Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

I love boats, so was eagerly anticipating the Jubilee River Pageant last Sunday.

Headed by the beautiful 94 ft Royal Rowbarge Gloriana - the first to be built for more than a century – unique in that among the participating vessels, it’s the only one specially commissioned for the event) the 1000 strong flotilla of small boats made its way from Battersea all the way to Tower Bridge. There were more than 180 unpowered boats from sea-kayaks to longboats, gigs, Chinese dragon boats, 17th Century pleasure barges, shallops and skiffs. (Friends and neighbours Tony and Gloria Mays were rowing their double-skiff – which, incidentally, was built in the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee).

The Queen and senior members of the Royal Family were in The Spirit of Chartwell.


This Royal Barge was lavishly decorated with 17th Century furniture. Standing proudly at the helm is Paul Ludvig - the Royal Bargemaster - who I intend to paint next week, as soon as I can compose a background comprising an appropriate view of part of the pageant.
One of the sailing boats 127 year-old Amazon was also present at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Royal Fleet Review. Forty-five of the Dunkirk Little Ships took part. I just wish Raymond Baxter, friend and previous Commodore of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships was still alive – he would have been so proud to have headed these vessels in his boat L’Orage.
I only wish the BBC’s television coverage of this magnificent event had not been so inane with unprepared, ill-informed and frankly patronising presenters. Had any of the Dimbleby brothers been there they would have made sure to research the boats, the history, and the London landmarks as the flotilla passed by. Instead we had low-grade celebrity-driven drivel. Peter Sissons, one of the BBC’s most distinguished figures called the coverage ‘a disaster’. Words like ‘There’s a big boat coming past now, followed by four small ones!’ Sissons noted ‘What should have been historic coverage was just dominated by silly stunts, It was incredibly self-indulgent, The presenters were awful. None of them seemed to have done any research at all about what was going on. All of these vessels, all this history – yet nothing was explained. I was crying out for more information, but it was just gushing inanities.’ By contrast Richard Dimbleby spent 6 months researching for his coverage of the Queen’s wedding in 1953. I doubt whether any of this crop of BBC presenters spent much more than 6 minutes on research.
Nevertheless the occasion was spectacular, although I couldn’t be present in London that day as I was in Hampshire to attend my nephew’s Silver Wedding celebrations.

On Monday morning I was invited by my neighbours Ed and Annie T Simons to a Jubille party. And splendid it was. We were all treated to a magnificent brunch. Here’s the table – very loyally decorated.

About 30 guests were there, including my friends Jane and Brian Hill, together with
Mike Reed and Vanessa.

While we partied the television showed the film of the Coronation in 1953. ( I remember it well, as still a young lad I watched it all from a vantage point in Trafalgar Square. My memories include the various sounds of the marching bands as they came by, and especially the large and imposing presence of Queen Salote from Tonga sitting proudly in her carriage ignoring the rain. I could hardly see the tiny little figure sitting next to her. He apparently was her physician. When Noel Coward was asked who her small companion was, he replied “Her Lunch!”)

Later in the afternoon I drove Diane Sutherland to our Jubilee Street Party in Remenham (my village). All the trestle tables were lined up outside the church, and we were soon served tea, sandwiches and cakes by a bevy of willing helpers.

One welcome visitor was this American guy sporting the colours of the US flag. But he has put a union jack in his hat-band I see.
One of the features of the day was to ask the youngest Remenham villager together with the youngest to cut the Jubilee cake.


My nephew Neil and his wife Stephanie were celebrating their Silver Wedding Anniversary on Sunday, so I drove Val down to Denmead for the occasion. Pity my sat-nav took us on the boring motorway route. For our present, Val. Louisa and I clubbed together to order this very tasteful picture printed on a silvery-grey canvas,


And here are Neil, Stephanie and their children Becky and Christopher followed by a family group on the day


At last both my boats are back in the water and raring to go. Here’s Marsh Mundy after a comprehensive makeover and repair. The only problem is we found a fair amount of water on the cushions in the cabin the other day and still haven’t located the leak.

Nevertheless we made the cruiser ready on Friday evening and were all ready to go for our first spin of the year when Brian and Jane turned up in their boat and invited us to join them instead for a trip down river to Hambleden. It was a calm and tranquil evening. Her they are leaving our landing stages.

On Saturday morning Lady Joanna Palmer had invited my young friend and I to Windsor Castle. (She is the widow of Sir Patrick Palmer who was the Constable-Governor of the Castle.)Having lived in the Norman Tower for seven years as Joanna escorted us round the castle she could tell us all sorts of interesting stories about the events there. These little tit-bits made all the difference to our visit. This door wsas the entrance to their tower.

And a few other views


When we got home it still being a tranquil afternoon we jumped into Marsh Midget, my dinghy, and I rowed to the bridge and back. Now that I have a spanking new mahogany rudder it’d so much easier to row without constantly looking over my shoulder. My young friend soon got the hang of the steering and we had a lovely time.. Lately, as the residents at Marsh Mills have been inundated by Canada geese, squawking at night and most of the day, but most annoying of all, making a terrible mess on our boats. So we’ve invested in a couple of these bird scarers.

Don’t know whether they’ll do any good – we’ll see.

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