- May 17, 2011
“It cost three-million quid, this lot,” says the man, who has a hoarse Cockney accent and a drip at the end of his nose. In the square, bunting hangs between the trees. Middle-aged, middle-classed women with names like Alison and Jemima follow each other around a long trestle table, setting down trays of sandwiches and sausage rolls as they go. Beneath a Homebase gazebo, a chartered accountant is performing a sound check. “One, two,” he drones into the mic. “One, two.”
“That’s three-million quid what could’ve been spent on heducation,” the man continues. As he shakes his head, I notice with horror the opalescent pearl beneath his nostril lengthen into an opalescent peardrop.
“Oh I know, it’s fantastic, isn’t it?” says Michael, who is googling James Middleton on his iPhone and not really listening as usual.
“Are you taking the piss?” says the man. “I think it’s habsolutely disgusting.”
And with that damning verdict on the day’s festivities, off he shuffles along the street. It’s testament to our collective good mood that none of us feels compelled to shout after him the total amount will be closer to
I hadn’t thought it was possible to have a street party in the 21st century. I’d thought we were too cynical for all that now, with our 24-hour rolling newsfeeds promoting the constant underlying fear that our neighbours are plotting to blow us up. But here we are, standing beneath ribbons of Union Jacks, sipping on Pimms and lemonade, and talking to perfect strangers as if we were Americans.
“Can I see your wristbands please,” says a passing Alison or Jemima.
We look at each other. Wristbands? But we’re just standing in a public square, on a street where one of us has lived for years.
“It doesn’t matter,” she says. “Even if you’re not having the food, we’re only insured for a certain number of ticket-holders inside the party. If you don’t have a wristband, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to stand on the other side of that fence.”
“I hadn’t thought it was possible to have a street party in the 21st century”
We look towards the fence, which consists of a single black chain running at knee height around the square’s perimeter.
“Let me get this straight,” says my friend Chris. “We’re not eating anything, we’re drinking our own booze, listening to the music, and talking among ourselves. And you’re saying you’d like us to continue doing that, only two metres to our left?”
“Don’t look at me like that,” she says to me (this seems unfair, given that I am currently hiding behind a cardboard mask of the Duchess of Cornwall). “I don’t make the rules.”
As we relocate to our designated area, it’s hard not to feel a pang of patriotism about what’s just happened. After all, this is a day for England to be proud of. And what could be more English than an officious bitch?