Tuesday 5 June 2012

Nothing like celebrating the Queen's 60 years on the throne to make you feel your age ... if you can not only remember the Golden and Silver Jubilees, but also the Coronation!
I have two abiding memories of the Coronation.  The first is of sitting on a hard chair in a packed Miners' Welfare Hall near our home to watch the ceremony on a black-and-white television.  The television was the great attraction - we didn't have one of our own, nor would until several years later.  But it was a bit of a disappointment to a child used to going to the Palace cinema every Saturday afternoon to watch two films (which had been shown in the morning at The Paladium, Midsomer Norton, our neighbouring town, and couriered over) - even the biggest set available to the organisers was pretty unimpressive companed to the big screen.  I also remember being rather bored and feeling guilty about that, because, after all, I was watching history being made.  To me, it all seemed endless!
My other memory is of the relentless rain.  There was to have been a big 'tea' for the children in the square outside our historic Victoria Hall, and a fancy dress parade.  I was got up as Sir Walter Raleigh, and very proud of my jaunty hat and knee breeches, and my younger sister was going as Queen Elizabeth.  Anxiously we watched the skies - not a crack in those lowering grey clouds, and still the rain came down in sheets.  We had to wear our school macs to walk down the hill to the town centre, all the glory of our costumes hidden beneath navy blue gaberdine, the parade was cancelled, and the tea party had to move indoors,  All together, I felt the day had been very much a damp squib.
 A pretty indistinct pic of me at about the time I was Sir Walter Raleigh!   It's my first attempt at using my new scanner!
By contrast, my memories of the Silver Jubilee are very happy ones.  For the actual day of celebration we (Terry, myself and our two daughters) were in Cornwall, staying at Henscath House in Mullion Cove.  It was a regular haunt of ours, and we had become friendly with the owner, Pearl Cameron, her significant other, Stan Hardy, an art dealer from London who later opened a gallery in Bath, and his business partner, the lovely and aristocratic Dobbie Adeane.  I could go on forever about the wonderful holidays we spent there - everything was run like a country house party, Pearl and Co always ate with the guests, who then helped with the clearing up before Stan would get out the brandy and the tequila and we (well, the adults, anyway) would sit drinking, chatting, and playing games until the wee small hours.  I can claim the honour of having washed up with Jonathan Pryce, who was staying there once when we were; it was long before he was famous, and all we knew was that he was an actor.  But I digress.  In the morning we went as a party into Mullion to watch the procession, armed with union flags supplied by Pearl, and cheered as the town band and so on marched past.  In the afternoon Pearl and Dobbie raided the dressing-up chest for fancy dress for all of us - Terry, I remember, was The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in a Mexican hat and poncho, my elder daughter, Terri, wore an oriental dress and Dobbie made her up and did her hair accordingly, I had a red, white and blue striped vest of my own, which was deemed to be suitable.  The weather was wonderful - blue skies and sunshine all day, and we were able to have a barbeque on the terrace and champagne to toast the Queen.
Back home, the celebrations continued.  We and our neighbours had a street party for all the houses backing onto our cul-de-sac.  Again there was fancy dress and bunting, and our garage was turned into a bar, besides housing the stereo equipment for the music.  A wonderful party that went on all afternoon and evening.  Happy, happy memories of the happiest house I have ever lived in - most of us in those two roads were of an age, as were our children, and the comradeship was amazing.  Lovely parties, always someone to chat to, and, when someone's car wouldn't start on a frosty morning, half-a-dozen men would emerge from various houses, the kitchens of which overlooked the close, to push!  There was certainly no frost when we held that wonderful Silver Jubilee party, though.  Just sunshine, laughter and a lot of noise.
Strangely enough I have very few memories of the Golden Jubilee - probably because by then we had moved, and no longer have close neighbours to party with, and our children had grown up and flown the nest.
What will I take with me from this Jubilee?  Well, apart from tremendous admiration for the Queen, of course, one of my abiding memories will be of those brave girls belting out Land of Hope and Glory on their barge with the rain streaming from their hair.  A bit like the Coronation really - except that no-one made them put on gaberdine macs!