Grace Dent: Diamond Jubilee: Of all
the things the Queen doesn't love, 'boats'
must be top of the list

They are quite a niche interest. One isn't unpatriotic

for finding them bloody tedious


It's no surprise the BBC are reaping a right royal whirlwind over their "inane" Jubilee coverage. Britain needs a scapegoat. Four days spent at the mercy of jubilee supermarket booze-deals, pissed-upon barbecues and rolling news of Gary Barlow's knighthood bid has left us as a disgruntled people.

Plus, it's not like our expectations were managed. Settling down to watch Sunday's Thames Pageant, Britain had been primed – by Huw Edwards, Ben Fogle, Tess Daly and assorted other goody-two-shoes Beeb sorts – to expect an event so spectacular and otherworldy that afterwards, all earthly life would feel void. Think the crashbangwhallop of New Year's Eve on the South Bank, plus the emotional shunt of William and Kate leaving Buckingham Palace in an Aston Martin, multiplied with the pomp of Elton John being helped from the back of a truck in a four-foot Louis IV powdered wig topped with a real cannon shooting smoke.

Don't blame the BBC that we didn't get that wow factor, blame the twonk who planned the flotilla. The flotilla was less "X-Factor final meets Spanish Armada", more the opening credits of 1980s BBC soap opera Triangle, where Kate O'Mara clung to the front of the Felixstowe to Gothenburg passenger ferry in smoky eye-kohl and shoulderpads purring, "Gosh, this is glamorous." Once the Windsors, plus assorted hangers-on, had embarked on their rather shoddy-looking vessel – God forbid we give Her Majesty a royal yacht to wave from, she might only remember how much she liked the one we took off her – there was very little to film other than the Queen staring at the shore for three solid hours. The bare-arsed stupidity of making an 86-year-old woman and a 91-year-old man stand for a very long time in sideways rain is clear to most coherent human beings. Within 24 hours, one of the pair was hospitalised.

Almost finishing off Prince Philip isn't the BBC's fault either, although they've had a damn good go with some Royal Command Performances. The main problem with the BBC's coverage, and Sky's and CNN's, too, was that to relish the flotilla from the comfort of one's home rested on one being someone who really LOVES boats. I'm certain every single man-jack of that demographic was on the Thames already with the rest of their Rotary Club, chasing the Queen in 999 smaller, crappier, even-less-televisually-interesting boats, through choppy, effluent-laden, grey waters, chomping back picnic-basket pork fancies. Boats are quite a niche interest. One isn't unpatriotic for finding them bloody tedious.

Face facts: the Queen seemed to find the whole thing dismal. In fact, the one time she cracked a smile was over the War Horse advert, pardon me, tribute, when a fake horse appeared and whinnied at her. If Vernon on Family Fortunes asked the question, "Name something the Queen likes?", after the top-scoring answers "horses", "silly little dogs" and "shooting stuff in Scotland", the word "boats" would be down there with "Duchess of York" and "dubstep".

If the Queen was suffering an existential crisis, the crowds cheering her had even less idea why they were there. I know this as live broadcast teams attempted to purge an iota of sense from the sodden throng all day. Monday and Tuesday's crowds at least had a focus (Monday: Kylie Minogue's arse/Tuesday: Worrying about how lonely the Queen looked now the flotilla had almost killed Philip). Sunday's live broadcast was just damp people being directionless in their views, cut with footage of street parties where white churchly thirty-somethings who looked like they cry after sex ate Victoria sponge and chatted to other white people. Back at the flotilla the BBC earned every penny of the licence fee keeping fun afloat. "Look! Some of these boats have hanging baskets on them!" said Huw in tones of pant-scorching glee. What Huw? Someone has managed to visit B&Q and carry a £4 spiderplant onto that floating rust-bucket? Will no one mind my pelvic floor?! Don't blame the BBC. Blame the Establishment Pugwash who dreamed the whole thing up.

'The Archers' to go noir? Best of luck

I giggled when John Yorke, controller of BBC drama production and acting editor of The Archers, warned that the soap's storylines would get "darker and bigger" in coming months in a bid to attract listeners. As a long-term Archers listener – it's on between the 6.30pm comedy half hour and the wonderful Front Row when I'm often cooking and it seems a hassle to tune out – I've tried everything to warm to this inpenetrable fug of rural chuntering. To say "nothing happens" on The Archers is to sully the good name of silence. Whole fortnights pass on The Archers where the plot is Person A has an idea for an organic soft-cheese and is wondering aloud about "social media" and Person B is refusing to confirm attendance of a whist drive/pot luck supper.

I admire Yorke's vision to shove a bit of EastEnders doom, death and gloom in the mix. The difference, however, with EastEnders is the cast has a great bouncebackability factor to tragedy, snubs and slights. Murder, maiming, bigamy, it's all laughed off in one episode and the characters are back down The Vic. Not so in Ambridge. The killing off of Nigel Pargetter last year caused a whole 12 months of pass-agg sulking and soul-searching so grim I took to pushing pasta in my ears to drown it out. I hope Yorke explains to writers that if characters are about to be bashed, bullied and bumped off, they shouldn't take it too personally.

The talking head that had to be silenced

My heart goes out to Tory HQ with the loss of Baroness Warsi from media circulation. Plucky, focused Warsi was pretty much the only stalwart figure the Conservatives possessed trustworthy enough to pitch up and chat publicly, impromptu, unscripted without causing a high-level national rumpus. Maude, Letwin, Osborne, not so much. Warsi loved to talk and could do it all day long – from BBC Breakfast, to lunchtime Sky's Kay Burley, to Newsnight with Paxo – without inciting panic-buying, puking or public terror. Jacob Rees-Mogg, it's all to play for.

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