Saturday, April 30, 2011

The People's Toffs


Royal Wedding 1 by Pants (Acrylic on canvas)

As expected, the royal wedding has rehashed all the usual gaping anomalies and circular arguments about the monarchy; its place and function. The royals are a fissure in modern, multicultural Britain, reminding everyone that the endless talk of 'striving for equality' is utterly pointless as long as they remain enthroned.

Here in Australia, we have a slightly different take on the whole confusing business. The British Queen is still head of state of this country - arguably an even more pointless situation in an independent nation. But, as no one has ever been able to come up with a workable alternative, we confine ourselves to exploring the question of whether or not the royals are 'relevant'. Well, of course they're relevant, in the same way that religion is relevant. Their relevance is sustained by their seemingly unassailable ubiquity. And at least we're not struggling to prove their existence. I have personally pressed flesh with more of them than is strictly hygienic so I can vouch for that much. They are a mighty and entrenched construct that no one has the stomach for dismantling, no matter how just-plain-wrong we might find the present situation.

Since I am not daft enough to spend the day chasing my tail in order to discover that it is still there, I'll get straight to the point. ('That would be a first', says Barney, a staunch royalist). My proposal is that the current monarchy be replaced with Pearly Kings and Queens, at least as a transitional mechanism until we figure out why it is that a free and liberal people requires the illusion of servitude to maintain civil society.

Pearlies embody all the fine qualities that are considered positives in a royal family. They work for charity and perform a ceremonial function, but without requiring silos full of readies to keep them in beer and skittles. They get about in black cabs and generally have just the one suit of clothes that they've designed and sewn themselves. There is still the problem of heredity as Pearly titles are handed down through families in more-or-less the same fashion as occurs within the nobility. And it is a strictly London-based monoculture. But there's no reason they can't expand ethnically and geographically, certainly not one that would require an Act of Parliament, anyway.

There are all sorts of practical problems involved in dispensing with the royal family, not the least of which is what to do with all those fine palaces and cathedrals. My solution is that the Pearlies could turn all the regional estates into holiday camps and take turns at caretaking Buck House and the Windsor Gaff. The Tower of London would make an excellent indoor/outdoor adventure centre. Just think of how much fun could be had bungee jumping from those towers and the internal walls are just crying out to be defaced by climbing spurs.

The royal parks could be divided up into allotments dedicated to the growing of austerity-busting, obesity-melting Swiss chard and curly kale. And the jewels - can you imagine the Koh-i-Noor diamond adorning a fine flat cap? What a picture that would be. I would keep the garden parties but I would add a jumble sale and a tombola. A plate of egg sandwiches can only be enhanced by the addition of a bit of a rummage in other people's cast offs and a wager on a bottle of Babycham. The cathedrals would make excellent music halls. Just think of how glorious Jerusalem would sound played on spoons.

Instead of having just the one king and queen, they could take turns. One week it's Crystal Palace's turn and the next it's New Cross and Old Kent Road, and after that, Isle of Dogs. They could get professional cockney Barbara Windsor to draw the lots, sort of keep it in the family. And instead of flying the Royal Standard, they could just hoist up a nice cheery kerchief. And there could be a rash of new Royal Patents - F. Cooke's eel and pie shop, Truman's Brewery and Fags 'n Fings could get lovely 'by appointment to their multifarious majesties' signs put up. It would be a boon to London's economy and a tourist magnet, especially the stewed eels with pie and mash - yum! They'd certainly put dull old cucumber sarnies in the shade.

Problems may arise with rotating Pearly royalty if they were called upon to visit Australia though. They may be mistaken for asylum seekers and dispatched to a remote island for 'processing', which, in this country, means a very long unscheduled holiday in a place that wouldn't be your first choice. No amount of claiming to be 'on state business' would wash there, I can tell you. Customs officers have lost count of the number of times they've heard that one and that other hoary old porkie about being 'at risk of death or persecution'. It's a lucky thing that the Britannia has been decommissioned. I wouldn't advise anyone to try to come here by boat.

So, who's on board with this fabulous compromise? Let's seal it with a song. Just watch the bouncing ball.

My old man said follow the van, and don't shilly-shally on the way, pom, pom, pom...