People want to feel attached to a ‘historic’ moment in their lifetime. I wanted nothing to do with it, and this is my reminder of that day.
Friday morning was wonderfully quiet in the suburbs of London. Instead of being one of the idiots who had camped out the night before to wave a silly flag as two people they don’t know and will never meet went past in an extremely expensive mode of transport, my girlfriend and I did our weekly grocery shop. There were far fewer people than normal; it was exceedingly pleasant. It was quiet walking up to the shops. Not Christmas quiet – there were still cars on the road – but fewer people on the back roads and fewer people in the shops (although there were younger folk who had popped in for snacks and booze for relaxing on a day off). After the grocery shop, we headed out for some other shopping in another part of town. Again, there were fewer people on the main roads and fewer cars on the streets (crossing the roads was a much easier and less dangerous experience than normal); it seemed that everyone was either at the event or watching it on television. Reports now state that about one million people were in the vicinity of the event, and nearly 25 million people watched it on television. That depresses me a little.
The shops were relatively empty, although not to the extent that we thought we had slipped into Shaun of the Dead (or equivalent) where we thought we were the only people alive in London. However, after 1pm, when the event had finished, people started to emerge from their living rooms, and London started to return to normal levels of busy for a day when most people aren’t working. It was slightly annoying – we felt proprietorial towards the empty London these idiot people were now invading.
It had been very hard to avoid the royal wedding. The build-up has been annoying – the main channels all had various programmes about the wedding, from documentaries about the family history of the bride (why?) to general overviews of the relationship to the supposedly awful American TV movie (on Channel Five, naturally). The news was no better, filling the allotted time with build-up nonsense and talking about how the media was getting prepared for the big event. It was hard to find any actual news. It was compounded for us living in London and having to suffer it twice with the London news full of items about the crowds and the preparation and the people. It was depressing.
It was as if nothing else was happening in the world. I can’t imagine what it was like in the USA: I only saw the items that Charlie Brooker found for 10 O’Clock Live that made me glad that I didn’t have to suffer that (I can imagine the indignation of various sites about the blanket television coverage of the wedding on American channels – why is there so much coverage of something that is not happening in America and doesn’t involve Americans? I lived and worked in America, and I know that American news doesn’t do world news). The ridiculous royal worship that happens in the US is nauseating and embarrassing, and the spectre of Diana looming over all of this (the last time a stupid wedding had been so fawned over) made it even more absurd.
Even though the event is over, it still dominates the news. As I write this on Saturday, the BBC website’s main items at the top of the page are all about the wedding – it was yesterday; therefore, I should like to point out that it is no longer news, BBC – and I still have to be ready to change channels to avoid wedding-related nonsense on the television. I’m sure that this event was introduced as the ‘wedding that everyone is watching’ (in much the same way that apparently ‘everybody’ mourned the death of Diana – I would like to put it on record that, as someone living in the UK at the time and being a British citizen, I did not mourn the death of Diana; in fact, I didn’t care in the slightest), and I would love to point out that I know of two people who did not watch the wedding (my lovely girlfriend and me), so they are lying when they say ‘everybody’ watched the wedding. Thank God for The Guardian website, who yesterday had two versions of their website: one for royalists, with blanket coverage of the wedding; and one for republicans, with not the slightest mention of the event. Thank goodness there are some people like us still out there.