Friday, June 08, 2012

England's dreaming

In 1977 I was chosen to be a flower girl for the annual village gala. This was always considered an honour (though I was probably quite randomly selected from the small pool of 8 year old girls in the village) but in the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, it was supposedly particularly special, although the day itself was the same as any other gala day in a small Scottish village: wearing pretty dresses (green with white hearts) made by our mothers, two of us followed the impossibly beautiful, sophisticated 12 year old Gala Queen solemnly, with a trademark halting step, as we travelled the tiny distance from the village's west to the east, first on the back of a lorry waving at handfuls of people on pavements, before ascending to a makeshift stage for the "coronation" ceremony.

There were "teas" and a disappointing gala bag with a stale pie; there was a welly throwing competition, and livestock on display; I don't remember much else except the crisp feel of new dress against my neck, and sitting ceremoniously in place for a long time, and clutching my commemorative giant 25p Jubilee coin, which lived for years thereafter in a tiny flowery purse on the basis that it might one day be worth something. An increasingly decrepit Jubilee mug sat on our cup shelf for years, guiltily preferred by me to my mum's hand-thrown cups on the basis that it was shop- bought.

I was only dimly aware of the Queen and the meaning of royalty; it was only later, during the eighties, that I developed a proper sense of outrage at the inequity of inherited position and the parasites who take advantage of it. But 1977 was a year in which there was at least a semblance of objection to the status quo; in Scotland, celebrations would always have been more muted, but for right-minded adolescents the Queen was a target figure, someone to be mocked and ridiculed, and possibly the most memorable punk record of all, God Save The Queen, was released as a reaction to the farrago of the Silver Jubilee. "You ain't no human being", "there is no future in England's dreaming"; these words may have been written by the much older Malcolm McLaren but snarled by Johnny Rotten, he seems to speak for a disaffected generation.

I have to declare a lack of interest; as an eight year old, if I had any awareness of punk, it seemed frightening and discordant. But it's hard not to long for the nihilistic clarity of a hyper-sarcastic "we mean it, ma'am" in the face of the outpouring of sycophancy that has been evident, even from afar, on the occasion of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.


Anna MR said...

It's proper funny to think that, brought up (as we are, my dear Lottie) on almost the, um, different sides of the Iron Curtain, we can both share memories of the Silver Jubilee of, well, the [current] Queen. I visited London for the first time in September of 1977; I was ten. London seemed like such a beautiful place of many possibilities; and I had no sense of the complicated historically-laden issue of inherited position or anything. I just remember it being different and exciting that there were even bits of pavement here and there, with the Queen's insignia painted on them, and the Silver Jubilee logo thing. Let alone the mugs and other paraphernalia that were everywhere. For a near-Soviet girl, this was truly exotic.

I was aware of the Sex Pistols, though. Ha.

When I saw the snippet on our Finnish news (this year, right, a few days ago) of the Queen's barge-boat-thingumy on the Thames, with all the other hundreds of boats and so on, the full pomp and circumstance and blah, there was a moment of wait-look-this-is-like-history-now-come-alive there – whether I agree with the monarchy or not (which I don't really worry over, to be truthful. Still the Soviet girl?). But this may only be because someone gave me Wolf Hall to read, whilst I was on holiday this February, and it gave the current shebang a backdrop of sorts.

[I wouldn't have read it, I think, had they not handed it to me as a holiday read – but it did transport and I thank it for that, as so little fiction can do it to me these days.]

How are you doing, my dear?


LottieP said...

Lovely to see you here, Anna. I am fine and all is well.

If you are looking for some good fiction to read, I can recommend some. For good non-fiction, have you read any Jon Ronson? Just finished The Psychopath Test and it's a wonderful, funny, self-deprecating and interesting read.

Hope all is well with you.


Anna MR said...

Glad to hear things are good, Lottie, and yes, thanks, I am fine, too.

Jon Ronson a totally new name for me, although of course I had heard of Men Who Stare at Goats (the film), but didn't know until googling him now that it was based on his book. I'll need to look up his stuff, I think; the style sounds right up my street, and your recommendation does carry some weight.

Go ahead then – let's hear what you've got in fiction, then…?

A kiss to wee Max, too