Simon Kelner: Demonstrating your Britishness? Join the queue

Kelner's view

Share
Related Topics

This has been, we are told, a vintage summer for Britain. Not the weather, obviously, but a time when, from the Jubilee to the Olympics, our nation has been seen at its best, whether it be at staging a pageant, or at offering a helpful hand to others, or at displaying courage, skill and determination in a sporting arena, or even at exhuming a collection of old rockers to entertain the world.

We may be sinking deeper into recession, but we certainly know how to put on a show. And maybe there is something in the idea of Britain as a giant theme park to attract visitors from all corners of the globe. The Olympics proved we could do it. We made everything work, and everyone welcome.

We are not going to lead the world in manufacturing any more, so what about tourism? As a London resident, I hardly ever experience the capital's tourist attractions: I last went to Madame Tussauds on a school trip, I haven't been to London Zoo for almost two decades, and I have never been on a tour of Buckingham Palace. So do visitors go away think they've been ripped off – "that doesn't look the least bit like Terry Wogan!" – or enlightened - "I never knew the Queen liked toile de jouets wallpaper"?

Has the success of the Olympics really made others look at us in a different, and more benevolent, light? Have we now been inculcated in the have-a-nice-day rather than the I'm-sorry-we're-closed style of service? Has our hospitality industry woken up and smelled the Starbucks?

In a spirit of inquiry, and with some trepidation, I undertook a Bank Holiday trip to Chessington World of Adventures. My daughter is of an age when she finds a free bar more exciting than a big dipper ride, so I accompanied my friend and his five children – ranging from two years old to eight – who were already theme park veterans. They weren't fazed by the queues – some of the rides entailed a 90-minute wait – and I have to say that, if evidence was needed that the British liked to stand in line, here it was.

We all shuffled along uncomplainingly, snaking around endlessly, reading the notices about how to spot a queue-jumper (including the chat-and-cut technique immortalised by Larry David), and, bizarrely, letting people go past unchallenged if they said: "Excuse me, can I get through please." We just assumed they had a genuine purpose. What a polite nation we are, I thought. The staff were helpful and friendly, taking their cue from the Olympic volunteers, and, as at Games venues, most of the fast food was of a generic, unbranded variety.

The audience profiles, however, were very different. Chessington is not cheap, but it is – in contrast to the Olympics – within the financial resources of most people. So while the Olympic Park attracted what felt like an affluent cricket crowd, here there were tattoos, football shirts and beer bellies – and that was just the women! But everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and after queuing for hours in the park, then sat in massive traffic jams. Britishness at its best!

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

General election 2015: Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence