by Paul Kavanagh
Yes folks, it’s the proud-to-be-British-athon that is the royal wedding. Social democracy is so 20th century darlings, feudalism is the new big thing. The centre of London has been transformed into a North Korean set designer’s dream gig, all that’s missing are the missiles and Kim Jong Il waving from the turret of a tank. The armoured personel carriers will still be there, but parked discreetly out of view of the cameras, just in case the proceedings are spoiled by anarchists, environmentalists, anti-cuts protesters, animal rights protesters, muslims, or indeed surly Scottish essayists.
In order to ensure security, the Metropolitan Police have asked the crowd to report anyone who looks as though they’re not enjoying themselves, so they can be whisked away to corrective therapy and be force fed cucumber sandwiches while being beaten with rolled up copies of the Radio Times Royal Wedding special edition.
So if you happen to be a Scottish republican trapped in Central London today, for god’s sake keep an inane grin on your face at all times. You risk finding yourself whisked off to the royal wedding equivalent of Guantánamo, a Butlin’s camp in Bognor where you’ll have to wear a red white and blue jumpsuit and take part in sing songs and knees ups.
There are Union flags and red white and blue bunting everywhere in London. Bunting is the crack cocaine of the royal wedding street party organiser. They can never get enough of it. It’s a marvellous example of British ingenuity because the red white and blue is 100% green and recyclable. Once Scotland gets its independence it can be shredded and woven into a nice set of commemorative tea towels.
It’s all as predictable as a sound bite from Iain Gray, vacuousness wrapped up in falsehoods. We know the drill by now with the British pageantry act. The timeless historical British constitution dressing up in fancy costumes routine was invented by opium fuelled Victorian chinless wonders and they’ve been making it up to suit themselves ever since. The only real difference between British pageantry and a drag act is that a drag act is being camp deliberately.
It’s the same every time. We get parades of well groomed inbred thoroughbreds, braying, neighing and mane-tossing, all polished leather and gleaming metal glistening in the sun as they clip clop down the streets of London. And there are horses as well.
Dave Cameron will be there in morning suit and top hat, relieved to get out his work clothes and into something more domestic and familiar. His Eckness will be there as well. He’s still not allowed to sit with the other presidents and prime ministers, but it’s only a matter of time.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have not been invited. Organisers didn’t want to remind anyone about acrimonious break ups and bitter divorces. Jack Straw appeared on the news to say how unfortunate it was but that he was certain it wasn’t a conspiracy. Jack would know if it was a conspiracy, because he’s involved in most of them.
The Syrian ambassador had his invite cancelled at the last minute. This sends a strong message to the Ba’athist regime who are currently slaughtering hundreds of anti-government protesters. Syrian plans to defeat the rebels will be thwarted because the ambassador won’t be able to send pics of the top secret wedding dress from his iPhone. It’s about as effective as the message Ed Miliband wants the Scottish electorate to send to David Cameron.
For those of us outside the Navel of the Universe, we can gaze in like snottery nosed weans pressed up against the window. The BBC has helpfully buggered up the telly with wall-to-wall sycophancy, just so you won’t miss a vital second of the pre-pre-pre-wedding planning group sandwich menu subcommittee meeting. It’s history in the making you know. Quite coincidentally we’ve learned a lot about the historical significance of sandwiches during this Scottish election, although the BBC has been somewhat more reluctant to discuss that.
The BBC have reportedly devoted over 500 staff to covering the event, because they don’t have much else to do anyway. They have detailed every preparation, every rehearsal, every delivery of toilet paper to Westminster Abbey. They interviewed the factory workers who made the toilet paper. Nicholas Witchell told us they were in tears of patriotic joy on discovering that something they’d crafted with their own plebian hands might soon come within wiping distance of the arse of one of the waiters who’ll deliver vol-au-vents to Will ‘n’ Kate’s 1800 closest friends. If I ever see Nicholas Witchell again I’m going to hurl a brick at the tv screen.
In Scotland the apathy is palpable. Most of us are feeling as much heated excitement as a snowman who’s overdosed on valium.
BBC Scotland has been forced into desperate measures in an attempt to find some angle that might prevent its viewers from collapsing into a state of narcolepsy. Money’s always a motivator, and Jackie Bird chirpily introduced a piece on royal wedding souvenirs and would you be able to flog them off for a profit on eBay in a couple of years time. Even the BBC knew it couldn’t get away with pretending we’d give the cheap tat house room for any other reason.
But sadly the answer was a big fat no. The BBC invited an antiques expert to cast his eye over a pile of Charles and Di memorabilia that even the contestants on Bargain Hunt would be too embarrassed to purchase. Hiding behind a mountain of commemorative mugs, teatowels and plastic keyrings so colleagues in the trade wouldn’t recognise him and laugh at him afterwards, he muttered, “I’ll give you 2 quid for the lot of them. But only if you throw in a Blankety Blank Chequebook and Pen and a Crackerjack Pencil as well.”
By Thursday BBC Scotland was driven to admit that not everyone in the country is thrilled. In the understatement of the year Jackie told us that the public response to this wedding had been somewhat more subdued than the half-hearted festivities that marked Charles and Di’s do. In other news she went on to describe Labour’s election campaign as being just a smidgeon less worldbeating than the last time and said that a coma patient was not quite his usual perky self.
A BBC Scotlandshire reporter was sent out to interview a ‘royal commentator’ – which is apparently a real job – who informed us that the celebrations were more subdued this time because that’s just the way Her Maj wanted it. The royal family have been making efforts to get in touch with ordinary people’s concerns you see. Liz wants everyone in Bristol to have a jolly patriotic street party, and everyone in Glasgow to hog the flat screen telly with a box set of DVD movies.
Failing that Scots can discover that they need to clean the toilet, shift those stubborn suspicious stains out of the teenage son’s bed linen and declog the drains. All those horrible jobs you’ve been putting off for months. Anything’s got to be better than watching the royal wedding or arguing with your other half because he’s been glued to the play-station all day.
It was supposed to be an event to bring us all together, to unite us in joy and pride so we can collectively feel that we’re so much better than johnny foreigner without saying so out loud. It all must have seemed like a great idea at a time when London’s biggest tourist attractions are anti-cuts riots and police kettling.
But somewhere it all went wrong. Something’s changed, at least in Scotland. This event isn’t a way of bringing all the parts of Britain together as one happy united nation, instead it’s become a symbol of how much we’ve already drifted apart.
Today in Scotland we are not united in joy and pride with our English, Welsh and Northern Irish neighbours in communal British feelgoodery. Today is Scottish National Feel Like an Anthropologist Day. Today the Scottish nation gets to experience what it’s like to visit a remote and somewhat backward tribe in order to study their bizarrely quaint and cringe provoking fertility rituals.
Today’s the day we realise it’s not the Scots who are parochial and backward looking, gazing with misty eyes on a nostalgic golden age that never actually happened. It’s the British establishment that’s the embarrassment, these clowns represent us to the world.
While the happy young couple wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, Scotland is quietly waving goodbye.