“So how was your Platty-Joobz?”

Outside the online Political exchanges, that is.

Because for followers of what counts as political debate on social media, there were the two inevitable extremes. The first was somewhere along the lines of:

“Oh hasn’t she done wonderfully well over these 70 perfect years? Why not do away with all of the politicians and go back to the divine rule of monarchs like in the good old days?!?! And it will cost less in taxes too!”

And the other was along the lines of:

“Well the problem with the former MP for Cambridge, Oliver Cromwell was that he was far too lenient on the Royals and if there is a lesson to be learnt from his failures it is to do away with anyone related to royalty as we go about creating a classless utopia!”

And of course I’m exaggerating for effect.

Some people got into the full spirit, others took the opportunity for a holiday in a place far away from the media tidal wave of tributes, and others carried on as normal. With everyone else somewhere in between I guess. Who am I to judge?

The media’s nostalgia-fest seemed to overlook the past 20 years since the golden jubilee of 2002 – until today’s parade perhaps? I like to think that the year 2000 was a massive milestone for me for a whole host of personal reasons, but when I recalled this sketch from the satirical animated series 2DTV (content warning, homophobia and sexism), I realised how much further we still had to go.

Above – HMQ: “Now listen up ‘ere ‘arri-G! You iz not gonna mess t’ings up for me and me joobilee!”

Above – spoofing Sacha Baron Cohen’s then very-prominent satirical character “Ali-G” following media revelations about the then teenage Prince Harry’s dope smoking. So 2DTV went straight for the jugular. Strangely enough there was one MP that managed to get the better of Ali-G. The veteran Labour politician and former Cabinet Minister Tony Benn.

Tony Benn, who was well-known for his views favouring an elected head of state appeared in this discussion piece back in 2012 when The Queen was invited to visit The Cabinet.

…which inevitably raised some queries about whether the Coalition was using the monarch for its own media spin – a question put to the former Secretary of State for Energy, Alongside him was historian Professor Kate Williams. Interesting comparisons between her comments on the Coalition of the day led by David Cameron, and the present government led by his longtime political friend/rival Boris Johnson.

“Should I stay or should I go? (with Covid still around)”

The official data on infections, hospitalisations and mortality rates tells us this.

At the same time, for many people this might have been the first community event put on that they had felt able to go to since the outbreak of the pandemic over 2 years ago. Something that should not be underestimated in the face of another epidemic – that of loneliness in society.

It was a combination of shielding and the implosion of both my physical and mental health that destroyed any chance of rebuilding anything approaching a social life after I took redundancy from the civil service over a decade ago. Coming to terms with the limitations that chronic ill health has imposed on me has been a long and grinding experience, involving just as much ‘unlearning’ as it has new learning. And the unlearning has been the toughest bit. I’m still processing it.

The reason why I raise this point is that this afternoon’s gathering in Queen Edith’s was the first time in nearly three years that I can recall being specifically invited to go somewhere because someone wanted me to be there. Not do do anything – to film, photograph, report, or anything like that. Just ‘We’re having a big event, do you want to come along?’ Which, given my condition yesterday made me want to make more of an effort today.

Above – the previous Saturday afternoon having been knocked out by fatigue / lack of spoons that had kept me home-bound for most of the previous two days. My glasses and the afternoon sun hide some of the dark rings all around my eyes, but anecdotally there’s something about ‘fatigued eyes’ that somehow look different to when you’ve just got a hangover or stayed up all night as a teenager.

So when you’re in a position where your ability to have a social life or engage in social activities in your neighbourhood is restricted due to things like mobility, income, health, or even wondering if anyone will make you feel welcome in this age of loneliness, hosting and publicising free community events matters more than senior politicians and media talking-heads can imagine.

Above – from Cllr Sam Davies MBE (Ind – Queen Edith’s) – inside St James’ Church on Wulfstan Way, Cambridge…

…including me getting beaten at chess by April (just out of shot), the daughter of one of my long-lost classmates (Rachel). April is half my age. The last time I had played chess was when April was a baby! But I got beaten by the better player, so no complaints/excuses on my side.

“Music makes us one”

Amongst the political exchanges that inevitably happen at these things (not least because politicians from a variety of political parties were in the VIP box), there’s one thing that is often forgotten with such huge free-to-attend shows televised on terrestrial TV: These are big performing arts spectacular events that people might otherwise pay a lot of money to see at commercial festivals. I remember thinking the same at the Millennium Dome in the summer of 2000 with their show – which unfortunately was not professionally filmed. So only a few glimpses of it exist online from those who had old-skool camcorders.

Fast forward eight summers and Sir Roger Norrington reminded us of the importance of music with this short poem on the Last Night of the Proms in 2008.

“Music brings us joy and love; music deepens feeling.

Music feeds our hearts and minds.

Music brings us healing.

Music can be so profound, but music can be fun.

Music quickens all our lives.

Music makes us one.”

Sir Roger Norrington, The Proms, Sept 2008

I’d like to think for those of us that watched however much of the show on Saturday night, and/or the parade in the rain on Sunday, there was at least one performance or new song you discovered that touched you emotionally somewhere. This was the one that caught my ear (even though I had heard it on the radio a few times beforehand).

Above – Green Green Grass by George Ezra from down the road in Stevenage.

Earlier this year he also released Anyone for you (Tiger Lily) which has a lovely piano riff which feels like it’s from a 1970s reggae number, more than a few of which have been sampled in more recent tracks. Take for example Tommy McCook & the Supersonics with Reggae Merengue from 1970. Then play Lily Allen’s Ldn from the era when I was living there in the late 2000s.

“According to an ICM Poll, one in four people took part in a community-related event”

The details of which we’ll see in the morning.

It’s worth reading the full thread here and a sample of the responses challenging the findings both in terms of “Well that means 3/4 people did not” to “Yes! The monarchy is safe for another X-hundred years!” Because in the grand scheme of things, people can and are spinning the numbers either way. I agree with Mr Cox in his later post cautioning over-interpreting the headline numbers either way as far as national politics and big institutions go. At the same time, I think there are also a host of ‘information gaps’ that need filling before I’m completely convinced of community power solving national problems mantra. (In particular ones covering the time people have available, the money available, the facilities & tools available, the knowledge available, and the overall health of the people within a given community to make best use of what they have).

What the major themes were at the community jubilee events will inevitably differ from street to street, village to village, city to city. At the one I went to, things that I noticed about the event that perhaps differed from the same part of town I knew in the 1990s included:

  1. Much greater diversity within the cohort of parents with children – reflecting in part the staff at Addenbrooke’s and the Biomedical Campus who live locally
  2. The standard of cake-making was in a different league to anything I’d seen before
  3. It sounded like a number of people had not seen each other for a very long time, so had lots to catch up on, and even more problems to share with each other (some of which cut across my new responsibilities as a new CPFT Patient Governor).

I didn’t get much sense of:

  • Any wave of support for, or even opposition to the institutions of Establishment – national (Monarchy, Church of England, Westminster) or local (University, Councils);
  • While people had their complaints about the state of local public services and people’s struggles with the underfunding in the face of existing demand, none of the conversations went beyond this into the realms of party politics. Not just because it didn’t seem the right occasion to, but more because health and age-wise it was more realising we were having similar/shared experiences, whether struggling to get an NHS dentist to finding out someone sitting opposite me was on the same medication that I was on with similar illnesses.

So perhaps one of the more interesting things to watch for is what will be the outcome of all of those conversations people across the country will have had as a result of the extended bank holiday weekend. And are there some lessons to be learnt about future consultations locally? For example having fewer of them, combining more of the smaller ones, and having them at events where community socials in themselves are the focus and where both consultation materials and frontline representatives from the various public services are also there for people to talk to informally over a cup of tea?

Because I got the sense that people are more than willing to have conversations. Just not on someone else’s terms (as with traditional consultation events).

Food for thought?

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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