A diamond mine of Friday Fun

It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that there is an event of national – nay, international – significance taking place this weekend. At the very least (if you’re British) you’re on the verge of a four day weekend, which is bound to have captured your attention. I speak, of course, of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

You may remember my confession during the Royal Wedding shenanigans last year, of my conflicted emotions at such times. I may be the daughter of two republicans, but yet I’m a massive fan of London when bedecked with bunting. This year, the conflict has been resolved for me as another significant diamond anniversary is taking place this weekend – that of my mother’s birth. I find it deeply ironic (and pleasing) that this republican’s significant birthdays are always celebrated by our monarch declaring a public holiday. It’s exceptionally useful. So I’m off to Belfast on Sunday (after a wedding in Birmingham tomorrow, this weekend is beyond complicated) where red, white and blue bunting means something completely different, and there will be no flotillas. No matter, I have it on great authority that there will be an abundance of cake.

Few marketing tie-ins have been produced to celebrate my mother’s birth, but fortunately, many have been produced to commemorate our monarch acceding the throne. Here’s a collection of some of my favourites, just in time for you to go out and stock up in advance of the festivities…

Firstly, the oh-so-slightly inappropriate tie-ins. I’m sure the Queen is delighted that Marks & Spencer have decided celebrate her jubilee with appropriately themed pants and hosiery. Confession: I actually bought two pairs of the jubilee pants, but they were simply red/blue with white spots – I didn’t buy the ones with little crowns on. However, the crown ones were significantly more tasteful than pants with the Queen’s face on (not from M&S I hasten to add!):

Those are the M&S ones on the left. The ones on the right are from here.

Obviously, M&S has a massive range of jubilee tat – from pants and hosiery, to duvet covers, to cupcakes and, of course, biscuit tins. This is the one I’m lusting after, probably because it doesn’t actually feature much jubilee related art, but lots of lovely London images:

Sadly, this year’s Cath Kidston collection is rather corgi-heavy and pastelly, however, would you like a skirt bearing the image of 100’s of guardsmen? I rather think I would!

You might be wondering how best to celebrate the occasion – is there a local street party? Will you brave the London crowds? Or, will you simply stay home and order pizza? If you go for the latter, fear not, you can celebrate the jubilee with pizza too!

Thank Pizza Hut for this calorie-fest.

Oh, and you can accompany your pizza with jubilee themed crisps too:

There’s a whole host of goodness out there. If you want to browse more, I recommend this article from The New Statesman and this week’s Style List from Stylist Magazine. Finally, I leave you with the almost obligatory musical Friday moment – a collaboration between two of my favourite singing men (Gary Barlow and Gareth Malone) and the Commonwealth. Not going to lie, it gives me goosebumps every time and I may have nearly cried once. Don’t judge me.

So, there was this wedding…

Most impressive venue for a street party (possibly). 
Best uses of themed Union Jacks [From The Sun *shudder*.] 

Best ridiculous, yet wonderfully alcoholic, royal tie-in – ably modelled by Andy.

Best cupcake tie-ins 

Friday was quite the day. Deserted streets; the few people on them seen scurrying to the nearest TV; a cheerful tube; a sudden preference for red, white and blue clothes…surreal to say the least. Choosing to watch the event of the year at church in the company of lots of friends was an excellent move – as was simultaneously following proceedings on Twitter. 
Satire of the nuptials may have been banned, but that didn’t stop Tweeters from providing chuckle-worthy material at the most inappropriate moments. Below are just a few of my personal favourites:

Simon Schama discussing David Beckham, this will never happen again, embrace it.

A nod to the recession from the Royal Family who haven’t updated their car in 80 years. Come on, Liz, get a Twingo for about town.

Dress workers washed their hands every 30 mins to keep lace pristine & needles were renewed every 3 hours to keep them sharp & clean.

Mate, Middleton’s sister is hot…

That nun is a secret agent.

I wanna be a choir boy!

