Brits can still put on a good show
published : 14 May 2023 at 04:00
newspaper section: News
Considering how depressing the world news has been lately, the coronation of King Charles III last weekend provided a brief diversion. It might not be everybody's cup of tea but the Brits certainly know how to put on a show if a bit of history is involved. They're good at pomp and pageantry and most importantly love a parade with plenty of horses.
Observing a golden horse-drawn carriage making its way down the Mall through the Saturday morning drizzle flanked by soldiers in familiar furry hats was a most reassuring sight… just another day in London.
There was the usual line-up of princes, princesses, dukes, duchesses, lords, ladies, page boys and even some ordinary people. At times it looked a little quaint and almost Disneyesque.
One disappointment was that there were not as many silly hats on display as usual. However a few posh ladies obliged, sporting headwear which looked like something had crash-landed on their respective aristocratic noggins. Those heavy crowns also looked most uncomfortable.
Then we had the obligatory concert on Windsor Castle's back lawn. It was notable for the lack of really big stars which was possibly the intention. The BBC still called it "star studded" but the Guardian newspaper was less enthusiastic, dismissing it as a "a cobbled-together concert of B-listers".
Not to worry, everyone seemed to have a good time.
As mentioned in a Jubilee-related PostScript last year, I am wrinkly enough to remember the coronation of Queen Elizabeth back in 1953. In fact she was responsible for me watching television for the very first time. Like many households, my parents bought their first television that year so they could watch the grand event.
Many neighbours did not have a TV, so on Coronation Day half the street piled into our living room to watch proceedings on our proud new possession -- a 12-inch Bush TV in all its glory. It stood in the corner of the room like a sacred god. We had to close the curtains to stop the daylight spoiling the picture. Although it was in black and white, to my young eyes the royal carriage definitely looked golden.
I felt sorry for my mum who was so busy making tea and sandwiches for the neighbours she missed half of the proceedings.
The pink bits
One of my prize possessions from 1953 was a coronation t-shirt for kids. It was very colourful with lots of Union Jacks and featured a map of the world with all the bits belonging to Britain coloured pink… and there were a lot of pink bits. I wore it so often that, just like the British Empire, it faded and shrunk to half its size.
It was eventually downgraded to my dad's shoe polisher.
Gnomes and teddies
Plenty of kitschy souvenirs were available to mark last week's event. There were the familiar tea towels, mugs, key rings, plates, paperweights all decorated with Union Jacks. The more adventurous could purchase a King Charles solar-powered dancing figurine.
Among the best sellers have been teddy bears from what is poignantly billed as "the last teddy bear factory in England". Also selling well were King and Queen garden gnomes, not to mention special coronation dog food.
Other foodstuffs included musical biscuit tins that play the national anthem and who could resist chocolate crowns and chocolate heads of King Charles. Heinz celebrated with a special "Kingchup" tomato sauce.
If you are were really desperate there were life-size cutouts of Charles and Camilla, although quite what you would do with them I am not exactly sure. Garden shed perhaps?
Flogging a dead horse
As mentioned above, the Brits have a thing about horses. You may recall 10 years ago there was an outcry when it was revealed that horse meat had been showing up regularly on British dinner plates. Inevitably it was dubbed "Horsegate" and prompted all sorts of dubious jokes concerning gee-gees being part of "a stable diet" with painful puns inventing dishes like "bologneighs."
Horses are considered fondly in British culture and you're not supposed to eat them, although during World War II they became part of the diet simply because it was hard to find traditional meat. They are up there with dogs when it comes to loyalty and companionship, and you don't eat companions.
After that episode a decade ago it was not recommended to come out with the expression "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse."
People are still uncomfortable at the thought of consuming anything that remotely resembles a pony, filly or stallion. When "Horsegate" surfaced, newspapers were chomping at the bit looking for new angles. The Daily Mail came up with the provocative headline: "Have You Eaten a Winner?" with a story linking the horsemeat trade to a famous race course featuring a gentleman known splendidly as "the knacker man."
For those following the progress of "Wild Wolf" James Valentine on his 1,000 kilometre charity walk from Pattaya to Phuket, this weekend he should be somewhere around the halfway mark in Chumphon. He seems to be holding up well despite suffering from sciatica, a very painful back condition. It's all in a good cause to help abused kids and women and we wish him the best of luck on the second half of his exhausting journey.
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Bangkok Post columnist
A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.
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