God save the Queen! A serene and graceful, reassuring presence

Well I did my bit for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Granted, I didn’t MC the pageant on the Thames but entertaining 180 four to seven-year-olds for a couple of hours is surely worthy of a mention in despatches.

I was the DJ at a disco at the school my daughters attend.

The assembly hall was resplendent with bunting, balloons and the obligatory Union Flags which we had put up the night before.

To cap it off there was a huge picture of a smiling Her Majesty and two Corgis (who may or may not have been smiling) on the projector screen.

It was almost as if the Queen was watching over proceedings with wry amusement as the youngsters – drunk with excitement – jigged about to tunes from One Direction and other bands I’ve never heard of.

Many were dressed for the occasion in red, white and blue and so I had suggested we get them all together for a souvenir photograph.

This involved yours truly, wearing a Captain Britain T-shirt, presumably breaching Health & Safety rules by climbing on to the school roof – much to the amusement of everyone in the playground below.

The teachers tried valiantly to herd the children into the shape of a ‘6’ and a ‘0’ to mark the Jubilee but, in the end, the ‘o’ in the six sort of vanished so the picture is rather ambiguous in that it could be read as ‘Go’.

Still, I suppose it’s the thought that counts when you are hundreds of a miles away from the capital.

At one point during the disco I sat on a little bench with one lad from the reception class.

“Have you had a good day, mate?” I asked him.

Cake crumbs round his mouth and icing oozing through his teeth as he smiled, he replied: “This has been the best day of my life.”

When a five-year-old says that to you, it’s hard to argue.

So while many of the children may not have fully appreciated the significance of the Queen’s milestone, they knew she was reason we were celebrating and they had a damn good time nonetheless.

I’ve still got my Silver Jubilee mug and coins (or rather, my mum has) and I’ll make sure my Lois and Mina keep souvenirs.

Between the Olympic Torch Relay, the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the European Championships and the Olympics proper, I reckon we’ll have flag fatigue come the end of the month.
But for now, at least, the sense of occasion is carrying us along.

That is what prompted me to pitch a gazebo up in the rain at the local park and join scores of families for a Diamond Jubilee picnic.

Card-carrying monarchist that I am, I defy anyone to say these celebrations haven’t generated a genuine collective pride – a coming together only usually associated with wartime or great sporting triumphs.

This IS something special. There has been a real frisson in the air – a sense of history in the making.

The monarchy may cost taxpayers millions of pounds each year but I believe we are infinitely richer – both financially and culturally – for having one.

For the Queen’s reign to have lasted 60 years is remarkable in itself.

But what is far more remarkable is the way in which Her Majesty has conducted herself during those tumultuous six decades.

For me, the Queen has been a serene anchor of the establishment while many other institutions have fallen from grace.

While other royals have embarrassed themselves, while MPs have been ripping us off or getting into bed with media moguls and/or the police, Her Majesty has remained serenely aloof – untainted by these many scandals.

Time is indeed a great healer and the time served by Queen Elizabeth has papered over some of the cracks which could have irrevocably damaged the House of Windsor.

Whether it be the state opening of Parliament, the Trooping of the Colours, the hosting of U.S. Presidents or the Christmas Day message on TV as we all slump on to sofas stuffed with turkey, Her Majesty is a constant, reassuring presence.

She is, in many ways, our final link with the dark days of the Second World War and, with her ultimate passing – and that of a very special generation – I think we lose something very precious.

Social commentators have talked endlessly in recent days about Britishness and what it means to live in, or come from, these relatively insignificant islands which have ever been a cultural melting-pot.

I would suggest that to be British you must be able to moan about having things which people from many other nations would give their right arms for right now. Like the Pound.

With a referendum on Scottish independence looming, the future of the Union – or Britain as we know it – is far from certain.

By the same token, Her Majesty is now 86 and so who knows how many more years we have to cherish a monarch of supreme grace and integrity? Who knows what will happen to the royal family with her passing?

Whatever the future holds, I dare say people will look back on the reign of Queen Elizabeth II with great fondness because you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Tuesday in The Sentinel

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