Will I stand for the national anthem? No. But I will air drum the timpani part. [I ended up having to stand – peer pressure from 300+ people gathered round me…]

Oh a new Rutter anthem? Just what the world needed…

A special mention has to go to Queen_UK who, as usual, was awesome. I loved her not one, but two, mentions of the King of Tonga and her running commentary was hilarious…

Text from Elton John: “I’m here”. Well, that’s a load off.
Royal iPhone to silent.
One does wish Nick Clegg would stop winking at me.
Feeling slightly awkward about Princess Beatrice’s hat, to be honest.
The RAF will now fly onto the continent and fire a few warning shots at France.
Lunch finished. Queen medley coming up. Don’t stop one now, one’s having such a good time, one’s having a ball!
Text from the Pope: “Watched the whole thing on TV. You looked A-MAZ-ING. Love, love, love that hat!”
Approximately 3/4 full of gin, 1/4 full of wedding cake and 100% full of happiness. God Save One.

Fun times, all in all. And no, I still don’t have a commemorative biscuit tin. There are none to be seen in M&S – rumour has it that McVities ones are now reduced, but I’ve yet to see any…

Confessions of a supposed republican

Secretly, I’m rather looking forward to the Royal Wedding.
Secretly, I’ve rather enjoyed watching a variety of spurious Royal Wedding documentaries.
Secretly, I’d rather like a commemorative biscuit tin.

My parents are die-hard anti-monarchists (difficult to use ‘republican’ as where they live it means something rather different) and brought us up with their belief that our royalty were a rather unnecessary historical throwback. [In fact, my Dad even claims that should he ever be offered an Honour he’ll refuse. I somewhat suspect that my Mum will try and dissuade him from this, just so she can have a hat wearing opportunity.] We read the Independent for a while partly owing to its pledge not to feature royals on its front page.

But secretly, while growing up, I was fascinated by them. Maybe it was owing my historical bent; it could have been the fact that I shared the monarch’s name; perhaps it was because Wills was just one school year below me; perhaps it’s because my formative years – the late 80s and early 90s – were dominated by royal scandal, culminating in the death of Diana the week I got my GCSE results.

Actually, there is one reason alone that set me upon this trajectory: my birth date.
July 29th 1981 is a historic date that’s been much mentioned in recent months – the day Lady Diana Spencer wed Prince Charles in St Paul’s Cathedral while the world watched. My parents didn’t – not simply because they had no TV in Tonga, where they were living at the time and would have been disinclined to watch it anyway – but because my mother was giving birth to me. Legend has it that she got a little irked when medical people kept sloping off to listen to the ceremony on the radio.

I should clarify that my date of birth is actually the 30th, thanks to the time difference, but I entered the world just as the reception was kicking off and as a result certain relatives were convinced that I shared my birthday with a terribly auspicious event, meaning that on our return to England I was blessed with much royal memorabilia – including stamps, and a mug that I later auctioned on eBay. Somehow Ladybird books on the two great royal weddings of the 1980s ended up on our bookshelves and I read them with quiet fascination, absorbed by the dresses, traditions and ceremony of it.

For years this interest has lain dormant. I didn’t join in with the speculation of which university Wills might attend, nor did I include possibilities on my UCAS form in the hope I might one day become a princess. I paid scant attention to Prince Charles’ second marriage and uttered a groan when the royal engagement was announced fearing months and months of pointless regal drivel being the focus of the news – fears that have certainly been realised. My resentment was muffled somewhat by the extra public holiday, but I later resented the pressure this put on certain work deadlines. I also still deeply object to the media’s blanket coverage of the event, to the detriment of world events like Alabama’s tornadoes and the situation in Syria; not to mention the side-lining of coverage of next week’s electoral reform referendum.

It’s only been in the last few weeks that I’ve been sucked into the excitement. The merchandise has been hilarious, but the Cath Kidston stuff is cute and there are some very attractive biscuit tins in M&S (and I do love a good biscuit tin) – I won’t buy one until they’re reduced next week, but still, the desire is there. In the last week I’ve watched not one but three documentaries (though two of these were actually two parts of the same very informative programme – Royal Weddings – charting ceremonies from the Queen Mother onwards). [Fascinating fact gleaned from part 2: the King of Tonga attended Charles & Diana’s wedding, but was so large he needed a double sized chair to sit on. The BBC reported on this rather disrespectfully I feel.]

