Walking along the trendy George Street in Hastings this afternoon, now bedecked with Jubilee bunting and shop windows full of nostalgia-themed Jubilee goodies (numerous invocations to Keep Calm and Carry On), I was somewhat surprised, to put it at its mildest, to come across this:
The Jubilee Golly, price £15, handmade in Hastings. Now tasteless Jubilee tat is one thing, but this … desperately offensive and inappropriate; just wrong at so many levels. Something that surely has no place in the diverse Britain of 2012.
But on reflection, it’s actually quite a potent sign of what the Jubilee means. Look at the shop windows, the newpaper articles, the TV coverage; this Jubilee is about nostalgia. It’s drenched in the fiction of a byegone age, and age which we will be told was more innocent, simpler, and – yes – less “politically correct”. One in which people knew their place in the community and Britain was a better place for it. One in which aspirations for a better, more equal, more open society has no part; a country in which one Kept Calm (or at least Quiet) and Carried On. And, at its apex, a monarch and family who, inscrutably, channel and define the parameters within which the hard-working families of political myth operate. One in whose iconography middle class, scrubbed families sat at breakfast in gleaming suburban parlours, a jar of Robertson’s marmalade on the table, while mother served, father contemplated his day at work, and the children wondered whether there would be time to finish another chapter of Enid Blyton before heading to school.
It is a nostalgia born of a sense that Britain as a society no longer functions, in which the effects of feral capitalism are set aside for a day or two to indulge in a nostalgia for a time when things had the appearance of comfort and certainty. Defeatism dressed up as celebration.
Jubilee Golly is at one level an offensive racial caricature. At another she’s a powerful metaphor for what this Jubilee means.