June 6, 2022 - 9:00am

I’m not a parade person. Modern civic displays feel to me like the survivals of much more visceral rituals, probably ending with the spilling of at least animal blood, and not with a number from Ed Sheeran. And frankly they involve far too much standing up.

They are spectacles made to be televised, and so it proved with yesterday afternoon’s Platinum Jubilee pageant through the royal bits of central London.

Such occasions nowadays seem to go either of two ways — mad (or ‘eccentric’ as the commentary kept telling us) or reverential. A little pomp goes a very long way, and thankfully the pomp section was done and dusted pretty quickly. Yes, we heard ‘The British Grenadiers’ but ten minutes later it was Kool & The Gang’s ‘Celebration’ all the way.

But the trouble with the platinum pageant was that it was not sufficiently mad.

True, the concepts of service and duty were shrunk to the general debased currency of television — ‘it’s KER-AZZY’ AJ Odudu kept telling us, as if on the regional opt out in a telethon — and we were constantly having things that were right in front of us, and hardly subtle, explained to us. When this is something unfamiliar with faded connotations, all to the good. When it’s Joan Collins in an old banger, there’s not much more to be added than ‘There goes Joan Collins in an old banger’.

There were some deliciously strange moments. Twitter is very keen to tell us that these celebrations mean that the country is sliding into fascism, and equally keen to qualify that totalitarianism won’t, this time around, come marching in in shiny jackboots. That’s fair enough, but will it really come, I wonder, with Timmy Mallet standing on the top deck of an open-topped bus repeatedly mock-bonking himself on the head with a foam hammer?

Other highlights included Lulu in the commentary box using a fabulous new word for the occasion, telling us of ‘this sense of upliftment’. Intriguingly, homosexuality was rendered as a glittery float, equivalent to Mods or the Lambeth Walk. We saw Bonnie Langford, born 1964, on the bus representing the 1950s. There was, notably, no mention or depiction of the works or characters of JK Rowling, the most successful British author of the Queen’s reign. The selection of still-breathing vintage stars on the decades buses was pleasing, but obviously nobody worth the candle from the last twenty years could be inveigled to appear, leaving the 21st century to be represented by luminaries such as Rylan and Holly Willoughby.

“There are some serious political points being made,” said Clare Balding (whose commentary is the only thing in the world that can make you scream for the return of Huw Edwards) as a Mr Whippy van drove by.

But there was a dreary, non-specific airy-Blairy, Dome-ish political feel to the affair. It was Brit-poppery in the extreme. As ever, the authorities seemed terrified in their strange way that in a country 87% white and 98% heterosexual, thirty seconds might go by without a minority appearing on screen. We kept hearing about values, key workers, inclusivity, multiculturalism, and young people protecting the planet. The precepts enshrined (for good or ill, according to taste) in the concept of the British monarchy — Christianity, the (supposed) excellence of elitism, a link with the numinous, standing outside time — not at all. Anita Rani did mention God very briefly, but I think she got away with it.

The lengthy third section of the pageant was full of this rather joyless stuff. Obviously we couldn’t just be allowed to have fun, and what could and should’ve been the ultimate British knees up was laced with a large shot of significance and symbolism. The enormous puppet dragon and the uncanny mega-maquettes representing concepts such as ‘social justice’ were both baffling and tiresome. Couldn’t we just have a few actual songs from Cliff to jolly us along?

But then. We are all the Queen now, shoved in front of things we are not interested in and which are not very good, expected to show polite approval and go through the motions at how improving for us it all is — to say ‘how nice’ — in a nation that’s embarrassed, constantly apologising for itself, ashamed of its own culture. Then what’s the bloody point?

But then, right at the very end, the Queen herself appeared, and the nonsense was forgiven and forgotten. Continuity, duty, sacrifice, tick tick tick. But when the day comes that somebody less awe-inspiring is revealed as the climax, things may feel different.

Gareth Roberts is a screenwriter and novelist, best known for his work on Doctor Who.