I can take or leave the Olympics – the few events I might be interested in watching I’ll inevitably miss, and quite frankly as far as I’m concerned it might as well have been in Paris. I also resent the way anything to do with the games is so fiercely protected - reserved for the exclusive use of sponsors which seems somehow at odds with the amateur spirit of it all, also the merchandising is naff. The Queens Diamond Jubilee I feel quite differently about – much better merchandising, an extra day off (though not for me just yet because I’ll be working - which I’m inclined to sulk about at the moment, but it can’t be helped) and something it’s much easier for anybody (who isn’t stuck at work) to join in with if they wish. Also the Jubilee is good for business (why I have to work).
The Queen visited Leicester to kick off her Jubilee tour (lucky woman) and whether you’re a fan of monarchy or not what was most noticeable about the day was the variety of people turning out (for a multicultural city we don’t always mix well), a great atmosphere, and a collective forming of happy memories the none of which ought to be underestimated. Work or not I intend to mark the occasion, marmalade made with gold leaf on my morning toast ought to introduce a festive air, there may be a little baking, and I should be able to find a novel or two to put me in the right frame of mind.
The general love of all things retro that we’ve embraced as a country for the last few years could have been tailor made for a Diamond Jubilee (I do like those official pictures of the queen from the fifties – the ones that still have a Victorian feel to them) and if I can fit some baking in I intend for it to be something from Peyton and Byrne’s ‘British Baking’ book. Browsing through it there are no end of things which would grace any street party/console someone who isn’t invited to a street party/delight someone who doesn’t give a damn for street parties.
Book wise I was half playing with the idea of re reading A.S Byatt’s ‘The Virgin In The Garden’ which has the coronation as it’s background. I read and enjoyed it some years ago though it’s likely that a lot of it went over my head at the time. In ‘Portraits in Fiction’ Byatt talks a bit about this book – it would certainly be a high brow option.
Whilst looking for ‘The Virgin In The Garden’ I found ‘Riders’ (printed by Corgi...) I imagine the Queen has this and it would probably be more fun to read it, interesting too, to see how it holds up after all these years. Would it feel like a ‘classic’ waiting to be recognised or will it just stink of the eighties? On reflection I think I might save it for the Olympics which I believe feature somewhere in the action and it might just lift my general indifference to the occasion.
Delafield’s ‘The Diary of a Provincial Lady’ also looks good for a re read – again it’s been a long time, and whilst it pre dates the new Elizabethan age it has the right retro vibe to it, and it’s funny. In fact looking at it I can’t believe how long it is since I read these books.
There are also books I haven’t already read which are looking good. Barbara Pym’s ‘Civil To Strangers’ should evoke the fifties just nicely and is on my to be read soon pile. Another book I found whilst looking for something else is an omnibus of Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott - volume 2, did I ever have volume 1 I wonder, and can anybody tell me if these are any good? It is from the right period though and might be fun too. Any other suggestions for evocative summer reading gratefully received...