Views: 64

Postcards from London: Jubilee

Airdate: January 3, 2013

            2012 was a momentous year for London.  The mayor’s election, of course the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and in June, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  How exciting!  The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee!  Okay, I have no idea what that is.

            I soon learned that it was the commemoration of 60 years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.  But how do you celebrate such a thing?  Well first, neighbors all around London hosted street parties, which sounded like great fun to me—but I wasn’t invited to any, and somehow didn’t feel like hunting one down.  Oh well.  What else is there?

            A star-studded concert at Buckingham Palace, featuring Annie Lennox, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney to name a few.  10,000 members of the public selected by national ballot to attend the concert.  And...I was not one of them.  I caught snatches of the event on a friend’s TV, which was fine, but still didn’t feel very “jubilee.”

            On Sunday there was going to be a seven mile river parade—called a “pageant”—carrying the Queen in her royal barge, accompanied by 1000 other boats.  I heard that folks were already lining the river banks for the best viewing spots--at 8am, on a rather cold day, with rain predicted, for an event that wasn’t expected to begin until the afternoon.  No thank you.  Off to church I went, figuring that there was no way I’d get a good view of the Queen.  Who wants to stand out in the rain for hours, waiting for one moment when a golden boat passes by?  Apparently, 1.2 million people. 

            Around 1pm I took a quick stroll past the river just to get a look at the gathering crowds.  Predictably, all of the space alongside the river was occupied.  Folks had also positioned themselves on steps and other raised platforms to try and catch a glimpse of the impending pageant.  I came upon a huge television screen, broadcasting the event live.  At least here, I thought, I can see everything, if not an immediate view of the river.  I sat myself atop a bicycle docking post—thankfully, without a bike in it.  This small, flat pillar was about five inches square across, and served as a nice little stool on which to sit and eat my lunch.  I really hadn’t planned on getting caught up in the craziness of the crowd, but as the Queen’s Barge was approaching, I somehow became obsessed with seeing it—not on tv, but here, live, in this singular moment of history.  I foolishly scrambled up onto the pillar in my 2 inch heels, perched precariously as the monarch approached.  And just over the heads of the crowd, I saw the very top of that gilded boat, right in front of me!  The people roared with excitement, and I confess, I couldn’t help myself.

            Soon afterwards, a damp drizzle started, and I headed home alongside hundreds of others swarming into the Underground.  On the soaked road I spotted a small British flag which someone had dropped.  I adopted it, cleaned it up, and now it sits proudly on my shelf, just waiting for another public event.  That settles it, I thought.  I may not have a British passport, but after a cold day by the Thames, pressing into a crazy crowd for a glimpse of royalty, I think I’m official..

            — Wendy Sherer

Main photo: HRH Queen Elizabeth II's official portrait for Diamond Jubilee (

Photos at right: Wendy's view of the crowd at riverside as she sat on a cycle meter, and the cycle meter itself.

    • Postcards from London: Jubilee
    • Postcards from London: Jubilee