Celebrations in Austerity Britain

Britishness is very much in vogue lately it seems. Nothing says British cultural identity like losing in competitions (Eurovision, the Euro football tounament, Oscars and even British book awards). Mortifying embarrassment compined with a pretense of social reservedness, rainy days and long queues are the superficial things that many people identify with Britishness.

I don’t care much for what the Jubilee represents, nor am I terribly excited about it. Perhaps its telling that there isn’t really a strong countercultural presence that is visible about an issue like this. I was forced to write a piece about the Diamond Jubilee because as Michael said: ‘Nobody else wants to write one, and we should think of austerity- I, I mean, posteriority’. I included his Freudian slip because austerity seems to be the name of the game for many people in the country.

I am in the technical parlance, broke as shit at the moment, I’m working this weekend simply because I can, and because it will pay me. For my family we aren’t doing too much, although there are talks of a few spontaneous barbeques and my older relatives have spoken fondly of their experiences of street parties during the 1977 Jubilee. I’m happy that lots of people are going to enjoy 2 extra days off, some public sector friends of mine will have 3 days off, so including the weekend, that’s a 5 day holiday. I suppose that’s a reasonable price for a reduced pension.

I’m too busy do celebrate the Jubilee. I won’t be completely miserable about it, although perhaps reserved is a more apt term. I appreciate the positive values of modern Britain. I appreciate the fact that the monarchy is a cultural institution bigger than many things, bigger than football, horse racing or TOWIE. There is something somewhat assuring about tradition. I care not for the divine right of kings and queens, but I find the modern royals relatable, especially when they have scandals and family problems, because what family isn’t without failing relationships, substance abuse and very uncomfortable allegations? The sentimentality of a shared living memory of the Royal family is something very special to the British consciousness, consider the royal wedding last year where Canadian, Portugese, Indian  and Israeli friends of mine seemed to find the novelty of royal families eccentric and fabulous.

Having a shared cultural identity is pretty nice after all. I think its great that strangers who live near each other as neighbours can come together and raise a toast to the Queen. The way I see it is this: when you are in a pub or bar, and the alcohol is flowing, you will toast to anything so long as the conditions are correct for inebriation and/or joy. I’ll raise a glass for the Queen, if the wine is free, and that’s it really: a public holiday is our figurative Chablis. Who would say no to a day off? As it happens, I would, as I can’t afford it right now.

Having something to celebrate is an important thing in difficult times. Although in difficult times, it doesn’t matter what you celebrate sometimes. It’s nice to see the eccentrics come out this weekend to celebrate, eccentricity is the pride of Britishness for me, not to mention its multiculturalism and liberal democratic tendencies. So for me, the Jubilee means in this period of Austerity Britain: a quiet smile for those having fun, getting on with things in a way that doesn’t actually change anything significant in my otherwise dire life and lastly, being obliged to write this blog post.

Now if you will excuse me, I’ve got work tomorrow.


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