Retired at last! Heysham Road, 2nd June 2022
Despite that the long-standing title of this digression – In Her Kingdom by the Sea – may suddenly have appeared topical, I can safely state that in no way, shape or form, consciously or unconsciously, was I referring to Elizabeth the Second. This Kingdom may have been suggested to me by Mrs Lucy Muir, Annabel Lee or The Spirit of Heysham[i] . . . or I may have just made up its shifting boundaries. In any and every event, it has nothing to do with ER II.
One of 500 tables for the Morecambe Platinum Jubilee party. According to The Guardian’s report [ii], the tables stretched ‘1.6 miles (2.5km) along the seafront and organisers expected about 5,000 people to come. “We are relying on the patriotism of Morecambe residents today.”’ 5th June 2022
Pomp and pageantry have always made me queasy, Nationalism and Patriotism too.
A dash may help survive a war but the rest blusters, poisons and destroys
Places, feelings, traditions – they are all leaves in a book whose bittersweet pages I
like to turn and mostly try to laugh
their shelf gets higher and higher . . .
For reference only.[iii]
Solitary patriot in the no-man’s land between Morecambe & Lancaster, 2nd June 2022
Classless, free and a view of the sea . . . Twemlow Parade/Whinnysty Lane,
Heysham, 4th June 2022
Events of which I had indifferent prior knowledge have hijacked not only my title but the varying moods of everything I intended. Pomp and pageantry in their intentionally impure form have always either bored or dismayed me . . . yet celebrations, parties, anniversaries, these recurring patterns within time, also contain some essential atmosphere, and however anti-monarchical my personal feelings, they do not prevent me admiring or being interested by all sort of historical figures caught up in this ongoing farce – that chain descending from whichever thug long-ago sneaked up on another and bashed them over the head[iv].
A commoner bows to the Queen at Morecambe’s platinum promenade party,
5th June 2022
You can’t have too much of a good thing . . . Longlands Lane, Heysham, 4th June 2022
Similarly, there are many films[v] which use jubilees, and other ‘royal’ events as a deeply fascinating background . . . as long as you fast-forward the pomp and ceremony. I’m even impressed by all those people who in 1953[vi] could be bothered to wait around all night, or from very early in the rain, to maybe catch a glimpse of the coronation coach trundling by – despite that (especially in black and white) this coach[vii] is baroque or rococo to the point of stomach-churning. It looks like it could have been spewed up by a sea-monster and then gilded over, barnacles and all. A strain on the horses, it was no surprise for me to learn, that – perhaps deliberately – it’s far from relaxing as a method of transport.
Ultima Thule of Morecambe’s promenade party – beyond Aldi in the West End,
5th June 2022
For a good example of truth being stranger than fiction, see the end of this passage taken from the Wikipedia page referenced by the last link given above:
Queen Elizabeth II referred to her coronation journey in the coach as “horrible”
and “not very comfortable”, which is possibly why it was not used for her
Diamond Jubilee when she was aged 86, having previously featured in
her Silver and Golden Jubilee celebrations. It was brought back for her Platinum
Jubilee celebrations, where archival footage from the Queen’s coronation were
used to make her appear as a hologram waving to crowds from the coach.
Morecambe’s platinum promenade party, 5th June 2022
By royal command: drinking alone, 5th June 2022
Does anyone really love the royal family that much?[viii] Many people must do, or did – including multitudes of my older relatives now mostly dead . . . Charitably, I try to believe that all the various jubilees have just been excuses for a party. Any party. All of us fiddling while the planet burns. Is it a better or worse excuse than the World Cup or the Olympics? I can’t say. In their (inevitably) impure state they all mean nothing to be – but I cannot but be affected by their background ambience, the light-heartedness fleetingly created, the brandished symbols and the transient joy of participants, the lost hopes rekindled and then drowned in cakes and alcohol. As with Christmas or Yule, all the history of our culture, positive and negative, can be inexplicably heightened, brought to the surface.
