Great news! What with funding for the arts being cut, promised hospitals being reneged on, jobs being eliminated all the way to the horizon – hooray! QE2 and her ever-faithful husband are among us! Well not quite among us but up at Hillsborough with Owen Paterson and down at UTV with Frank Mitchell yesterday. Frank showed her his weather secrets and the various backdrops he could create for her to stand in front of – Buckingham Palace, the GPO in Dublin, that kind of thing – and QE2 said to Frank, quick as a flash ‘You could take me anywhere in the world’. Well! Frank nearly passed out with pleasure. ‘Such a witty thing to say!’ he’s reported as gasping. Your OBE is in the post, Frank.
And as if that weren’t enough, blimey, what do I read today on the BBC website? She’s COMING BACK for the annual Maundy Service! Jeepers – is there any end to the morale boosts this woman can deliver?… No please, don’t show your ignorance by asking what a Maundy Service is. It’s a Church of England/Church of Ireland thing that happens on what the rest of us would call Holy Thursday. QE2 comes into the church – this year it’ll be in (Halleluia and Begorrah!) St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh and she’ll be giving out 82 ‘traditional Maundy purses’. Not to smelly beggars from the street or anything – no, these’ll go to 82 activists in Church and community. And it’ll be 82 because QE2 is in her 82nd year.
So now aren’t you pleased? Royal jam today AND royal jam tomorrow! Apparently the British monarch used to do a bit of foot-washing as well as purse-giving-out (washing other people’s feet, not his own – the man who squeezes the royal toothpaste ablutes the royal feet as well) but they stopped the podiatry stuff back in the 16th century. Still, QE2 is a kind of saviour as well, isn’t she? Her visits are timed to save us from gloomy thoughts about jobs and food on the table and how in the name of God we’ll manage. Granted, the QE2-Jesus parallel gets a bit harder to maintain, placed beside Jesus’s command to give, not Maundy purses but all you have to the poor. Awkward, because QE2 is worth, oh, £200m, and if she gave all that to the poor, they’d only spend it on drink. But let’s be honest: the lift that hard-working woman has given us one and all, well, it’s just a pearl beyond price. I do hope those people south of the border get to hear. They’re in even worse financial shape than we are, so a QE2 visit would be received with even louder and more unanimous shouts of joy. Wouldn’t it?