Sunday, 24 June 2012

An Exchange

Student: 'Are you from Ireland?'
Me: 'No I'm from Devon.'
Student: 'Oh ok, so you're a European exchange student.'


Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Queen

FOR a long time as I was growing up I had no opinion about the Queen. She was neither someone I looked up to nor someone I opposed, she was simply the Queen. She was there, on the throne, and that was that. But over recent years I have come to think about the monarchy debate, brought into prominence I suppose by certain recent royal events, and I have come to a firm conclusion not about the royalty or the fact that we have a monarchical system but about the particular person who happens to be our Queen.

As with every good story, the road to this decision begins with an orphaned girl in Uganda. But not just her: a drumming band from the slums of Nairobi features too, as does a blind, left-handed guitarist from the Gumatj aboriginal mob in Australia. To make sense of this, we must talk about Gary Barlow.

Captain Barlow, of the good ship Take That, has put together a song for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. It takes the form of a patchwork of on-location recordings of people from all over the commonwealth, including the aforementioned African Children's Choir, the Slum Drummers of Nairobi and the brilliant Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, among many others. Each was recorded, and wished to take part, in order to make a present for a woman they had not met. What is more remarkable, however, is that many of these artists are coming to the UK, leaving their countries for the first time, to perform the song for the Queen at the Diamond Jubilee Concert tomorrow night at Buckingham Palace. Such is the effect she has.

Last month, Rachel and I, along with members of her family, attended the Windsor Diamond Jubilee Pageant in the grounds of Windsor Castle. As an addition to the annual Windsor horse show, this was a four-night event attended by members of the royal family, in which representatives from many of the countries the Queen had visited throughout her reign demonstrated or performed in whatever capacity they could in a two hour spectacle in her honour. Of course the show was largely horse based, with Karabakh horses and Cossacks and Royal Canadian Mounted Police and many others displaying their mastery, but there was also music, dancing and, in the case of the Cossacks, gravity defying acrobatics, on horseback, at full speed. Not only were the nations represented by officialdom, but indigenous people, too, were performing - Maori, Aboriginal, Solomon Islanders and Artcirq among others. Even Alan Titchmarsh was there. I felt guilty that up until the show started I had no clue as to what I was about to witness, having agreed to attend after the kind offer of tickets from my mother-in-law without any knowledge of what it was. My guilt arose because the event was a sell-out, and I was certain many who would have been eager to have attended would have missed out because of my nonchalant acceptance. I didn't know what it was so I wasn't excited, and I certainly had no clue as to how big a deal it was.