I had been lamenting the absence of a street party in my immediate vicinity, though there was one about six streets away. With typical British reserve I knew I could not possibly attend being five streets unqualified. What really unqualifies me is the main road thundering past the end of my driveway. You could hold a party in the road if you wanted to but I suspect you’d be run over and squashed flat before the first paper plate had blown off the table cloth.
So when we all settled down to watch the celebrations on the Thames I was initially, unselfishly, so glad for them that it wasn’t raining there I had quite got over my need to eat fairy cakes in the street.
At school there was a very firm rule about eating in the street in school uniform. You couldn’t. You couldn’t on pain of detention. You couldn’t on pain of a house meeting discussing you. You couldn’t on pain of prefect on the war path. Gels, if eating, did it in the prescribed place (a dining room) at a prescribed time (school lunch) and in a prescribed formula. When the server sitting at the head of your table asked what you would like (lumpy custard, grey meat, dead vegetables) the only possible answer was: small, medium or large, please. They served you at their mercy. If you hated them and they knew you hated the skin off ginger pudding, for example, you were in for a portion hanging off the edges of your plate and have to sit there and eat it until hell froze over. I think this may have been the start of my weight troubles. I was the second smallest gel in the class and as I had been brought up by example to be an opinionated snob, I had plenty of enemies, who proliferated, because, when little, when I was at the head of the table, I dished the dirt too.
My mother sent an excuse note for barley, which I loathed, but as I loathed increasing types of food as I encountered them, she refused to send any more. Lunchtime was torture, as were all the first lessons in the afternoon, sitting feeling like a lead balloon.
So despite the proximity of the sweet shop to the bus station, I never ate on the way home. I was encouraged in this virtue by the number of prefects who shared my bus route. Not having suicidal tendencies, I travelled free of contraband, until one day when I met my mother, who had been shopping in the town. Just before we boarded the bus, she bought me an ice lolly. As we got on the bus my prefect radar activated. There they were, a pair of great big sixth form ones. To my eight year old eyes all they were lacking was machine guns. I put the lolly in my pocket, quickly. As the bus was full and the school rules stated that gels must not sit if an adult passenger was standing, I stood beside my mother clutching the metal handle on the side of the seat, horribly aware of the wet icicle in my pocket, squashing every time the bus lurched me into the seat. ‘Why are you not eating the lolly?’ Demanded my mother. ‘I don’t know why I bothered being generous to you.’ I blushed and waved my head in the direction of the enemy ‘Prefects.’ I hissed.
Several stops on, the prefect alighted, I rescued the soggy mess from my pocket and ate it with my mother tutting and brushing me down with her hanky. I got home thoroughly orange and my coat had to be brushed down and hung on the landing to recover, for which I got into trouble.
Not as much trouble as I got into the following day. I was summoned. Unbeknown to me there had been a third prefect, who turned out to be as much trouble as The Third Man, except without the Ferris wheel. I ended up with a hundred lines, a ticking off and a lifetime aversion to orange ice lollies.
So I was quite keen this Jubilee to eat in the street until I saw the rain.
It did rain didn’t it? The monarch having had practice, sensibly stayed under the canopy, in the dry in the lee of the chair she was meant to sit on. And she kept moving and warm, sensibly. The S&H is of the opinion that Charles, seating his mother in the teeth of a howling gale, taking the brunt of the driving rain, like a small sort of human windscreen, might be trying to hurry things along a bit. I felt sorry for them in the grey bit, but not half as sorry as I felt for the choir, on an exposed platform, doing God Save the Queen when the rain really got started with torrents of water washing the words out of their mouths, poor souls.
Altogether a very British spectacle, only lacking the proviso: if wet in the church hall, though quite which church hall you could have got the entire flotilla into, I’m not sure. I think statistically most important National outdoor ceremonies, involving the Queen, in this country, have been carried out in the rain. She, thanks to Brit Grit and a ton of early training plus special hat pins, never turns a hair. By gum she is good at this.
So I sat indoors like everyone else and watched it on the telly, I bet the Queen wishes she could have done the same. I didn’t get to eat in the street either, though to be fair, if I could chew, I probably could not swallow. It’s a wonderful thing, early training, whether you are up for ruler of the country or just average school teacher. (I did become a prefect eventually but I was a nice one and never handed out even one line to anyone and I started asking people what they wanted at the dinner table and listening to the answers.)
JaneLaverick.com – Jubilations.