Friday, June 8, 2012

The Diamond Jubilee

If you've been anywhere near a media outlet this past week, you know we just had the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The country celebrated sixty years of Elizabeth II's reign. Well, some call it service, not reign. I've had the opportunity to hear varied opinions about the monarchy and the queen for the past ten days - even if I didn't ask for those opinions. And the opinions run the gamut from one extreme to the other. I assumed that I'd write some biting, jingoistic blog post about how it's been revealing to be an American in this country during the Diamond Jubilee. I mean, that would be the funny route, wouldn't it? And I try to make this blog a bit on the lighter side, so that it's an easy, quick read. But I found that I've been kind of indifferent to it. It's not really fair for me to hate on it as much as it isn't fair for me to defend it. 

It's a conflicting narrative people tell about the monarchy:
It's a bit anachronistic. It brings up bad memories of a British empire, colonizing the world over; the monarchy saps millions of public funds each year. Some go so far as to say that is't an exercise in inequality and unearned reverence. But, there are a lot of people that tacitly endorse it. And lots of people talk about how it's a draw for tourists, a historic event, a symbol for the country, and - at the end of the day - none of my business!

Let's keep the politics out of it. 

Kenz and I didn't know how to properly celebrate the Jubliee. It was characteristically English weather - cold, rainy, and gray. On Sunday, we decided to stroll up to the Thames River for the flotilla parade. We knew the parade was from 2-6pm. And we knew that the Thames is a long river. I assumed that if we got there at 2ish, then we'd be able to find some spot along the southside of the river to stand along the shore and watch the boats go by. I thought to myself, "well, I have been taking a lot of walks lately. I'm sure that I can go to one of my secret spots along the river where nobody will be. Maybe ten or so people will be down near Lambeth, but not so many that we can't find a place right beside a river barrier. We'll get a good spot. I bet most of the other people will be up near Westminister, the Eye, and towards Tower Bridge where the parade finishes."

All the buses were stopping at Elephant & Castle. That was my first warning. There's like seven bridges - plenty of space for people interested in watching the flotillas, I thought. Well, most all of them were shut down. Some were open to foot traffic, but most of those were only for ticket holders. Translated: bridges for ticket holders were bridges for super rich people who had donated some amount to specific charities. The other bridges that had people on them were filled with people who had gotten there super early. Kenz noted, "Even the Queen's public appearances are private."

We walked up to Westminister Bridge to find out just what we were in for. A million people littered alongside the river. That's not an exaggeration - Kenz did some research when we got home and they had estimated that a million people came out to the river on Sunday. A million. How many of you are reading this blog in a city that doesn't even have a population of one million? Yea. We had a million just sitting along the riverbank. 

Needless to say, we didn't make it onto the Westminister Bridge. There was, however, a big screen television set up in the middle of the bridge. But I wasn't happy with our view. The boats hadn't started yet, so I suggested we move on down to my "secret" (what was I thinking) spot, further west towards Lambeth Bridge. 

This was our view when we got to my "secret" spot:
A million
People were everywhere. And they were all dressed up - some in costumes, some with painted faces, some with the Union Jack flag as a cape. 

Some smart intern at whatever movie studio is producing Madigascar 3 (an animated children's movie franchise) had suggested making branded periscopes and flags. On one side of the flag, there was the Union Jack, and on the other side there was an advertisement for the movie. The periscopes were all branded out. "Free" advertising, I guess. 

My spot was the opposite of secret. There was nowhere to stand that had a good view. I don't even want to think what time we would've had to show up in order to get a "good" spot. People were up in their business offices, plastered along the windows, looking out. People were on walls, on top of bus stops, up in trees, and even climbing on the spires at each end of the Lambeth Bridge. There was another big screen television in the middle of the Lambeth Bridge. 

As the boats started, I hoisted Kenz up on my shoulders like a good husband. She snapped countless photos of the boats passing as I grimaced, tried to breath in a relaxed fashion, and watched the boats pass by from the screens on the cell phones of the people in front of me who were taking pictures of their own. At least Kenz was happy. 

This was the boat that lead off the parade. There are bells under the gold section in the middle of the boat. We both thought the person in red in the front of the boat was the Queen. Ha! We're pretty ignorant. 

Then the flotilla parade began. There were 1000 boats in total - most of them were driven by oarsmen like the ones in this picture.

THEN the Queen came. She's in that gold section in the middle. You can see a white spec under the gold awning. That's her. Her boat was the biggest. 

Standing on top of a bus stop

Sitting on walls and bus stops

All in all, it was quite the spectacle. We were happy to have gone, but decided to opt out of the rest of the weekend's festivities. There were big events on Monday and Tuesday, but they were just as crowded and we'd had enough of the crowds. We did, however, watch some more of it on the television. Coverage on the BBC was ridiculed for being sycophantic and boring, but it seemed kind of par for the course in my opinion. It is the Queen, after all, right?

Just a random picture of Kenz
We decided to celebrate the extra day off with a midnight showing of Prometheus in the IMAX in 3D. 

I know. We look absurd.
That's it for us. Hope you have a great weekend!