The big lunch: Britain celebrates the queen’s jubilee with picnic spreads
17:31 JST, June 6, 2022
COLCHESTER, England – It was a little chilly, sure, with skies the color of cod belly. But it didn’t rain, much. And under the floppy tents it was as snug as a tea cosy, as vast numbers of Britons on Sunday hosted street parties as part of the “Big Jubilee Lunch,” to celebrate the queen’s 70 years on the throne.
It was like an American Fourth of July, only the English don’t celebrate that one. But there was the same DIY and WhatsApp vibe, the same feelings of laid-back block party, come-one, come-all. The little kids got their faces painted. The teens kept to the fringes, quietly hating it, while loving it. You know how that works.
It was neighbors meeting neighbors, people pulling the lawn furniture out of the garage after the interminable bummer of two years of pandemic.
Colchester, a city founded by the Romans, was partying a lot – in part because as one of the oldest “towns” in England it was awarded “city” status to mark the jubilee. The switch will give Colchester more money.
Buckingham Palace said more than 85,000 have signed up to host Big Jubilee Lunches, with Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, putting on the feed bag at the Oval cricket ground in London.
In Colchester, from block to block (we visited four), there was competitive baking – with cakes covered in Union Jack icing – but no sign of the official Jubilee Pudding (a lemon and amaretti trifle that includes 20 ingredients and five hours of prep time.)
Lin Gildea, a retired head teacher, was organizing the Big Lunch on Endsleigh Court here. She smiled with quiet satisfaction as neighbors brought forth plates of poppy cake, Victoria sponge, Chelsea buns – and cans of beers, bottles of bubbly and pots of proper tea.
And the food kept coming – until the tables groaned.
“I’m not a massive royalist, but this queen in one-in-a-million,” she said. Gildea thought the Big Lunch was just one more gift from the monarch: a chance for the people to make merry – and talk real estate values and commute times.
Over on King Harold Road, Rebecca Brooker, a homewares designer, said she believed the children will remember this day. “The day we closed the road and had a party for the queen. It will become part of their memories.”
Ernest Aduwa, a lawyer, was celebrating with his neighbors on Cambridge Road. “Sorry about the sun,” he joked. “It’s gone missing.”
But it was all good, he said. “I can’t wait for Harry to be king.”
His neighbors cracked smiles. Harry is like? Sixth in line?
“Cheers,” one of his friends said.
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