The tickets have all been handed out fairly and efficiently. No one has grumbled about crashing websites or foreign tour operators snaffling the best seats. There are no snatch squads of lawyers and police ready to pounce on inappropriate signs and seal off London’s A-roads for a few VIPs. Yet the overall crowd figure will stretch into the millions, with billions more watching around the world.
Death is a beautiful woman, always by my side. She’ll kiss me one day, I know. She’s a companion who reminds me not to postpone anything — ‘Do it now, do it now, do it now.’ Her voice is not threatening, just constant. It tells me what matters is not how long I live, but how I live. I was once stranded in the Mojave Desert, running out of water, and without having read any of the manuals that tell you how to survive in the arid lands.
I was ten years old during the Silver Jubilee in 1977. That perfect, daft summer formed and cemented my view of the country I live in, and still makes me feel a wave of unconditional affection every time I think back to it.Social historians seem almost contractually obliged to present England during that time as a tatty, shambolic, declining realm, a dreary windswept concrete shopping precinct where everything was brown and orange.
The battle had the busy, obsessive yet irrelevant air of a point-to-point. It was a social event, held outdoors, a good place to see and be seen. The jeunesse dorée of the western Libyan town of Zuwara were out in force. People had come from miles around. Rather than tweed suits and barbours they were wearing battlefield fatigues and clung to machine-guns and rocket-launchers. As artillery rounds and bullets whistled overhead, the Zuwarans made informed comments, ducking when the shooting got too close.
The gamekeeper at the Surrey farm where I keep my horses has been banned from his local pub for looking too scruffy. Like the two farm workers in Berkshire who made headlines when they were turfed out of their local a few weeks ago, the gamekeeper has been left in no doubt that his muddy face no longer fits. Apparently, customers complained about his ancient shooting jacket, mud-splattered wellies and cloth cap.
A Jubilee for the Commonwealth – and beyondRecently I took a flight to my native Malaysia to celebrate my mum’s 79th birthday. I knew that, since I am currently living in London, a birthday present that screamed BRITAIN was in order — a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ notepaper set wrapped in tartan and placed in a Harrods shopping bag, say, or silver tea caddies in the shape of double-decker buses. At one of the tourist shops in Heathrow, my eyes fell on a shelf of bone china Diamond Jubilee plates all emblazoned in gold, many with HRH Elizabeth II’s visage beaming from the centre.
Well it’s all too terribly, terribly exciting: 60 glorious years on the throne of England and almost more than that in my consciousness. I first became aware of the then Princess Elizabeth when I was a young evacuee in Ilfracombe. In my parents’ sudden mad rush from London to escape the Blitz, unnecessary things like toys were left behind. I made do by playing with conkers and skipping on an old frayed rope but it was all rather boring until the woman next door produced a treasure — an old cutting-out book from the 1937 coronation of King George VI.
David Frum has spoken for American conservatism for a generation – now he despairs of itDavid Frum has been a major force in American conservatism for more than 20 years. He was a speechwriter in President George W. Bush’s first administration and is said to have coined the phrase ‘axis of evil’. In the last few years, however, he has fallen out with the leading conservative magazine, National Review, the leading conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, and the leading conservative TV network, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News.
‘The woes of painters!’ lamented Edward Lear in a letter to a friend in 1862. Earlier that day, he was pottering around his apartment in Corfu Town, when, glancing out of the window, he spotted a troop of soldiers marching past. One of them, a certain Colonel Bruce, spied Lear and saluted. At which, forgetting he had a clutch of paint-brushes in his hand, Lear saluted back — ‘& thereby transferred all my colours into my hair and whiskers, which I must now wash in turpentine or shave off’.
Emily Blunt is jolly busy. This year, she’s in three movies – Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, with Ewan McGregor; The Five-Year Engagement, with Jason Segel; and the offbeat My Sister’s Sister. Her fans, I tell her, must be really excited.Emily seems unsure: ‘D’you think so?’ she says, wrinkling her nose. ‘It might be just incredibly boring. I can imagine people’s faces when the next film comes out.
‘You know, if becoming an MP has taught me one thing it’s respect, admiration for political opponents,’ tweeted Louise Mensch, the Tory MP for Corby, last week. ‘My Labour colleagues best people ever.’ It’s ironic that she should have vouchsafed these thoughts in a tweet, because it is Twitter that is fast destroying whatever respect or admiration one might once have felt for politicians, by revealing the sheer bathos of so many of their lives.
Many Native American tribes would consult a shaman before embarking on a hunting expedition. In one tribe, a shaman would take a caribou bone, carve on it images of the kind of prey the tribe were keen to find (buffalo, deer, trailer-park video-poker addicts) and then place it on a fire. At some point the heat of the fire would cause the bone to split. The hunting party would then set out unquestioningly in the direction of the line of the crack.