Tom Hodgkinson: My own little mutiny on the bunting


Related Topics

Unlike in 1977, when the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" reached number two in the charts, there seem to be few republican voices prepared to stand out today. And however much you might like to resist it, everyone has gone crazy for bunting. It's everywhere (not least on the pages of the magazine you're holding in your hands).

There's vintage bunting, Cath Kidston bunting, Union Jack bunting... Plus there's all the rest of the vintage iconography: flowery teapots, cake stands, trestle tables and stripy tablecloths flapping in the wind. It's as though Oliver Cromwell never existed. In this climate, anyone who expresses any reservations about the monarchy (or the Olympics, for that matter) is likely to be seen as an old grumpus.

For my part, I'm in two minds about the monarchy. Traditionally, the king has been a friend to the poor man, and we cheered and whooped when Charles II returned to the throne following the grinding, funless Stalinist years of the Commonwealth. Where I live, everyone seems to loathe all governments, because they interfere and tell us what to do and what to think. But they are all very happy to bring out the bunting and toast the Queen. Our village is throwing a tea party for the Jubilee: "Everyone is invited to come to a community celebration of 60 glorious years of Queen Elizabeth's reign," reads the invite. And there is no doubt that such events bind communities, and that is good.

But the republicans in Blighty must be thinking we've all gone completely crazy. William Morris voiced popular anti-Royalist sentiment in 1877 when he wrote: "Hideous, revolting and vulgar tomfoolery. One's indignation swells pretty much to the bursting point." Even Victorian England was by no means as cap-doffing as we like to think: Queen Victoria was hissed in her own Diamond Jubilee year when she travelled to the East End of London to open the People's Palace, a sort of library and centre of culture for the working classes.

The republican element in our village is making its voice known by teaching the children to sing "God Save the Queen", the Pistols version, at the Jubilee concert. It's funny how the Sex Pistols' songs have entered the British consciousness as rebel folk songs.

With such confused thoughts in my mind I retreated to my own little patch of England, the allotment, the other weekend. My wife's birthday was approaching and I hit on the idea of making her a small fruit garden. I'm beginning to realise that where allotments are concerned, fruit might be where it's at. Gooseberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackcurrants all grow well in British soil and are expensive to buy, making them the ideal food to grow. The other nice thing about fruit is that it is low effort. Just plant, water and off you go. No need to sow and dig, as is the case with vegetables.

I enlisted the help of the children and we planted a dozen raspberry canes and two cute little blueberry trees. We propped up a little wire fence around the plot, then painted a sign to read: "Victoria's Fruit Garden!". My daughter, herself gripped by patriotic fever as a result of the heady double-bill of the Jubilee and the Olympics, did the lettering and her pictures of flowers in red, white and blue.

Then I started rooting around in the barn, and immediately discovered some bunting. It was left over from a party we had a couple of years ago. At that point it had seemed quite original and fun to put up bunting. Sort of ironic. Now that everyone else has gone bunting-crazy, I feel I am being forced against my will to like the stuff, manipulated into being a bunting lover. However, I knew that the children would have no such qualms, so I took the bunting up to our new little fruit garden and put it up. I have to admit that it looked pretty, and even if you are a republican, what's wrong with growing your own fruit and vegetables?

We took Victoria up to see her patch on her birthday and she was thrilled. She had to admit that the bunting looked pretty. It frames the garden. And unwittingly I have planted patriotic fruits: red raspberries and blue berries. Now I just need to get a white fruit and we'll be all set. Except for a few punk-rock safety pins around the place. Would a safety pin attached to each piece of bunting express my confused state as far as individual freedom, community celebration and monarchical sentiment go?

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of 'The Idler'

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, centre, attends a news conference at Chigi Palace in Rome  

Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

Andrew Grice

When a small amount of desk space means the world

Rebecca Armstrong
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own