Posted by Tania Kindersley.
It was a really happy day.
Very early, I went up to see the mare. She raised her head, whinnied, and cantered from the farthest corner of the field, swirled to a halt in front of me, raising a dramatic cloud of dust, ducked her head, and whickered. She has never done that before. She usually waits, regally, as if she is the Queen herself, for me to come to her. I felt as if she had given me a huge present, and showered her with love and carrots, both of which she seemed to find eminently acceptable.
I did two thousand words.
Then I thought, bugger it, I’m supposed to be working all afternoon, but the Diamond Jubilee does not come along every day, so I went up to my mother and the Lovely Stepfather, and we watched some of the dear old BBC coverage. I have been so cut off from the world in my deadline fever, that the idea of a royal regatta existed only very faintly on the far edge of my consciousness. But oh, oh the boats. The whole Thames was filled with them, everything from dour old working Yorkshire coal boats (the captain of that was my favourite; ‘Here’s one for the North,’ he said, grinning all over his face) to Edwardian pleasure cruisers. There were proper Naval vessels and narrow boats and lovely Victorian rowing skiffs. There were Olympic rowers and, perhaps the thing that amazed me most of all, Venetian gondoliers.
‘Someone went and got VENETIANS,’ I yelled at my mother.
The Queen looked awfully happy, and the banks were lined with Ordinary Decent Britons, yelling and whooping and giving three cheers.
On paper, Republicanism makes perfect philosophical sense; the hereditary principle is, on the face of it, absurd. But on a day like today, it just feels a little bit snobbish and curmudgeonly. There were crowds of people, having a perfectly lovely time, in the gloomy summer weather, and I defy anyone to shake a reproving finger at that.
At four, vaguely aware that there was something going on on our village green (a very rare thing in Scotland; it was laid out on an English model by some old laird who had been brought up in the south) I wandered down with the Pigeon. And there was the village, dancing. They were doing a mass strip the willow, to much hilarity. Then there was three cheers for Her Majesty, and a rendition of God Save the Queen. It was oddly touching. Balmoral is not away, and half our shops have By Royal Appointment signs above their doors; here on Deeside the Royal Family feel like locals.
I loved the whole thing. The older I get, the more I appreciate a bit of good old British pomp. I even rather love the fact that, in London, it was raining. Sunshine would be far too vulgar and faintly European. We are bred to bad weather. On the radio, some onlookers were being interviewed. ‘Is the weather dampening your spirits?’ asked the presenter. ‘Oh, no,’ they said, and with marvellous non-sequitur, ‘You see, we are from Norfolk.’
Yesterday was my father’s birthday. It was the Derby. He adored the Derby. He always went, looking very smart in his shiny black top hat. I was fired with the excitement of the great race, and it did turn out to be a great race, where a new champion was born, and a nineteen-year-old Irish boy called Joseph O’Conner made history, riding his father’s horse Camelot to victory. No father and son combination has ever won the Derby in its 230 year history. I shouted my head off, and missed my own father so much I could hardly breathe.
In the morning, rather madly, I had told the mare the story of how her famous grandfather won the Derby. She listened politely. I wished, suddenly, violently, that my dad could have been there to see her, in all her aristocratic beauty, with her outrageous bloodlines. I cried for him, astonished at how acute and fresh the sorrow still can be, over a year after his death.
So, all human life has been here, in the last 36 hours. The memory of my dad, the sweetness of the living family, the joy of my horse, the best racing in the world, every kind of boat on the dirty old Thames, the village out in its pomp, the celebration of our own dear Queen. And I did over four thousand words, and am closing in on the end of the book. Not bad, really.
The village green celebrating the Jubilee:
My lovely Red, bowing her beautiful head:
The Pigeon in her special Jubilee lead:
She really does look rather queenly herself.
The hill, rather blurry today:
What I especially liked about the celebration today is that it was all so tremendously British. I’m not sure exactly why, and I’m not sure exactly why that gives me pleasure, but it does.
It was the best of British, and I wave my own little metaphorical flag.