A fine display. Cakes and sandwiches defy the grey. 5th June 2022
Almost time to go home, 5th June 2022
From an email written in the lead up to June 5th:
“Been out all day feeling conflicted by flags and bunting waving in wind and sun . . . always deeply atmospheric, despite my dim view of ‘the royals’. Was trying to get some photos to further explore this enigma (explored many times in the past without satisfactory conclusion). I used to ascribe the feeling to some summer London throwback but it’s obviously far wider, plus I discovered yesterday that my eldest daughter seems to have inherited a similar complex which she also relates, at least initially, to London. While I have the buried ‘excuse’ of having lived there until age 3 or 4 and frequently going back to see working-class, often distressingly patriotic relatives, she grew up entirely in Devon and Northumberland . . . coming across no-one knee-deep and cheering in union jacks, princes, queens, royal purple, sceptres, swords, crowns or jewels – not to mention certain relatives (nameless even after death) who would have nicked and flogged any of the above if they could’ve got away with it. I might have been welded to London, its myths, legends, and social history, at birth, but she has no such excuse!
Morecambe, 5th June 2022
5th June 2022
Although time is a compulsive and comprehensive illusion, to be fair it often seems to want to disrupt our (inadvertent?) obedience – as though to say: “you take me too chronologically”. Fortunately, I’m always open to these cheerful or insidious whispers, no matter what short-term gloom or sadness they might appear to lead to. Long before I even knew my so-called Kingdom by the Sea, I had – still have – the notes for another Digression: The Aylesbury, Honiton and End of the World Digression. Flags, bunting and the ‘London Feeling’ were some of its cheerleaders, along with a haunting if overcast memory of 1977s patriotic street parties – but its driving force and a clear view of the new land beyond the portal still eludes me . . .
Hilton Avenue, Aylesbury: Silver Jubilee, June, 1977[ix] – I was 14 and tried to avoid it.
This is one of the parties I could have been at. The absence of cars is very appealing.
Even without sun and breeze to shift the bunting
in black and white the festival breaks the frame
Street parties – smiles fixed for hundreds of years – call me in
though at the time I was thankfully over the fields.
Strange to think that most of the children here will be grandparents
and all the grandparents dead
Was general community really a thing then?
A hangover from the war and gladness, an expression of the exile’s freedom,
away from London,
on the edge of the fields.
Did I just want to go further, reverting towards some rural ancestor?
Or have the fields and landscape only ever been symbolic of away?
Morecambe’s clock tower rarely bothers with time – to quote from Bombed Out (in Morecambe)[x]
its ‘four faces offer four different times, all correct twice a day’, 5th June 2022
Back in chronological conformity, on June the 5th 2022, I ventured down to Morecambe’s promenade to see what was aiming to be a world-record-breaking street party[xi] – all “in the name of Her Majesty”. It was grey and fairly chilly, the sombre sky darkening to occasional spits of rain, but even at 3 pm the well-wrapped picnickers and other muted revellers were defying the elements.
Last table left in a line, 5th June 2022
Disintegrating atonal symphony under a homeless sky, 5th June 2022
I assume they broke the record despite the weather – though if so, what record? – considering that a 37-mile-long street party was held on a stretch of autobahn near Dortmund in 2010[xii]. The world record for a street party held in Morecambe perhaps? The world record for overcastness at a street party . . . held on a Sunday on the shores of Morecambe Bay between Noon and 4p.m when the moon was in the ascendant? Seriously, who cares about such records? I just felt a bit sorry for the organisers. Given the unnaturally high number of hot spells we’ve had recently, it seemed a shame that they got one of the chillier days inbetween. Perhaps the climate is antiroyalist? As well it should be. Bright weather might have made the experience more poignant, or heavy rain, more notoriously memorable.
Cheerful May display, Seaborn Road, Bare, Morecambe, 31st May 2022
Controversial title sequence of The Spongers[xiii] a seriously grim but good Play for Today of 1978
Going back in time, The Spongers depicted in a more urban setting (Middleton, Greater Manchester) the world of council estates as I remember them from 1966 to 1979, growing up. But rather than try and sum up the play myself, I’ll quote instead this superior, user-submitted review under the pseudonym blacknorth, from the Internet Movie Data base (IMDb):
The Spongers is one of the triumphs and one of the shames of British television – triumphant because it succeeds in presenting the true state of social affairs in jubilee Britain, shameful because none of its frightening lessons have been learned by our society.
