concert the swerve; she likely saw rehearsals from a window and realised her blood pressure wouldn’t take it.’
So, not alone … One should be grateful for George Ezra, Jason Donovan and Andrea Bocelli. Alicia Keys, too, was amazing … but why? Firstly, she’s American and, much as I love ‘New York’, this was a celebration of our Queen; being British! The legend that is Rod Stewart singing Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’, why? Not only insulting, in view of Sir Rod Stewart’s back catalogue of hits, but, I repeat, why?! The rest? Eclectic. Mediocre in the extreme. Craig David? Mabel? Jax Jones? Hang on! ‘Nessun Dorma’ juxtaposing Stormzy’s rap? I rest my case. Actually, not quite. The finale: Diana Ross dressed in a toilet roll cover lip syncing to ‘Chain Reaction’?! Perhaps, at least, the technical wizardry of the lighting deserves a mention with the backdrop of Buckingham Palace transformed amidst the emblazoned imagery? Of course. Images of the Queen through the years, the Union Jack but a dog bone followed by a corgi and even Her Majesty’s handbag? Lest we forget, the line between amusing and just plain tacky is very, very thin.
Sunday’s pageant. The sight of the Gold State Coach drawn by eight Windsor Greys – the ornate, gilded carriage more than 200 years old – leading the procession through the streets of London for the first time in over twenty years was one to behold … only to be cheapened by the diminutive image of the Queen, en route to her Coronation in 1953, beamed through the window! An ‘inspired’ idea, perhaps, which should have remained just that. What followed, next, continued the now inevitable demise as buses representing the seven decades from the Queen’s ascension to the throne took their place in the procession. Filled with ‘National Treasures’, it was too much to ask that the beloved double-deckers be red in keeping with their heritage. Oh, no, in an array of colours, each bus carried a positively random ensemble of ‘celebrities’ appropriate to the succeeding decades amidst an eclectic mix of … God knows what! Playing to the masses, once more, the result was a mess of the mediocre. From the ceremonial high of Thursday to the all-time low of Sunday. Only the rain refrained from raining on the parade!
As though to save the day, however, the welcome sight of the Royal Standard appeared above Buckingham Palace – and, suddenly, nothing else mattered. The Queen had made the journey from Windsor to appear on the Balcony once more. All else irrelevant, here was the reason to celebrate: 70 years of dedication and service courtesy of our Queen, Elizabeth II. Ma’am, we thank you – and we, almost, got it so right!
‘You cannot step twice in the same river for other waters are continually flowing in.’
Heraclitus C., 500 BC.
We shall not see her like again.
This is Trish, signing off.