Monday, June 4, 2012

The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant: Here we go!

By the time we got to the muster at Hammersmith, we'd been on the water for nearly five hours, counting lock time and the usual hanging around. So it was a bit of a relief to moor up and have some lunch. I'd made a patriotic trifle, and my sister had bought patriotic paper plates and cooked chicken en croute with new potatoes and salad, so it all looked very celebratory. Halfway through the meal, we noticed that the paper cups, which we'd thought said: "Long live E:R" actually said: "Long live G&T". It's a sentiment that I don't have a problem with, however.

Here is Andrew Phasey, former Grenadier Guards officer, and commodore of St Pancras Cruising Club. He coordinated all the rehearsals, and he and his wife Frances have Doris Katia, which with Galatea was one of the leading boats in the flotilla

As we were having lunch, there was a bustle outside and we looked out to see the rowers mustering for their flotilla. The green boat belongs to Jenny Jones, the Green candidate for the London Mayoral elections. It's called Arthur Dent and it was on our right in the front row of the flotilla.

Here are the other two boats in the first row - Madam and Morpheus. Sadly, Madam had some sort of engine trouble and had to pull out 30 minutes after we started.

Here we are, under way, in formation. We had to hang around a bit at Hammersmith while the leisure cruisers - the Tupperware Navy as the narrowboat people call them - sorted themselves out. They're called the Tupperware Navy because their boats are made of white glass fibre. They retaliate by calling the narrowboats "monkey barges", a reference to their use as freight barges, when the men loading the barges would run along a beam of wood set from end to end of the boat.
Here's the thing: the narrowboats don't mind being called monkey barges because they see it as a historic tribute to their industrial past. But the Tupperwares LOATHE being called the Tupperware Navy.
During a radio conversation at this point, someone made a reference to moving "when the Tupperwares have got under way". A rather posh voice (the Tupperwares tend to have posh voices) interjected, saying: "I don't think that's a very nice way to refer to us." I'd always thought it wasn't done to interrupt a radio conversation, but I had to laugh when an unmistakably London narrowboater retaliated: "Well, don't listen in to other people's conversations, then!"

Going under Hammersmith Bridge, hung with flags.

A music boat, waiting to join the pageant. On this boat somewhere is my daughter's schoolfriend Caroline Haddock, who was playing the trumpet. Hi, Caroline! We did wave, but we didn't see you.

Another bridge, another London bus. I think this is Putney bridge.

In the run up to Battersea, we saw whole blocks of flats draped with union jacks. 

And here's the boat, on the left, draped with the awning, that had the London Philharmonic Orchestra on board, who provided the pageant finale.

Battersea bridge, which marked the official start of the pageant for us. The weather is starting to worsen.

Love this picture of my sister and her husband, above. My sister has her "yes, I am listening" expression on her face, but is obviously not paying attention to a word. Mike can tell she's not listening and is wondering whether to carry on talking. Bless them!
Albert Bridge again, with crowds of spectators beneath a darkening sky. But the narrowboats kept their formation - not as easy as it looks, with the wind pushing you out of line.

Chelsea Bridge, and yet more huge crowds who cheered as we passed beneath them.

The Houses of Parliament. By this time it was really raining hard, as you can probably see in the picture below.

If you couldn't see the rain in that picture, you must be able to see it in this one. But still the crowds cheered. Unbelievable. All the way, my niece and her friend had been shouting a selection of chants at the crowd: "Hello, Great Britain!" "Happy Jubilee!" and - not exactly pithy, but heartfelt - "Thank you for coming in the horrible weather!". This was followed by whoops and screams. The crowds loved it and waved back at us. My right arm was wet right down to the armpit because every time I raised my arm to wave, rain ran straight down it inside my jacket, soaking my sleeve. Did it stop me waving? Did it hell.

It looks like a November afternoon. In fact, it was around teatime, but all the narrowboats have got their lights on because the sky was so dark. It looked rather cosy.

Hallelujah, Tower Bridge and the reassuring bulk of HMS Belfast at last. Half of me didn't want the pageant to end, but the other half was beginning to get seriously worried as to whether my camera would work long enough in all the rain to get a picture of the Queen. It was becoming increasingly difficult to take a picture without rain getting on the lens.

Going down through the Avenue of Sail, we could hardly see the historic ships moored either side of the river.

But the crowds kept cheering, and any boat that had a hooter hooted, such as the steamboat Vic 56, below (the black and yellow boat), built in 1945.

That kept us going as we surged on, still in formation.

Hurray, here's Artemis with the four unmistakable turrets of the Tower of London behind her.

And the huge masts of Tenacious ...

And finally, finally - the Queen's boat, the Spirit of Chartwell.

There was just time to catch a glimpse and a rather misty picture of Her Majesty (she's the white blob under the gold canopy. You can also make out Prince Harry's pale blue Army Air Corps beret.

After that, I had no more dry bits of clothing with which to polish my camera lens. A huge raindrop hit just as I was taking this picture and I decided to call it a day.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to my niece Sadie (right) and her friend Charlotte Paler, who whooped and cheered all the way down the Thames. Charlotte wants to be Prime Minister when she grows up and personally, I think she'd be an excellent choice.

And a huge thank you to my daughter, for making endless cups of tea, doing the washing up and generally just being there. Unfortunately my son couldn't come with us as he has his degree show to prepare - it's the weekend after next. But we made enough noise to make up for his absence.