With all that’s going on in the world at the moment, I must confess that the impending Jubilee celebrations have rather crept up on me somewhat. It’s safe to say that the vast majority of us have plenty upon our collective plates. As I turned my attention to the Jubilee, a funny thing happened. Rather than directing my thoughts towards the impending bank holiday frivolities, I began to reflect.
With reassuringly little effort, vivid memories began to come flooding back. Specifically, we’re talking about the Silver Jubilee of 1977 and the nationwide street parties that took place that year. As a small child, everything connected to that day just seemed so exotic, so exciting. Cars had been banished from our road; we had reclaimed the streets! As I recall it, the day was essentially broken up into two main parts; the fancy-dress parade followed by the street-party food.
Left: Walkabout by Her Majesty The Queen, Town Hall Square, Grimsby 12th July 1977 Bottom Right: Silver Jubilee 1977 Street Party, All Saints Road, South Wimbledon by sarflondondunc
I can remember my costume as if it was yesterday. I was a robot, or at least I thought I was. To the casual observer, it’s plausible that I may simply have looked like a small child with a cardboard box placed over his head. We’re talking more Tin Man than Terminator here! My mother had many wonderful traits but costume design was not one of them. As we marched through the surrounding streets, defiantly encroaching upon enemy territory, I was utterly convinced that me winning the first prize was a mere formality. I was wrong! It turns out that cowboys win prizes.
Luckily, we were soon seated at the party table and the restorative powers of cake and crisps were able to take effect. In my mind’s eye, the table seemed to snake up the road for as far as the eye can see. Two things from the remainder of that day still stick in my mind.
Firstly, my attention was drawn to a table where plenty of the adults seemed to be congregating. Dads were taking turns in attempting to open a large canister with a screwdriver. They seemed extremely determined. The can in question was a Party Seven. In the days before the ring-pull can, this was apparently considered the height of sophistication. For the uninitiated, Party Seven was in fact seven pints of mediocre beer in a tin. I was captivated nonetheless.
Secondly, especially after looking back over some old photos, I was struck by the community spirit and particularly the pride that everybody took in their gardens. It’s easy to forget that most houses had a front garden back then. These days, as many more families have two cars, this precious real estate is being turned into parking space.
Every garden was looking resplendent for the occasion. Flowers and shrubs provided an explosion of colour. Together, they created the perfect backdrop to the children’s frivolities. I know how much pride my mum took in her garden and now realise how much pleasure she would have enjoyed as the procession of cowboys, soldiers (and robots!) marched by.
We all lead such hectic lives. It’s easy to forget the simple pleasure that a beautiful flower can bring. As we prepare for the Jubilee celebrations ahead, perhaps an elegant table bouquet could provide just the splash of colour that such an auspicious occasion deserves?
PS: A special mention to the hardy souls who attached all that bunting atop the lampposts!
By Alan Smith 24 May 2022