Saturday, 2 June 2012
Canaletto's Community Ceremonial.
The Jubliee weekend is up and running with the Thames Pageant. An event designed to show the river off as liquid history. A Canaletto inspired homage to the industry and majesty of our City. The Royal umbilical cord linking England to London and London to an Empire where the sun never sets. Unfortunately it rained.
We went out early and caught the train up to Putney to see the 1,000 boats muster. There was a sense of expectation, but little action, so we walked up through Wandsworth to Battersea Park. All along the route were the eccentric English, not sure why they'd camped out all night, picnicing in the drizzle. Occasionally a dazed group of tourists, eyebrows furrowed, uncomfortably clutching soggy Union Jacks, unsure whether they were welcome or indeed really wanted to join in this very particular ascertion of national identity.
At the park the walk was abruptly stopped by strong armed security guards. We could see the barge across the river at Chelsea but, the rain beginning to harden, we decided, on balance little would be lost if we watched the rest on TV so we came home.
It was the most British of afternoons. The BBC sychopantically interviewing anybody who could be relied on not to shout 'off with their heads' or 'what a waste of money.' The rain getting heavier and heavier. Exhausted rowers, battling tide, elements and Clare Balding using their last ounce of strength to mouth how delighted they were to be taking part. A crusty old Thesp, drowned out by the wind, reading Wordsworth on Westminster Bridge.
Throughout it all the Royal Family feigned interest, in the way that only they can, but by the time they moored at Tower Bridge, most of the crowds had gone home, figuring that seeking shelther and a cup of tea is no less patriotic than standing alongside an aged monarch in the jaws of a tempest.
It took an age for the boats to sail past until finally a sodden choir from the Royal College of Music appeared to sing a Valkeryiesque rendition of Land of Hope and Glory.
Stirring and futile, profound and ridiculous. It seemed to perfectly capture the very British ability to be ironic and truthful in the same breath.