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This Britain

Diamond Jubilee: Street parties? Bunting? Is this broken Britain?

One minute we're rioting; now we're flag-waving. We're an odd lot

What a funny lot we are. One summer, there are riots in the streets and talk of "Broken Britain"; 10 months later, there's bunting everywhere and almost everyone's declaring how marvellous the Queen is, and, by extension, that we're pretty good, too. Small wonder no one since the Normans has been able to get to grips with us.

Yesterday, the only explosions heard in London were fusillades from the 41-gun salute fired by the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery in Horse Guards Parade, which began the day's festivities. Then, for the Queen, it was off to the Derby, riding down the straight at Epsom in an open-top limousine as an estimated crowd of 150,000 looked on and cheered as mightily as if she'd won the race itself.

Some cheering, too, from the nation's retailers as news came in from the likes of Tesco that they are having their best week for party sales since the Millennium. The Pimm's is nearly all gone, and M&S has sold 200,000 Jubilee teacakes and 31 miles of bunting. Less welcome perhaps is that, probably in a garden not far from you, there are a pair of Jubilee gnomes – pointy-headed plaster figurines of the Queen and Prince Philip. B&Q has knocked out 3,100 of them to please the loyalists, both ironic and unironic.

Today, then, the 1,000-boat flotilla sails down the Thames with the Queen riding on a gilded barge smothered in 10,000 flowers, among them 4,000 carnations. Tomorrow is Buckingham Palace's answer to Glastonbury, a concert featuring Elton John and Paul McCartney. And on Tuesday, there is a service at St Paul's, a carriage procession through the streets of London, followed by the entire royal cast taking a bow on the balcony. And so, however our football team performs, however much our leaders are smarming up to the Murdoch set, and however bad the weather, let the message ring out from every city, town and village to the rest of the world: "Our head of state's better than yours!"