An exercise in “Gonzo journalism” on the subject of the Royal Wedding.
The night before the royal wedding me and a friend, in a spirit of inquisitive apathy, decided to walk from Bond Street underground station to St James’ Park underground station. Down through Mayfair we joined the strays being pulled toward the strange heart of our nation. The signs of hysteria were there already, the wedding themed window displays weren’t the twee irony of East London, this was full blooded celebration. When you’re spending hundreds and thousands on your baubles playfulness isn’t really an option.
Through Green Park we strolled and then out in front of Buckingham Palace, straight into the scrum. Weird atmosphere as we got closer to the centre of the madness. Expectant and excited they lined the streets; tourist decked out in Gap and Union flags, the children of middle England poking their heads out from gleaming new tents. The argument that this was a party for middle England didn’t quite hold. The crowd seemed to encompass most vagaries of age, class and races. Much of the crowd didn’t seem to be driven by deference but manic curiosity. Many banners proclaimed a desire to be one of the first to see “the dress”. A strange and unfathomable collective lunacy had descended.
Amongst all this were the chosen representatives of the global media, most encased in monolithic temporary fortresses. Photographers and foot soldiers with portable cameras mixed with the rabble, seeking out the most eccentric and capturing them for posterity. Cameras hidden behind statues, lined the route. They lay in wait, like dormant Daleks, ready to take over the world.
The closer towards Westminster Abbey we got the stranger the sites became. The Mall had been manageable, but here were the true believers. We were squashed in as we tried to pass, even if you wanted to keep a degree of distance from the proceedings – a certain ironic detachment – you became part of the human circus; no better, no worse than all the other rubberneckers. A small man – must have been geriatric – union flag round his neck holding a teddy bear and a replica of the ring, an American without a tent but with a sign advising us to add him on Facebook, games of Royal Top trumps, women in wedding dresses, children signing the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber for money, one woman even had a sign proclaiming she wasn’t mad.
Were these people heroes? Individuals who dared to stray a little from centre, away from the sterile constraints of the everyday and throw themselves headlong into this baffling maelstrom? These were people who put their individual eccentricities towards the collective. But, did they need a leader – a Big Brother to follow, to claim them ? Was there an untapped power here? Could it be tapped, used for some greater good or some terrible crime?
We passed by the peace camp at Parliament Square. They seemed diminished in number, had the forces of the state come down on hard on those resistant to the celebration? Their messages were scrambled. Their signs read not just of wars for oil but of conspiracies of freemasons. Could these be the sanest people here; Dedicated fighters for unpalatable scrambled truth amongst flyby night well-wishers? I was worried for those guys.
They seemed so off message, their shabby tents humbled by the shiny new canvas city that had erupted around them. A crowd like this could go up at anytime. A jingoistic tinderbox in kerosene soaked gortex. One wrong word towards the royal couple and these well intentioned maladjusteds would be torn apart. Ripped limb from limb, severed body parts and hiking boots taken as grotesque souvenirs of the big day. A terrible thought. Maybe the forces of law and order would snatch them away, for their own safety? For the safety of the state? Where those bastard freemansons really behind all this? Maybe it was all a set up, a canny stage managed assassination. Unlikely maybe, but it’s best to case out all the options.
Who am I to begrudge these people their fun? Even, if it is a warped bizarrely deferential kind of fun. I’ve been invited to Buckingham Palace myself, I met Craig from Big Brother, but that’s another story for another time. Recent investigations into the national psyche suggest most Britons favour the monarchy but then a fairly hefty proportion of the nation seem pretty cool tearing down the last remnants of the post war consensus.
Enough, now is not the time for comment and speculation, the scenes speak for themselves. A small man, with a union flag crown atop his head danced across the road oblivious to the traffic.
A great shaved head and tree trunk arm emerged from the window of a black four by four.
“Move it you soppy twat!”
He yelled, his eye bulged from their sockets with murderous rage. The dainty fellow in the crown sang to himself as he obliviously reached the pavement. Was this the revelatory image of the day or the kind of argy bargy London sees every ten minutes? We can call it a convenient metaphor and move on. We needed to move on; these strange scenes were getting to me. I needed a swift return to atomised reality. I had wormed my way into the heart of the crowd, but I barely understood what I found.
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