Well, the Jubilee celebrations have come and gone. While I generally haven’t got into a flap about the royal family in any great degree, I must admit that the whole spiel has softened my attitude towards them slightly. If only because it’s given the whole country something to talk about and get involved in besides the weather.
In our village, we got together on the green on Sunday afternoon (in the pouring rain), and joined in what was supposed to be a “Picnic on the green”. Except that the bouncing castle was indoors, and the picnics all took place inside a rather cramped marquee (apart from a few who brought their own gazebos). But loads of people still turned up in the 10° summer heat and helped out, got involved, and generally had a good time. The rain actually helped out a bit – it forced interaction in close quarters indoors, instead of the default position which would have been a scattering over the whole green.
Then, on Monday, we got back from a day trip to find the rest of our street gathered together in one of the gardens having an impromptu street party. The children played, the adults chattered. We’ve only been in the street for about 10 months, and have met most of the parents of the children that do the rat pack thing up and down the street. But thanks to the goings-on this weekend, we’ve made big strides in joining in the community.
But for me, the lasting memory when looking back over the past week or two will be the sheer volume of bunting the Brits are capable of tacking up. Jimmy Carr wasn’t far off when he quipped during the Jubilee concert that without the queen, “this country wouldn’t even have a bunting industry”. Now, South Africans don’t really do bunting. We’re ok with fairy lights, and streamers, and other tacky adornments. Triangular material or plastic attached to string doesn’t feature in our ornamentation schemes. And “bunting” is something relegated to a nursery rhyme about a baby needing a rabbit skin to keep warm.
Somehow, I don’t really see it taking off there either – because the vast majority of it around over the past while was been the cheap union jack-type variety. Which is a pity, because there’s a genuine charm to the material Cath Kidston-esque versions. It’s like most decorations – the genuine quality stuff gets drowned out by the cheaper stuff. We’ll probably do our bit and export a string or two, but our influence is somewhat limited.