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The! On:2012-06-23 17:36:47

I hate crowds, especially really excited crowds, not to mention the downright hysteria that so often surrounds them, so when I planned this year’s visit to the UK, I made a point of carefully avoiding the crowds and the excitement, not to mention the downright hysteria surrounding the upcoming London Olympics. Foolishly, however, I completely forgot to avoid the crowds and the excitement, not to mention the downright hysteria surrounding the Queen’s Jubilee! Completely missed the fact that my oh-so-cleverly chosen Olympics-bypassing visit would have slap-bang in its middle the entire nation going gaga for a week or more, congregating in vast excited, not to mention downright hysterical crowds, simply because the present Queen is still the present Queen.

I mean, early on in our trip at a time which was well before the gagaishness was supposed to start, Georgia and I went to see that rather weird play, Ayckbourn's ‘Time of my Life’ at the Maddermarket, a little local theatre, and right out of the blue and when we thought it was all over bar the bowing, the cast suddenly had us all stand up and sing the National Anthem! This was particularly distressing for a person of my age, because I well remember a time, years ago when I was young, when at the end of a performance in theaters (and especially cinemas too) they would always at the end of the show (or film) play the National Anthem, but, being decent folks back then, they would always have a short delay so that the audience had a chance to run like Hell to get out of the building before they had to stand like frozen idiots until the damn thing finished. This had two important functions: one, it gave the audience some useful if rather intense exercise and two, and the more important of the two, it stopped the buggers loitering in the auditorium and delaying the next show. But this sudden and egregious outbreak of wild patriotism at the Maddermarket was cruel and unusual in that it didn’t give its victims a chance. We had to stand there, many of us shamed into singing the few words of it we could remember, for agonizing minutes. Minutes!! Till it finally finished with a heartfelt ‘God save the Queen!’ Well I certainly was glad to hear the end.
Indeed if I hear ‘God save the Queen!’ one more time my legs will probably fall off.
You see, as a rationalist and a sort of vaguely republican socialist, and furthermore as a recent addition to the rolls of US citizenry, the only part of ‘God save the Queen!’ I can reasonably get behind is the ‘The’.
And you can’t do much with just the ‘The’.
Though, maintaining my curmudgeon-cred aside, even I have to admit that there actually is just a tiny bit of good that came out of this frequent outbreaking of untoward patriotism and all the wild existing of those really excited Jubilee crowds, and the downright hysteria that surrounded them. You see a few years ago there was very little flag flying over there in Britian. This may shock you as an American, but of late if you flew the flag in Britain (either the cross of St George for England alone or the Union Flag for the whole kit and caboodle) it was usually not a good sign: it meant that you were either a soccer hooligan, a member of the National Front (Britain’s almost-fascist right-wing party) or else (most disturbing of all) a government building. The flag had been more or less stolen by the bad guys (and buildings), and in politically correct Britain was actually in danger of becoming almost as bad a symbol as the swastika, would you believe! Ah! But now, after the Jubilee and all the really excited, flag waving Jubilee crowds, and the downright hysteria of Union Flagging that surrounded them, it has again been stolen back by normal, decent people. So I figure that the good will be that in a week or so the Leaders of the National Front are going to be really disappointed, and their little Charlie Chaplin mustaches are going to be all droopy and sad, when they finally realize that all those flag waving crowds; those really excited crowds; those downright hysterical wavers of the Union Flag weren’t in fact new members of their party.
Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton

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