Saturday, 14 June 2008

A Grand Morning Out

On Saturday I did the most English thing I have ever done in my life. It was only the rehearsal, not the full bhuna, so I don’t feel quite such a traitor.
The actual formal name for the event is the Colonel’s Review as it was the second rehearsal, the first one only being important enough to have the Major General review it. Today the Head of the British State, Her Majesty the Queen will be there to take the salute from her own house guards and cavalry, filling last weeks empty carriage alongside that dreadful Greek man.
I had never seen a military parade but I have a vague childhood memory of the Queen on side saddle in my Grandmother’s living-room with a red top and some medals.
I may be wrong about the medals. What medal could she possibly have won and who would present them to her? God? The Archbishop of Canterbury?
In the photos of more recent Trooping of the Colours she seems limits herself to a colourful dress and matching hat.
The audience at this even seem to come from a range of Home Counties with some New Jersey housewives for good measure although one very well spoken lady behind me declared herself to be of French extraction and marvelled at how terribly well organised and prompt everything was. “Madame it’s the army.” I was tempted to say, “Military precision. It’s what they do.” As we all know what they are actually supposed to do is kill people, but this lot looked they hadn’t done any of that in a very long time. At least 200 years. They must have a lot of practise at timing.
They did, however, look lovely. The cavalry was stunning, and the toy soldier outfits of the red jacket with shiny buttons and a big bearskin hat – possibly now the non-endangered acrylic version, and their ability to march in diagonal does make for an impressive spectacle. Marching round a square actually requires more choreography that would first appear and they can also shuffle into position admirably. I did hold out hope of a Bollywood moment where some of them would break ranks and start singing and dancing but I had to content myself with the military brass bands and the shuffle.
The massed bands drum their drums and blow their trumpets beautifully but I kept hearing distant flutes although I couldn’t actually see any which rather ruined the effect. I am prepared to admit that the flutes were all in my head, but I defy anyone who comes from my neck of the woods or across the water in the north, to hear these bands and not immediately think of an Orange Walk. This may not be effect the Queen is looking for, but I am sure that The Orange Lodge will be delighted by the comparison.
My only issue with the whole event was that the organisers had gone to all the trouble of providing us spectators with chairs only to make us stand up from them all the time. It was rather like being a confused Protestant at Mass. Up for God Save the Queen (unfortunately not the Sex Pistols version, my Father will disown me when he finds out I have done this), up for the empty carriage coming in – although Prince Charles was behind it, up for some flag begin waved about, up for about three other reasons that I couldn’t fathom (which is what always happens to Presbyterians at a Roman Catholic church), up again for God Save the Queen and finally up for the empty carriage going away again. By the end of it my knees were sore and I needed a gin. Perhaps that was the point.

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