London Diary: The Queen’s last hurrah and her sense of humour
American bikers once asked her if she had met the monarch. The Queen said, 'no' but pointing to her guard added, 'He has'. The bikers wanted to be photographed with the guard and she happily obliged
Queen’s last hurrah
It was an expensive party. The four-day Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the Queen’s ascent to the throne cost us — the taxpayers—roughly £28 million. And that’s before we start to add up the cost of policing, and some £12 million spent by the Department of Education on sending a book to every primary school pupil to mark the occasion.
To many ordinary Britons, such extravagance appeared vulgar at a time when Britain is passing through one of its worst cost-of-living crises. As I wrote in my last column, things are so bad that children are suffering from food poisoning and going to school in unwashed clothes as parents switch off their electrical appliances to save money.
Another question uppermost on people’s minds as they soaked in the pomp and pageantry was: how long will the British monarchy survive? Or rather should it survive at all?
Well, it seems, it’s here to say, judging by a poll showing that 62% think Britain should continue to have a monarchy, with only 22% preferring an elected head of state instead. Britons have consistently been in favour of continuing the monarchy, but there has been a decline over the last decade, from a high of 75% in July 2012, to 62% now. The decline has been particularly marked among young people, and Labour-voting Britons.
But for all this, the bash was a welcome distraction from the drip-drip of Downing Street scandals. But, above all, it was a historic event—the 96-year-old frail monarch’s last hurrah—and it left even diehard Republicans with a lump in their throat.
On the telly
Much of the wall-to-wall TV coverage of the jubilee celebrations was monopolised by celebrities masquerading as “royal pundits” mouthing inanities. But it was the ordinary people who had more interesting things to say.
On Sky News, Richard Griffin, a former protection officer of the Queen, provided a rare insight into her sense of humour. He recalled how she once met two American hikers who didn’t recognise her. When they asked if she had ever met the monarch, she said no, but that Griffin had.
The hikers then wanted to be photographed with him and gave the Queen their camera for her to take a photo of them with Griffin. And she happily obliged!
Minutes into its marathon coverage, the BBC started to run out of superlatives. It was all “truly historic”, “remarkable”, “unique”, “momentous”, “magnificent” and “spectacular”. One of its star presenters gushed that the children of Prince William were “perfecting the art of waving and smiling at the same time” alluding to their spontaneous acts of hyperactivity. Some insight.
An imperial madness?
Imagine India going back to the era of paise and annas. Man of even the older generation of Indians, let alone the young, would struggle to tell how many paises go into an anna, and how annas add up to a rupee.
But this is exactly what the British government is planning to appease PM Boris Johnson’s Brexit mates in the name of reviving Great Britain’s “old glory” allegedly clouded by its EU membership.
To coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the government has launched a consultation examining a return to the imperial system of pints it had to give up after joining the EU. It has justified the move arguing that pounds and pints are “part of our national identity”.
If the outcome of the consultation is favourable, shopkeepers would be required to display metric units--pounds, ounces, pints, cubits and rod—alongside imperial measurements. The proposal has attracted criticism from more commonsensical people. Conservative peer and boss of Asda chain of stores Stuart Rose, formerly of M&S, has called the plans “complete and utter nonsense”.
“I’ve never heard such nonsense in my life. Does anybody in this country below 40 know how many ounces there are in a pound?” he asked echoing a widespread view.
Woman no more
Guess what? Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) has removed the word “women” from its main online health advice for those being treated for cervical, womb and ovarian cancers provoking accusations of pandering to the trans-gender lobby and “desexing” women.
Criticising the move, Health Secretary Sajid Javid called for common sense to make sure that “the right language” should be used to “give people the best possible patient care” .
One woman said: “I was born female and am proud to be a woman, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother; I find this “desexing” insulting and belittling.
And, lastly, here’s a tip on the best way to uncork a champagne bottle courtesy a Times reader Roger Hart:
“The best and safest way to open a bottle of champagne is to hold the cork and turn the bottle. It never fails.”
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)