Jubilee bunting covers much of Britain for Jubilee weekend and the weeks and days leading up to it. In the local village both the butcher and the baker have strung up little flags across their frontages. The lamp posts have pairs of special Jubilee Union flags with the 96-year-old monarch’s smiling face in the centre.
We couldn’t be more excited to be in England for a spectacular long weekend of festivities, culminating in street parties estimated to be attended by 12 million people. The whole country has been given Thursday and Friday off and the fun continued through Saturday and Sunday. Mostly, the rain held off.
My middle daughter lives in the charming Oxfordshire village of Chipping Norton, where she can shop for colourful eggs, cow and bee juice and local produce at Jeremy Clarkson’s Diddly Squat Farm Shop. We have made the long drive down from our pied-à-terre in Yorkshire for a few days of family fun.
Not wishing to brave the crowds in London, on Day 1 we missed attending the Queen’s Birthday Parade and the Trooping of the Colour, plus the sight of the Royal family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace and the special flypast. Nor were we invited to the Day 2 luncheon and reception held for the Royal family at Guildhall by the Lord Mayor of the City of London. We watched highlights on the TV news just as we saw the BBC’s Day 3 Platinum Party at the Palace and the concert out front. Hard to believe the rock band Queen are still going, with Brian May looking like a giant woolly sheep and singer Adam Lambert standing in for the late Freddie Mercury to get the music going.
The highlight was undoubtedly the hilarious opening sketch with the Queen inviting Paddington Bear to tea at the Palace and discussing where they hide their marmalade sandwiches. The performers covered the entire range of musical styles, some we loved and some weren’t quite to our taste, but overall the show was a great big warm hug to Her Majesty’s amazing endurance on the throne over the past 70 years. Brilliant animations lit up the façade of Buckingham Palace and a squadron of drone lights created shapes in the sky, including a teapot pouring tea into a teapot. Truly, just our cup of tea.
My daughter was leaving for a quick holiday in France, so after breakfast on Day 4 we headed back to Yorkshire and arrived in time to watch the Jubilee Pageant and the three-kilometre procession of thousands on the telly.
We had endless fun and feasting at her little stone cottage and at the local pub, The Chequers. Two of my oldest friends joined us for festivities and we watched the celebrations and parades on the telly and ate ourselves silly in the sunlit garden.
In nearby hamlet of Daylesford, there is an organic farm shop that quite surpasses Jeremey’s. Here they have invited locals to a Jubilee beacon lighting ceremony, one of three thousand around the globe. There are no crowds, just a few hundred happy people standing around with drinks from the wine bar that remains open, parking is easy and we walk to the site with ease.
We gain a front row spot leaning against a rustic fence with prevents us getting too close. The fields of Gloucestershire spread out to the horizon and the setting sun. As the sun disappears and the gloom of dusk deepens, a lone piper comes down the path, leading the folk from the bar. There’s very little ceremony. A man appears with two little girls, lights a torch on a long pole and the little girls jointly lift the flames up to the waiting log filled brazier. Eagerly, the flames spread through the beacon and soon it is merrily ablaze. In the distance, another beacon lights up. That’s it. A simple and charming tribute to the Queen’s Jubilee.
At Windsor Castle, The Queen pressed a button to set off a chain of lights that ended with a giant tree sculpture in front of Buckingham Palace being spotlighted. This was a tip of the hat to the Queen’s Green Canopy campaign with hundreds of saplings in pots that are later to be planted all over the realm. My own tree was a maple planted as I wrote last November, which I am pleased to report is doing well and is in full leaf in our little Yorkshire garden.
While my daughter and her partner braved the chaos at Brit airports we calmly drove back north and arrived back in Yorkshire for a taste of village festivities. But once there the rain came down steadily and we decided not to brave the soggy celebrations on the village green, preferring instead to stay warm and cosy and watch the parade on the telly.
I don’t think this truly captures the fun and excitement the four day holiday engendered. The Telegraph‘s Allison Pearson covered it best in her front page story: “Well, what a glorious day that turned out to be,” she wrote of Day 1. “The thunder of a thousand guardsmen standing to attention. Along The Mall, for as far as the eye could see, the Union flags so big, so beautiful, so many; how they lift your heart. The swelling sense that it was OK to feel proud to be British … Three adorable great-grand children smiling and practicing their waving in an open carriage … Even the weather, cold, sullen and spitty … got the memo and pulled itself together just in time. The Queen’s Wedgewood blue coat matched the Wedgewood blue sky. Perfection.”
There were moments of true emotion when The Queen’s presence was felt by the entire nation. Her very few appearances–for she is sadly beginning to show her 96 years–were special indeed. When the Royal Standard was raised over Buckingham Palace during the final moments of the Jubilee Pageant, there was a palpable hush over the crowd. The nation’s Mum was back home. After Ed Sheeran wowed the audience with a lovely tribute called Perfect, she appeared on the famous balcony with three future kings and waved for a few brief moments.
And then she was gone and the incredible four-day Jubilee weekend was officially over.
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