The build-up appears to have been carrying on for ages, but at last it is finally here. Yes, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee has arrived, marking 60 years since our Liz placed the crown on her head and officially began her reign over this grey green and pleasant land. It does seem a bit strange if you ask me, as we appear to unwittingly celebrating the death of her father as well as the start of her coronation, which seems a little insensitive. But we get an extra day off work, which I’m pretty sure is what George VI would have wanted.
Anyhow, the events to mark this occasion are many and varied – as are the seemingly endless merchandising opportunities (also known as vast arrays of complete tat) that we haven’t been able to escape from since the turn of the year. One particularly ubiquitous piece of tat is Union-Jack bunting. Bunting is a great word, but when it comes to the stuff itself, people seem to either love it or hate it. I am firmly in the latter category as I have started to develop an irrational hatred for the tacky little flags – and they are bloody everywhere.
This feeling is unlikely to mellow over the coming months, what with the Olympic and Paralympic Games also being held on these shores. So, sadly for me, bunting is here to stay for a while yet. Come September/October, when the celebrations are over and the festivities finished, I hope people will throw it away for good, or at least until Prince Harry gets married (somebody please tell that man that being ginger and single is the way forward).
Over the decades that we have been having Jubilee celebrations here in Britain (and also on other royal occasions such as Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981), the ‘street party’ has been a traditional occurrence. Street parties basically involve everyone in your road coming outside with their tables and chairs, knives, forks, glasses etc. in order to sit down and eat together like one happy, patriotic family. It is also an excuse for people to show-off just how much better their crockery is compared to the folks across the road.
Anyhow, my wife and our next-door neighbour have decided to resurrect this tradition by having a street party of our own (technically, it’s not really a street party as we don’t have a street. Instead we have more of a cul-de-sac with a lot of houses packed into it). A lovely idea, you may think, but who will be cooking the food for? The answer would appear to be yours truly and our next-door neighbour’s partner. Both of us were consulted (i.e. told) after the flyers were printed and posted through letterboxes. As such, we are now stuck with our role in the proceedings. In all honesty, my fellow cook appears just as apprehensive as me about the whole thing.
The reason for my apprehension at least is only partly about the food. After all, my barbecuing skills are much improved from my first stab at cooking for more than 4 people – which was at our house-warming last year. I tried to simultaneously cook and mingle, thereby ruining half of the food as I tried to get to grips with the barbecue that I was using for the first time (yes I know – men and multi-tasking etc.) Anyway, a friend’s 3-year old daughter asked her mum to ‘tale the wrapper off’ a sausage – so badly had I burned it.
But this time I am not alone and have my fellow cook to fall back on. Despite this, I still fear I could be distracted again and end up cremating someone’s expensive, hand-reared, organically produced burger from Waitrose that they paid £5.50 for. Mind you, I don’t live in the posh part of town, so I’m hoping that my neighbours are less high-maintenance when it comes to al-fresco eating.
But, the general problem is the unknown quantity of the people. I don’t know exactly how many flyers were posted and how many of our neighbours’ friends and family may also show up. I don’t know if they properly read the request to bring their own food, drink and cutlery, proper street party-style. I don’t know how, if there are quite a few of them, we are going to fit everyone in the space that my wife and neighbour have decided to hold the ‘celebrations’.
Ah yes, the ‘space’. As we aren’t technically a street, the area designated for our little party is a curious little patch of grass that sits across the small footpath and adjacent to a couple of parking spaces, opposite both our house and the house next door. My wife and I legally own this piece of land, and therefore are the ones that maintain it, cut the grass and tend to the tree and shrubs that adorn it. However, this doesn’t stop all and sundry traipsing all over the grass and letting their dogs shit on it – without then picking it up. This is on occasions when we haven’t invited people over to chomp on a jet-black burger.
The thought which then occurs to me is: what is the random collection of people want to use the toilet – more specifically, our toilet? It would be fine if it were our friends and family popping up the stairs, but we don’t know these people. I’ll cook the food, I’ll make polite – if patently awkward – conversation but I really don’t fancy my bathroom being turned into a public lavatory. Like I said, I don’t know them. What if they have aiming or coordination issues? If anyone wants to use my toilet, can I just ask that they pop back to their own house? Is this rude? Am I rude? Are they rude? Frankly, it’s a minefield.
But, maybe I should relax and stop thinking so much about it. This is a time of celebration after all and I’m sure that her Majesty would want her subjects to relax and just take the day as it comes. So, if the rain holds off then the likelihood is that I will be spending Tuesday drinking, eating over-cooked food outside whilst surrounded by bunting, making awkward conversations about the weather and the parking situation with people I don’t know or have that much in common with. How very British – here’s to you, Liz.