Coronation pomp left me turned off

by The Codgers' Club Friday, May 25 2012

by Alan Watkins

It can't be 59 years since the coronation – I remember it as though it was yesterday, for goodness’ sake.

It was a sunny day. The road was full of bunting and flags, and our council house was covered in St George’s flags. The local paper came along and took a photo of our house.

Dad had the day off and we had a new addition to the lounge – the first TV in the street. It had a 9in screen enclosed in a massive wooden cabinet, and all the furniture was re-arranged so that we sat with our backs to the window.

Well, we sat there for a short time, until the neighbours began to arrive. They all pushed their way into the house and sat on the seats until there were no spares. Then they sat on the arms of chairs, the floor, or simply stood as the TV flickered into life.

The curtains quickly had to be closed: you couldn’t see the blue and grey picture of the carriage as it made its way towards the Abbey. The sun burned the picture, which was full of snow from the poor reception from an aerial about 100 miles away in Wenvoe, near Cardiff.

The sandwiches and cakes, biscuits and drinks were soon being picked over, and just as quickly my friends and I became bored with the pretty young queen and the droning of the Archbishop, Dr Geoffrey Fisher.

Lots of shushes greeted protests about comfort (or lack of it), boredom and wasted opportunities. In fact we were turned off. We went into the back garden for a kickaround to the echoes of “Vivat! Vivat!”

It was much better to climb the wall, ride a bike, fight over the game rules, throw stones, and do what kids do when they are five and six years old.

Yet if we thought that was it, we were sadly mistaken.

Some time later – it may have been days or weeks, but it was certainly another sunny summer day – we all flocked to the city park. That was because our Queen and her handsome Duke were visiting us.

Most of my chums were in the park, but mum and dad opted to wait outside so we could see them when they arrived and left. We might have done – I don’t remember anything but flags. There were swings on the far side of the park.

I wasn’t allowed to go there, and instead was stuck in a crowd of sweaty people.

At last the coronation was over… or so I thought. Back at school in September we were suddenly ushered into the hall with our parents as guests, the curtains once more closed on a perfect Indian summer’s day, and we sat on unyielding benches to watch the coronation repeated.

It was enough to turn toddlers to republicanism! At least the film was in colour, but it went on, and on, and on.

Was it almost 60 years ago? Where have the boys in their thick woollen shorts and buttoned-up shirts gone? Those that scrapped in the sun – Ronnie and the two Peters, Alistair, Clive and the brainy brat across the road? Several are dead, the rest scattered to the winds.

I shall celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in the garden. I’ve seen too much pomp and majesty to thrill over it.

But, God Bless Her, she’s not been a bad monarch.

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Categories: Moans and groans | Royal

Facebook floundering a right royal triumph for the Oscars

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Monday, February 28 2011

It is cool to be British again.

Hollywood has hailed the stiff up lip by bestowing four Oscars on The King's Speech at last night's Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood.

Even though the nods for Best Director for Tom Hooper, Best Picture, Best Actor for Colin Firth and Best Original Screenplay for David Seidler were all entirely deserved, there were fears the academy might not want to reward a Brit flick too much.

This fear was made all the more strong by the fact The King's Speech had such huge competition from an equally deserving film: The Social Network.

In many less fruitful years for quality movies, The Social Network would have cleaned up. The story of how Mark Zuckerberg developed social networking site Facebook and the lawsuits which followed amounted to an instant classic in my book.

It was the story of a phenomenon which has grown to affect so many people's lives. If you do not have a Facebook account yourself I bet you know at least five people who have one.

Also, I felt a particular fascination with the film as it begins at exactly the time I went to university myself. The online revolution which spread through the halls of Harvard University spread through the student digs of myself and my peers. When I joined Facebook you HAD to be a university student. Only after a few years (and the realisation from the board they could make a heck of a lot of money) was membership opened to the whole world.

In short, the story was captivating because of the relationship I had with the film. Yet equally many stammerers would have had the same relationship with The King's Speech.

Ultimately the lead character appeals more in the latter. The audience were willing Colin Firth's King George VI through every word of his address to the nation whereas the dubious motivations of Jesse Eisenberg's Mark Zuckerberg make him a difficult character to relate to. The audience feel more of a fascination than an affinity with him.

These factors all add up to make The King's Speech the marginally better film and thus deserving of the awards. Yet it must have been tempting for the academy to reward a film which recognises an American institution, rather than a British one.

With the royal wedding around the corner, the fact the royal family are very 'in' at the moment may have been a factor.

But in this instance perhaps we just have to give the royal seal of approval to the academy. They gave the awards to the tale of the stammering king's triumph over adversity, without hesitation.

Categories: Celebrities | Entertainment | Film | Royal | Showbiz | social media

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