Jubilee: true British stoicism

Being of decidedly republican inclination, I can’t be doing with all the bunting, the flags, flotillas, the fawning and the wall-to-wall TV coverage of this bank holiday weekend’s Jubilee celebrations.  The money being spent on these shenanigans and the Olympics in the midst of a dire recession seems to me to be obscene.

As  David Hare out it in an otherwise strangely uncritical and somewhat obsequious article in yesterdays Guardian:

It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Here we are in the middle of a national carnival of disillusionment. Bankers and journalists have been sent to join politicians and payday lenders in the lowest pit of public opinion. Today, even our schools have to answer to an education secretary who, before ascending to office, had to return to the taxpayer £7,000 of our money, much of which he had spent at a furniture shop belonging to his party leader’s mother-in-law. How low can we get?  …  Today’s festivities coincide with the worst economic crisis for 80 years, brought about, we should remember, by the failure of the political class to offer the country even a modest degree of protection from a rampantly destructive City of London. No event since the invasion of Iraq has so reinforced people’s sense of powerlessness.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the people milling about under dripping umbrellas today on the village green at Hanley Swan where I took the photo above.  They were setting up the stalls, the coconut shy, the music stage, for a village celebration, while under the oak tree on the green a poster proclaimed a message of true British stoicism: ‘We’ll Weather the Weather Whatever’.

The whole country has been drenched in steady rain for two days.  We’re staying with a friend in this village near Malvern for a couple of nights and, unbelievably, the Malvern hills are invisible, shrouded in cloud.  We came here once before – and conditions were exactly the same.  We’ve never seen those hills!


8 thoughts on “Jubilee: true British stoicism

  1. Went to school in Malvern. The Ellerslie buildings are lying derelict since the merger with Malvern Boys College. We had to climb those hills regardless of weather every Sunday between church services! They are very lovely when not shrouded in cloud and the view from the top of the Beacon all the way to Upton-under(often)-Severn. I hated it then, of course! Now I wish I were there…
    Regarding Queenie and her clan. I cannot be bothered with it all myself, but the Royals seem very popular with countries that don’t have their own Monarchy and they do encourage tourists. Does the income balance the expenditure? I doubt it.

    1. ‘the Royals seem very popular with countries that don’t have their own Monarchy’. Is that the reason why Neil Young has recorded ‘God Save the Queen’ on his new album (and not the Johnny Rotten version)? The rain is pouring down here in Malvern – not sure you would want to be here today, Tessa!

      1. Hi Gerry, went to great street party in :Leeds on Monday. Seikhs, Muslims, Christians, people of no faith TOGETHER celebrating something that is not (thank heavens), party political. Later in the village pub, the same again united by a beacon lit in celebration.
        Its easy to be cynical, the truth is that so many people came together to celbrate this occasion, old relationships were renewed in our neck of the woods, and there was real community spirit. The ludricrous and frankly criminal overspending of thye last twelve years (Why are Brown and Blair not impeached for this?) should not rob ordinary people of the right to celebrate something that politicians cant easily hi-jack.Andy.

  2. Gerry you wont be able to see as far as Hay on Wye today, and we can’t see the Malverns either. Beautiful June fields of buttercups and blossoming hedges (making me think of David Hockney show), just visible in mist and rain.

  3. I’m with you on the republican stance! I think it’s obscene. I’m all for people enjoying themselves, but not at others expense. Thank goodness I’m not in UK to see it this weekend!
    The actual monetary and political situation is far more serious and precarious than anyone is telling us – the Jubilee junketing is a bit like the band playing on the deck of the Titanic!

  4. I agree with you Gerry in being in general against the waste of money and avoidance of more important issues that this whole Jubilympics represents. I must admit to having enjoyed the river pageant, being the Thames and boats, but it is probably the only element I have any interest in. It was quite spectacular to see and in a way low key on the royalty overkill where we were just before the official starting point. There was actually a real feeling of inclusiveness and community, even if it is all an illusion.

