Monday 29 June 2015

Old and new

When a horse is 16.1 hands high, you say ‘Sixteen one’, not ‘Sixteen point one’. It’s not a decimal measurement – in fact, it’s a quarter, since there are four inches to the hand. That’s the only criticism I have of the guides at the Royal Mews, and it’s a pretty mild one. For the rest, they’re terrific: knowledgeable, friendly, approachable and quite remarkably polite and respectful. I guess that’s standard for Buckingham Palace employees.
The horses, though, looked entitled. Clean, shiny-coated, ripping into the sweetly-smelling hay in the nets hanging in their gleaming-tiled loose boxes. They know they’re onto a good thing, those Cleveland Bays and Windsor Greys: undemanding public duties (apart from all those waving flags) and two holidays a year at Hampton Court, shoes off and their hair down.
The coaches – or carriages, same thing, I established from Ian who admitted to long staff discussions on the subject – are fabulous things of gold and gleaming paintwork, ornate and elegant. They're not just conveyances, as we learned when looking at the Australian State Coach, which though it looks super-traditional has car-type suspension, air con and electric windows, and the crown on top, made from wood from the wreck of HMS Victory, conceals a camera for those roof-top shots essential to any parade coverage. It's the coach of preference for the royals, who hate the Cinderella-type 1762 Coronation Coach, which makes them all sea-sick, even the naval types. Pretty, though.
That’s old – what’s newest is The Shard, which costs £30 to go up to Level 72. While that’s not as high as the fox got when it was still being built – or even approaching many signature buildings around the world – it’s plenty high enough to enjoy the iconic sprawl of London all around. Also birdsong and a picnic on the grass. True: neither of them real, but fun, along with deck chairs, picnic rugs and cushions, and the chance to enjoy a cream tea and champers while sprawled on them beside the geraniums and chrysanthemums nodding in the breeze.

The Book of Mormon is a new take on an old idea, rude and funny and bursting with energy and talent – but there’s just as much delight to be gained from a wander around the night-time streets of London afterwards on a warm summer night, everyone in a good mood, the buildings lit up, the moon almost full and all those classic sights looking perhaps even better than by daylight.

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