When a friend texted to invite us for lunch in London on Sunday 3 June at first it didn’t click. Then it dawned on me that this was a very special invitation indeed. Our friend lives overlooking the River Thames just to the east of Tower Bridge and the date in question was Diamond Jubilee Thames River Pageant Sunday.
As Jubilee fever and excitement grew last week, every location I took groups of visitors to vied with the last in terms of yards of bunting, numbers of Union Jacks and often spectacularly imaginative red, white and blue shop window displays.
The group I took to visit Windsor on Saturday were en route from their cruise ship at Dover to Heathrow airport to catch flights home. Caught up in the atmosphere in Windsor some were on the point of changing their flights so they could stay for the Jubilee Weekend and join in the celebrations. They were persuaded to make do with the wonderful exhibition ‘Sixty Photographs for Sixty Years’ in the gallery at Windsor Castle.
Sunday dawned with a dodgy weather forecast and long queues to buy tickets at the station. Eventually we reached London Bridge and joined the costumed crowds that thronged Tooley Street, Tower Bridge and Shad Thames. As we walked into our friend’s apartment I nearly fell into the river with excitement. I’d heard that the Royal Barge would ‘draw alongside HMS President’ and now discovered that we would be able to watch the whole flotilla from a point immediately opposite.
It was an amazing experience and we felt incredibly lucky – not only in terms of our viewpoint-in-a-million but in being able to shelter from the rain. From the first sight of the specially built ‘Gloriana’ with Olympic gold medallists Sir Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent at the oars, to the flotillas of hand-propelled craft and Dunkirk ‘Little Ships’…
…to the unforgettable sight of Tower Bridge fully raised in a Royal Salute and the rousing Last Night of the Proms-style renditions of Rule Britannia and the National Anthem at the end, accompanied by the floating orchestra and drenched choir, it was a day filled with unforgettable spine tingling moments.
Yesterday evening’s Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace was another spectacular feel-good occasion even though we could not manage Royal Box-style seats for this one… So many memorable moments – from 64 YEAR OLD Grace Jones’ unbelievable gyrating hoop to Sir Tom Jones, Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney and the legendary Stevie Wonder. With so many iconic stars in between, not forgetting lovely Gareth Malone conducting Commonwealth and Military Wives choirs in ‘Sing’, and the breathtaking firework finale.
Today’s service at St Paul’s Cathedral, the carriage procession and Red Arrows over the Mall reminded me of the Golden Jubilee ten years ago when we braved similar crowds with our then-small children. If Queen Elizabeth II’s reign lasts to 10 September 2015 she will overtake Queen Victoria to become the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch. Some people are already discussing how this weekend’s celebrations could be bettered at a future Platinum Jubilee. With the Queen’s Mother living to 101 fingers crossed we may find out in ten years time – who knows maybe with grandchildren in tow… Vivat Regina!