  5. “[Stories of mythology] are the edge, the interface between what can be known and what is never to be discovered, because it’s a mystery transcendent of all human research. The source of life. What is it? No one knows.” –Joseph Campbell

    What to make of the Jubilee celebrations? Off with their heads! The Queen and the Royal Family have never been paramount in my thoughts at any time except during the latter period of the ‘Diana years’ (sorry, very Daily Express), when I scoffed at her marriage, was amazed by the goings on in the early nineties, though why any of that was surprising I do not know, history is full of Royal family wars and squabbles, it was just so public, and found myself weeping the week of Diana’s death. I even went to Althorp, 2nd July 1998 with my son and gazed over the lake to her grave on the island. My mother had died from cancer in 1991 and I think I had not dealt with it appropriately until Diana died and somehow she provided a release of feelings that I had buried, perhaps because there was no burial or resting place for my mother in death and whether of her own naïve volition or not, little resting place for Diana in life. Whatever she was and it seems she was, like us, many things, she did not deserve that.
    I hope I attribute this correctly but those outpourings were, according to the composer Sir John Tavener, the end result of the processing of “vast amounts of unmastered grief”.
    There is a need for myth, we are all part of stories, like it or not and in myth there is something central and fundamental to be expressed and understood. Joseph Campbell saw this in older cultures and felt we needed to find our own myths, the Moon Landings perhaps, he suggested. Well, that first picture of Earth from the Moon in 1968 made us see for the first time how fragile, remote and beautiful our planet is. “A pale blue dot” as Carl Sagan wrote. If Shakespeare were alive, perhaps he would be taking Diana’s story or the Moon Landings and weaving a morality tale around them.
    So perhaps this weekend has been an exercise in sealing (a Royal Seal) the cap on a myth, by virtue of a dearth of any other myth that we can look to for direction and understanding, as our society has become fragmented and everyone and everything reduced to mere economic values. Our former Gods, our bankers, our governments, materialism, our apparent supreme ability to rule over all we know, have come crashing down around us and we have little to cling onto, so for some, sixty years of the Queens ‘permanence’ is their way of still believing that some things remain unmovable and immutable.
    The money thing. Well, 10 billion pounds for the Olympics (perhaps rising) and who knows how much for this weekend. In some ways it is a drop in the ocean compared to the amounts sloshed about in the UK and world economies, but on the one hand 10 billion spent on a few weeks games, on the other, 10 billion spent on funding our children in sports and education for a healthier life, it’s really a no-brainer, isn’t it? And they cut back on grass roots sports funding too, to fund it! The spirit of the Games is wonderful, the youth of the world etc., another myth creating moment, thanks to the Greeks in 1896 (and originally and they must still be paying for it, sorry, cheap joke) but the hyping up is already too much, Euro jet-fighters, surface to air missiles, troops and police, the microphones stuck in the athletes face ten seconds after they win (or lose) and that damned questioned asked repetitively, “How do you feel”? ……as Terry Wogan would say, “Is it me”? Most parents would surely rather be inspired by a sports master beaming from ear to ear at a school sports day, most kids too.
    I don’t hold it against the athletes of course or the Royal family come to that, it’s been trotted out often enough, but I guess you cannot help who you are born too, you can always try to climb up the greasy pole, but who in honesty wants to slip down it.
    The thing that both irritated and amused me most though this weekend, was the commentary on BBC TV, it seemed imperative to try to fill the gaps on every occasion and at every opportunity, usually with inane babble, which is what happens when Nature creates a vacuum…crap rushes in to fill it.
    As Richie Benaud, great cricketer and cricket commentator once said, “My mantra is: put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up.”
    Or as happened when an American TV channel decided to treat their viewers to a taste of English commentary at Wimbledon and tuned in to the BBC where Dan Maskell was commentating and got total silence for the course of a long rally as dear old Dan mused silently, save for an “Oh I say!”.