Jim Allen brilliantly demolishes the social consensus with his very simple conceit, comparing the British royal family to a poor single parent family in 70’s Britain. And it is painful and harrowing to follow the fate of this family at the hands of social services against the background of nationalistic fervour created by the jubilee celebrations.
The ending is probably the most shocking event in television history, but was eclipsed at the time by tabloid uproar over the opening titles of the play, which (super)imposed a picture of the Royals beside the word Spongers. This controversy itself demonstrates Allen’s concerns and serves to illuminate his lifetime themes and specifically the themes of this sadly almost forgotten play.
It appears British television no longer has a social remit and, though I hate to admit it, this play is probably partly responsible for that – it’s just too powerful, too awkward, all too true. I hope someday it finds its way back into public consciousness.
Required viewing for every human person.
Even the bin joined in, 5th June 2022
To do my bit against the Jubilee of 1977, using borrowed high-quality printing ink on borrowed sticky-back vinyl, over a couple of evenings in my bedroom, I secretly hand-printed three or four-hundred STUFF THE JUBILEE badges. Discretely distributing them around school for friends and others to stick on their uniforms, they proved more popular than I could possibly have imagined.
”Don’t care what you say, Battenberg cake is exemplarily British!”[xiv] 5th June 2022
Though the school Gestapo tried hard – grilling scholars caught wearing the badges, liberally dishing out detentions – they never succeeded in discovering their source. Eventually, via a absent tube of expensive, oil-based printing ink they traced the operation’s origin back to the art block. There, the trail went cold.
Breeze and tide, 5th June 2022
Despite joking rumours of blindfolds, torture, and dawn shootings, it quickly became too risky to wear these “unpatriotic and disrespectful” badges on blazers and jumpers around school – leaving them to adorn noticeboards and fire doors, home time coats and lampposts around town. The vinyl was very hard to remove from glass and metal, and the ink, once dry, indelible.
Stronghold of revellers near the clock tower, 5th June 2022
Back in 2022, if I wasn’t mistaken, the wind had veered northerly, and the tidy-up patrols were out collecting litter and tables. But where the people remained densely-packed the revellers remained plucky and undaunted, filled with Dunkirk spirit:
Good-humoured spirit of Merrie England, Marine Road Central, 5th June 2022
We shall go on to the end, we shall party in The Pier, we shall drink on the seas and sands, we shall party with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall drink on the beaches, we shall drink on the landing grounds, we shall drink in the fields and in the streets, we shall drink in the hills; WE SHALL NEVER GO HOME . . .[xv]
© Lawrence Freiesleben
Cumbria and Morecambe, June 2022
NOTES All notes accessed between May and July 2022
[i] See Part 1 for an ‘explanation’ of all three: https://internationaltimes.it/in-her-kingdom-by-the-sea-visionary-seaside-suburbia-part-1/
[iii] Extract from the 2nd stanza of The Gravediggers Blast and Bless
[v] Film review from October 2020: John and Julie (1955) This potentially sentimental family comedy-drama, despite having way too much pomp near the end, was quite anarchic. The scenes and the 50s colour are incredible. And all the school kids going along virtually on the roof of a bus . . . What has today’s health and safety conscious world come to!
Poster for John & Julie (1955) – “Come behind the scenes for the Greatest Spectacle on Earth!”
Beaconsfield circa 1952 – Facing north at the corner of Station Road and Burkes Road – See also: https://www.reelstreets.com/films/john-and-julie/
Synopsis: “A charming, heart-warming story about two children who run away to London because they are determined to visit the Queen.”
Writer/Director: William Fairchild
[viii] And if so, is this a weird cultural throwback to earlier days, like the national mourning that seems even more pronounced in Japanese culture – a strong background theme to the subtly devastating film Kokoro (1955) https://www.imdb.com/find?q=kokoro+1955&ref_=nv_sr_sm (dir. Kon Ichikawa) I was watching yesterday, in which mourners are bowed to the ground all over Tokyo on the 13th September 1912 at the funeral ceremony for Emperor Meiji. They seem personally struck down, or is it their own descent through time at the “End of Meiji era” they are mourning?
[x] Bombed Out (in Morecambe), November 2021