Originally I wasn’t even going to stay in the Big Smoke for the festivities, hoping to follow my parents’ lead and disappear somewhere exotic (they flew to Italy this morning). But no such luck – a dear friend’s Hen Do’s been scheduled in the capital for the same weekend. And then, the final straw – I got invited to a street party I couldn’t say no to. It’s at church, my ‘cluster’ are running it and lots of my friends will be there and, the clincher, the e-mail informing me it was taking place included the following postscript:
“If you’re with Bishop Pete Broadbent and not so keen on the Royals’ nuptials, come along anyway – think of it as a fun day out and chance to bless our local community!!”
Effectively guilt-tripped into it then.

A patriotic Regent’s Street

And now I’m rather excited. Baking has been done – my job tonight/first thing tomorrow is to make tons of sandwiches and then hopefully travel on the Jubilee line unscathed by enthusiastic wedding watchers to the comparative safety of Marylebone. London looks rather fabulous, or rather central London does. Regent’s Street’s patriotic flags are distinctly more tasteful than Bermondsey’s plastic (with the happy couple superimposed) version. Tomorrow I will attend my first ever street party; I will watch the wedding on a big screen at church; and next week – providing they’re reduced – I will acquire a commemorative biscuit tin.

Mum and Dad, I’m so terribly, terribly sorry.

Friday Fun with tat and trains

My Post-It Note of possible Friday Fun ideas is overflowing this week, which would usually be a good thing, but today is something of a sober and holy Friday and some of it wouldn’t be suitable for such an occasion. (Even less suitable than that fun family past-time of watching The Life of Brian on Good Friday.) Last year I solved the Friday Fun/Good Friday conundrum by finding some virtuous fun, but I’m pretty sure little on my yellow square today is virtuous. Plus, I’m writing this yesterday as today I’ll be in sunny Hemel Hempsted hanging with my girls [yep, I’m going gangsta on you] and won’t be near a computer to spot appropriate fun that turns up on Facebook and Twitter.

Preamble over, the gist is that I’ve got some fun for you today and, as a special Easter bank holiday bonus, more fun tomorrow…

You know what’s happening this time next week? Two people will be tying the knot in a London church and the people of Britain will be celebrating/enjoying an extra lie-in. I call myself a republican, but secretly I love watching this kind of thing – I just think it’s fascinating from a historical point of view – even if the media manage to get completely hysterical about it. Then there’s the merchandise…

There’s a lot of it and much of it’s complete tat. I won’t be owning any, but I did have to pop into Cath Kidston earlier in the week to buy some of their (rather classier) celebratory merchandise as a present for a friend who just adores this stuff. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to go hunting for the worst of the worst – there are people out there who’ve done it for you. Like Royal Wedding Tat which does exactly what it says on the tin.

Image from here

Wills & Kate Pez dispenser? Fridge? Pizza? Pies? Honestly – utterly ridiculous.

If the thought of the wedding and all the associated shenanigans simply makes you want to burrow underground then have no fear – I have some fun for you too. You know how much I love London Transport and its disused stations, well yesterday I discovered another relic of a former underground system – the Mail Rail.

I say ‘discovered’, it’s not as if I fell down a hole and landed on one of its platforms. All I did was read this post chronicling a journey a group of trespassers had along its tracks. [That link worked fine on Wednesday, but as I write wasn’t – hopefully it’s just a case of too much traffic rather than the Post Office shutting it down.] It’s both fabulous and utterly crazy – they scaled a wall to get in and walked 14 miles overnight documenting their discoveries, running the risk of being caught several times. For years they had wanted to see the retired (as of 2003) Mail Rail system and recently they managed it. It was track that ran from Paddington to Whitechapel and connected the major Post Office sorting depots along the way – as ever, with such nerdy things, there’s a fairly comprehensive Wikipedia page on its history. When it closed it was simply mothballed, thus much of it remains intact – as if someone had just gone out for lunch. Wonderful and unsurprisingly, terribly tempting.

So that’s my ‘clean’ fun for this week – wait till you see tomorrow’s.