It’s a London Thing is our Wednesday series in which we turn the spotlight on a unique aspect of London – perhaps a curious shop, sometimes an eccentric restaurant, a hidden place, book or oddity. The subject matter will be different every week. The running theme, however, will remain constant: you have to come to London to enjoy it. It’s A London Thing.
Cruising right along now toward the Diamond Jubilee.
Everything getting into place. Sense of anticipation being stoked up. Flawless orchestration.
Yup. It’s the tuning up of the national mood. Getting it pitch perfect.
Getting it to that happy state of affairs that a previous monarch, some 600 years ago, described as
Those opposed eyes…
Shall now in mutual well-beseeming ranks
March all one way…
Those most terrifying lines in Shakespeare, to me at any rate. Think of North Korea with a British accent.
That’s my first reaction to the tuning up.
My second is, in your dreams.
A piece in the Observer a couple of Sundays ago was a case in point. A story accompanied by a nice big colour photo of Morrissey and his band – who were decked out in WE HATE WILLIAM AND KATE tee shirts.
Another one – well, a column, really – savaging the “endless hours of jubilee fawning”, the “new era of unbridled genuflection to the House of Windsor”.
Phrasing like that is Catherine Bennett (she’s the Observer columnist) just tuning up.
Or do I mean limbering up? Because without further ado the boot gets well and truly put in.
“Understandably, at this patriotic time, nobody wants to dwell on Charles’ s meddling, his temper and the awful prospect of his accession, any more than they want to dredge up those pictures of a sodden Harry, nightclubbing in Croatia, or of Andrew in a break from diplomatic trips – hugging a 17-year-old masseuse in the employ of his friend, a convicted sex offender.”
And so on.
Now to come to the point, it’s a London thing, this. And by this I don’t just mean sections of our press refusing to toe the party line. Keeping quiet would be the velvet glove. The velvet glove which just won’t stay on.
It won’t stay on. And the mailed fist won’t stay put. Its attack dog duty is to give the House – be it Windsor, Saxe-Coburg, Hanover, etc. – a good mauling, a good Bennetting. Every time.
Here’s a much earlier Duke of York being Bennetted (well, Gillrayed).
And it’s not just the press – well, sections of the press.
It’s London. And Londoners. The Phylum Londoner doesn’t do deference. Not even grudgingly. It’s not that it doesn’t come naturally to them. It doesn’t come to them.
Think of that huge crowd of Londoners gathered outside the Palace of Westminster on that October night in 1834 to cheer on the progress of the flames when Parliament caught fire and burned to the ground.
It’s a London thing.
And here’s the thing – there are reasons it’s a London thing. Call it the shaping hand of London’s history. What the mortar and pestle of this town has wrought in terms of its citizens’ way of viewing the world.
That’s the next step. From pointing something out – calling your attention to it – to analyzing it. Explaining why London and Londoners are what they are. Explaining why cocking a snook is the Londoner’s coin of the realm. And deference is a wooden nickel.
But for that you’ll have to go on a London Walk – Old Westminster, e.g., or my, David’s, Shakespeare’s & Dickens’ Old City bumble on Sunday.
Not just what but why.
It’s a London Walks thing.