    Back to reality I thought and I watched two films this weekend, one last night, “Surviving Progress”, which in a nutshell showed how we are ‘consuming ourselves to death’ with no regard for the complexities of and supporting bio-diversity on which we depend. I believe the programme can be seen in full on the home web site of the same title. “Conventional economics is a form of brain damage” said environmentalist and biologist David Suzuki, who hails from Canada, a country hell bent it seems, on pursuing oil at any price and even pressuring environmental groups in order to suppress their funding and effectiveness. I use to think Canadians were such nice people too! Though I think some people are turning against the worm turning government.
    It touched on the myths we have built up and have failed us, “You cannot serve God and Mammon”, for no man can serve two masters. You will love one and despise the other”.
    It fed into my recently acquired interest in wolves, an animal that has become a metaphor for our current predicaments, having slaughtered millions of them across the world out of irrational behaviour and wrong thinking (evil thinking as Rowlands would correctly have it) and then re-introduced them in certain US states, Obama signs an order to ‘de-list’ them from the endangered species list and allow certain States to kill hundreds, either snared or trapped, backed by the NRA, powerful cattlemen and the hunting fraternity. The point is, (before I get on my high horse) is that this film paralleled in many ways the findings of many biologists, and this lady in particular; (an excellent blog review) who wrote this wonderful book,
    These findings (I am 20 pages in) seem to say what many formulated, guessed or through Myths (Native American and such like) came to realise over many years, that we are part of a whole. It seems to me to be another pointer towards James Lovelocks ‘Gaia’ theory, a self-balancing (never sure about that choice of word) system, which our ‘bad’ Myths are pulling apart.
    The other was “Melancholia” and I have to say I was fascinated by it. An ‘end of the world’ film on the cheap, no, there was no ‘Blakes Seven’ scenery here, just a moderate cast, though noteworthy, and a story, a myth even, in the making, of the personal becoming the universal. It was in an odd way, though it’s not at all difficult, more believable than the Hollywood blockbuster-end-o-the-world film. Having read your blog Gerry I was wary of ‘The Magus’ effect and it was indeed many things, weird, wonderful, puzzling and illuminating. In the end despite its strangeness it made me smile, reminding me of the old medieval philosopher (Spinoza) phrase used by Mark Rowlands in his ‘Philosopher and the Wolf’ book, “Sub specie aiternitatis”, being under the gaze of eternity. In the end, perhaps little matters, we come, we make our plans, we act them out, we succeed, we fail, we go. Perhaps Mr von Trier was musing on the inevitability of our own death, though he might have indicated a re-birth too, like Kubrick in 2001 – just for comfort! Shakespeare tackled this one already, “All the worlds a stage”. But in the end we must obey and be bound by the will of Nature and if we have to have a myth to abide by, make it not economics, materialism, the bankers or even the blessed Queen, make it your own mother and Mother Nature.

    “I have to tell you, madam, that your son is suffering from an Oedipus complex.”
    “Oedipus, Schmoedipus! What does it matter, so long as he loves his mother?” — Jewish joke
    “What the myths say, is that you have to be the hero of your own life. You’re the one who has to take charge of who you are, you’re the one who has to take control. And also, you’re the one who can bring something to the community.”
    — Jeanette Winterson

  6. I think it’s a good idea to be ‘away’ on holiday during these events in order to try and retain a sense of self, perspective, and reality (whatever that may be!). I don’t think my employer will give me a fortnight off during the Olympics however …….!

    When the weather turned during the second half of our holiday in the Yorkshire Dales last week, we lost sight of the hills. My partner saw only a blanket of fog on Great Shunner Fell, Lovely Seat, and Buttertubs Pass. We slowly drove home via the Peak District and the Malverns – the former was shrouded in even thicker mist, the latter not so bad!

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