Happy New Year

Happy New Year gang. Here’s my new year poem from this week’s Saturday Live :

Good morning Britain, carpe diem, start afresh, afresh
unless like me you saw it in with several cans of spesh
and raised a frosted tumbler with an enemy or friend
to toast the rattle-bag of days that passed for twenty-ten.
In which case, please don’t be ashamed, the ticker’s back at nought
don’t feel as if you have to shave and do the things you ought
for weeks roll by and New Year’s Day comes round again too soon
just make some tea, go back to bed then … seize the afternoon.

I was also charged with writing about the Royal Wedding, not Will & Kate’s, but Wills’ grandmother’s, all the way back in 1947. I’m a staunch republican, I think it’s crazy that we have aristocracy while we try to teach our kids ideas of equality. I sincerely hope I live to see a time when we dissolve the monarchy and, symbolically at least, establish a constitution where people are born equal. I don’t wish individual members of the Royal family ill, but I would like to see them reduced to the same status as you and I.

So obviously, the Royal Wedding not a warm, fluffy subject for me. However, I was struck by this particular story. Kay Foulger-Sparkes talked about how her mother and father, bakers in Castle Cary, had granted their request to make the Princess and her bride-groom a cake for their wedding in 1947. What struck me was how the whole village was excited about it, everyone turned up to see them off, driving this three-tier cake to London in their Lanchester 14.

And true, the ordinary folk’s fascination with the Royals is nothing to be marvelled at. It’s no different from celebrity fascinations these days (although these are more democratic, and harsher too, as we can, and do, destroy the celebs we help create). But these details were part of a bigger picture. The Royal Wedding lifted the spirits of the nation in 1947. I could rant and rave about how all this lavishness (austerity measures seemed token at best) made a mockery of our Ration Book nation, but it for most it did not, it genuinely seem to cheer them up. It doesn’t change my opinion, but the resulting poem is really me being aware that some times politics isn’t appropriate. Sometimes you have to consider people’s feelings and leave the politics at the door.

Putting empathy above principle is not a new idea obviously, in fact it’s what Mandelson argues that Blair had over Brown; that he could see past party tribalism and understand what mattered to people. Hence, his successes when Diana died and Jamie Bulger died. I think Mandelson is right about this incidentally, which makes his failure to empathise with his electorate over Iraq all the worse. Anyway, I’m getting off the point, here’s my Royal Wedding poem:

The Royal Wedding, 1947

They say she had to save up all her rations
for fabric like much else had gotten dearer
but average clothing coupons couldn’t fashion
a gown like Botichelli’s Primavera’s
or trade for twenty-thousand US pearls
buy silk from Winterthur, a myrtle sprig.
Still, princesses are not like other girls
and this was not an ordinary gig.

A cold November’s day just clear of war
the country missing one from every dozen
at last a thing to do your make-up for:
Elizabeth was married to her cousin.
And there among the jasmine and the pheasants,
the Russian fringe tiara from Queen Mary,
the gross of stockings, silver wedding presents
there stood a three-tier cake from Castle Cary.

That half the town had rubber-necked to see
and stirred the mix and gossiped of the gold
and later tuned into the BBC
to hear a real-life fairy tale unfold.
Like Milton’s mine’s an anti-Royal pen
equality’s the thing, not Kings and Queens
but when I see how much this meant to them
it makes me hush my talk of guillotines.

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