Royal anoraks

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The Independent Online
For the first waking hour yesterday I was in a sulk. With no remote control for the radio, I was forced to listen to the false warmth of the newsreader's oily congratulations to "Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother", on her birthday. Then they played the National Anthem - almost as if it were the family song of the Windsors.

Just as I was calming down, my eye fell upon the poet laureate Ted Hughes's blather in the newspaper about tap-roots, acorns and bedrock. His is a poem that should evoke deep, dark, earthy colours - the hues of a British forest, of weathered rock: deep greens, slate greys, dark blues. And what does she turn up in, this oak? Pastel chiffons in candy floss, that's what.

Then she is cheered to the echo by crowds of otherwise sensible fellow citizens who have gathered outside Clarence House in temperatures that would drive Tuareg tribes to up tents and seek cooler climes. Are they mad?

It's not that I am a republican. Give me a bill of rights, a reformed second chamber and PR, and you can keep your royals if you insist. And my attitudes to the family itself are vogueish: I admire Liz, loathe Phil, have gone off Charles, once met a girl like Diana at a party and didn't like her, pray that I am abroad on a very long holiday when the QM finally pops her clogs. As you can see - no irrational hatred there.

But the enthusiasm of royalists alienates me. They are anoraks and I am not. Just as some spot trains and others twitch, the royalists take advantage of special offers for Prince Andrew Toby jugs, commemorative half-sovereigns and QM porcelain. They actually believe that the Queen Mum has reached 95 because of some inner quality associated with royal blood. Ted has become their poet.

There is something more here, however, than just the alienation of unshared interests. The urge to put the boot in goes far beyond a mere boredom with the objects of their love and attention. Instead of yawning and turning over, I want a row. Why?

This week I found out, purely by accident. It was an evening so sultry that movement of the smallest kind was too enervating. Thus I failed to switch channels when Come Dancing began. On to a set from Gold-Diggers of 1938 walked a female presenter, togged out in a Dorothy Lamour, Aladdin's Cave outfit. She introduced the viewers to the two teams of dancers, from England and the Czech Republic. Behind her flounced and grinned a troupe of terpsichoreans attired in clothes so gaudy that they resembled the outrageous prodigality of Amazonian insect life: all lemons, salmons and impossible, carnivorous oranges.

Then they danced. To whoops of encouragement they did the Samba, the Rumba and the Lumbar. The women whirled with their necks craned back at prime throat-cutting angles, smiles of extraordinary width fixed firmly in place. The chaps, in an imitation of something that might have been sexuality, jutted as though they had had hip replacements inserted on top of the original joints. "I am truly amazing," the oh-so-camp foreign judge replied when asked for his comments on the performance.

Finally, the Penge Latin Formation Dancing Team took to the floor, preening for England. The effrontery of it! To advertise to the world without a hint of embarrassment that one hails from Penge!

And that was the point. Children make wonderful subjects for photographs because of their capacity to become absorbed in what they are doing. Then comes the terrible self-consciousness of adolescence. It becomes so much easier to be unenthusiastic. But the ballroom dancers were children who knew they were beautiful and graceful and they didn't worry about what sophisticates might think.

That is what anoraks, enthusiasts and bores are: people who somehow lack that corrosive self-consciousness that so characterises my generation and class. I might not care about the nonogenerian aristo, but I secretly envy those who do.

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