Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant review
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I've been looking forward to this one for weeks -- the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. That's the one where a flotilla of boats made its way up the Thames, with the Queen on her golden barge at the front. But what a day. I'm soaked and I'm tired and I stood in the same spot for four hours straight, and then it tipped it down with rain at the end. Thank christ Diamond Jubilees only come round once every sixty years, because I don't think I'd make another one.
It wasn't due to start until half-2 (and half-3 where I was going to stand), so I thought I'd get there nice and early -- 11 o'clock in the morning. That would give me nearly four hours to get a decent spot. But as soon as I came out of Waterloo I knew I'd made a mistake, because even the platforms were packed. There was a huge crowd of people hundreds strong, just walking out of Waterloo. When I finally got down to the London Eye I saw that the crowds were already 4 or 5 deep along the entire length of the river. My orginal idea was to head to Tower Bridge for the best spot, but I figured that was a total waste of time when the lousy spots were already packed like sardines. So then I headed for my second spot -- the bank beyond Westminster Bridge, directly opposite Parliament, only to find that they'd reserved that whole area for disabled people. I could probably pass for a mental patient, I thought, but there were loads of gun cops all over the place and I didn't want to risk it. So then I trapsed my way round to Lambeth Bridge with about a billion other people, hoping that it might be a bit quieter. It wasn't. That was packed to, but by this time I figured I'd better just squeeze my way in somewhere and hope for the best.
Security was super tight on the bridges, they frisked you on the way in and I even got my can of coke confiscated. I suppose they were worried about people chucking things down onto the boats. But that meant I had to stand in the same spot from half-past eleven until half-past three (when the flotilla finally arrived), without a drink, a !@$%, a seat or a bite to eat. It's the closest I've ever come to dying, no joke. But it was for the Queen, god bless her. God bless you, your Maj.
Luckily I managed to squeeze into a skinny spot right against the railings, because I'm only little, and I was lucky. I was standing next to a family who'd camped out with their blankets and deckchairs, and freezer boxes full of sandwiches and sausage rolls, like it was an overnight picnic. They'd been there since early morning. Most of the other people had been there ages too. It was a pretty good spot as well -- despite all the hassle at the start, I had managed to fluke a good spot -- I was directly in the centre of Lambeth Bridge, looking back toward Parliament, so the flotilla would pass under the bridge behind me, and then fan out in front of me, towards Westminster Bridge.
We had a big TV screen erected on our left so everyone could watch the Queen boarding the barge at Chelsea. This was at ten-past two. Great, I thought, here she comes at last. Come on girl, get a move on, my legs are dead. An hour-and-a-half later we finally saw the first rowing boat under the bridge. I can't remember the exact order of the boats right now, because there was bazillions of them (literally), but I'm pretty sure it was the rowing boats first. There must have been a couple of hundred at least. And not just boring rowing boats either -- there were gondalas a la Venice, galleons like Roman times, Chinese dragon boats, and a Royal barge with Sir Steve Redgrave on it. I'm sure he could have rowed the darn thing himself if he wanted, single-handed but he had about twenty other people pulling too.
After that (or maybe before it... lousy memory) was a boat of bells. This one had about ten two-tonne bells on it, and a load of people pulling on ropes to ring them, peeling and replying to the chimes of Westminster Abbey. Then came the birthday girl herself, standing on top of a huge red and gold barge. Prince Philip, Charles, Camilla, William and Kate and Harry were all on it too, standing up and waving like they do. It was a bit difficult to make out who was who, but luckily the Queen decided to wear a gigantic white hat which was almost as big as the boat, and Kate wore a blood-red dress the same colour as a tomato. Prince Charles and Philip were quite easy to spot because they sported more medals on their chest than the Dukes of Wellington and Marlbrough combined.
After that came a few more big boats with the Middletons, Boris Johnson and the lesser royals on. The only person I managed to spot was Boris, whose mannerisms are unmistakable even from a few hundred feet away. And after that we had a few hundred Dunkirk ships -- the little boats that plucked our soldiers off the Normandy beaches.
I am completely hazy on the order after that, but we saw some big Mississippi steamers, steam powered boats with chimneys chugging, and a fire boat letting off smoke and sizzles all the way down the river (although to be honest, it was more smoke than sizzles). Finally, bringing up the tail end were the leisure vessels full of rich people, taking their yachts out for a spin. It was about this time that the heavens opened and drenched us all, so we were wetter than the boats. I took that as my cue to leave, and headed for the train station along with about six billion other people. I saw later on the news that 1.2 million people turned up to cheer on the Queen, and I can well believe that -- I reckon half of them were on Lambeth Bridge.
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