Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Making Monarchy History

It would be an understatement to say Saturday's Jubilee river pageant was well attended. You might think people have better things to do than stand out in the rain for hours waiting to see some boats go past, but you'd be mistaken. I really ought to know better, but in the event I went along to London Bridge about three o'clock, expecting to catch some of the boats as they passed the finish line, only to find huge crowds milling around up and down outside the station, looking in vain for a way to get to the Thames. We got within range of a big screen on Tower Bridge, but that's no different from watching television at home, if you discount comfort factors like a roof to keep the rain out, a sofa and a loo within easy walking distance. I spoke to a policeman who told me he went on duty at seven in the morning and people were lining the railings even then. A huge number of visitors who didn't have quite that level of determination must have come away without seeing anything at all.

The annoying thing about this is not that there wasn't room for everyone who turned up to get close to the river, but that access was so tightly controlled that the riverside spaces were in fact half empty. Near the London Assembly you could get up to the barriers easily enough, close enough to see spectators a few deep along the riverside railings, and acres of empty wet concrete behind them, but the security staff were not letting anyone through unless they had a ticket (apparently available in advance). This new craze for security may be getting just a little out of hand. Aircraft carriers on the Thames and police with machine guns (no kidding) at London railway stations are just the tip of the iceberg. On this occasion, all the bridges were closed except to invited and security-cleared participants, and there was a control barrier at every single point that gave access to the Thames.

So we had crowds and a cheerful holiday atmosphere, but really nothing happening - except for this small but quite noisy demonstration waving their placards and adding to the congestion on Tooley Street. Better than nothing, and where but an anti-monarchy demonstration would you see the message, 'Down with this sort of thing - careful now'?

Apart from that little gem, we were not amused.

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