Unless you've been living in a self-imposed state of republican exile, or in state-imposed exile for being a republican, you may have noticed that a lot of people have been waving Union Jacks in the rain this weekend. Four days of it later, and I'm still not quite why this was, but it seemed I should probably go out and see what was behind this mass outburst of all-weather patriotism. Would the rhapsodic sense of occasion turn me into one of those strange people who have shrines to Prince Andrew in their living rooms? Or would it spur me into burning a hastily assembled effigy of the Queen Mother outside the OXO Tower?
My journey into the British psyche took place on Sunday, and began at Chelsea Embankment. The plan was to crawl along the south side of the Thames until the sort of people who celebrate royal anniversaries had gotten drunk enough to be interesting. En route we saw these two guys, who may or may not have been Dr Whos at some point in the 70s. That or they were a pair of eccentric historians.
The celebrations – a thousand boats, drifting slowly down the Thames to blare their horns at the Queen – gave rise to all sorts of impromptu entrepreneurialism, and this man's merchandise was probably the most irritating of all. The Jubilee vuvuzela is a musical instrument that manages to combine two of the world's most annoying sounds, that of a supersonic hangover fart and cloying patriotism. Am I impressed? Well yeah, kinda. Do I want one? Fuck no.
The media generated a lot of their hype from the idea that young people had "come out for the event", toadying royal correspondents using a couple of kids flapping Union Jacks around to justify the role of the Royal family in modern Britain. But were these kids really conscious of the political ramifications of what they were doing? I don't think so. If you give children something to wave, they will wave it. It's what they do. Regardless if it's a Union Jack, the flag of Tamil Eelam, a sparkler or a dead hamster.
Guns just don't sit well with English police, do they? I'm sure they've been through the two-week training course at Hendon and all that, but they still can't quite carry it off, like they're World War II LARPers or 12-year-old boys with Super Soakers who at any moment could just have a geek fit and attack me. Bro, I think it's time for you to forget about the cava and move on.
You might think this guy is lame, but with his "queen, but not in the royal sense ;)" lulz, he pre-empted Rob Brydon's entire Jubilee Concert set by about 36 hours. And everybody knows that Rob Brydon is the cuddly king of making jokes about gay people and getting away with it.
Orwell's nightmare has finally come home to roost: in Cameron's 2012 Britain, a child can't even stand on the edge of a bridge without a state-sponsored blackshirt drone coming along to spoil the fun. Next you won't even be able to let your kids sit on the roof of your car without some jobsworth giving you a ticket.
I've got nothing against this whatsoever, but most of the people down by the river on Saturday didn't seem like they'd spent much time in London before. They kept taking photos of themselves outside tube stations and doing other entry-level tourist things like that, so it was nice to run into a couple of familiar faces – the first time I met these two, Eminem was still "the new Dylan", Coupling was still on TV and the three of us were running around North London trying to find out where the Littl'ans video shoot was at.
You'd think that with the extra money they were charging people, they could have at least made a new board rather than just sticking the Jubilee prices over the old ones. Still, I'm not gonna complain; I'm a staunch republican, so to me the £7 cheeseburger is a sign that the Queen isn't shirking her primary responsibility to rip-off tourists.
The proceedings were shown to the baying crowd on several giant viewing screens dotted around the Thames, where they would all bottleneck together to gawp and whoop at pixellated footage of our Queen like teenage boys having a sleepover porn sesh on a dial-up connection.
I decided to leave the crush and hit the backstreets, where we saw this well turned out chap. He should serve as an inspiration to anybody in the alternative community; just because you style yourself after the drummer from Sepultura and smell like a goat farm doesn't mean you can't also like the Queen.
The tube journey I took to Tower Bridge was an unmitigated disaster. It wasn't the sheer volume of people that caused the problems, it was the percentage of them who'd never taken the tube before. I found myself saying cunty things like "welcome to London" to people standing on the wrong side of the escalator, and tutting disapprovingly as distressed mums tried to force their prams onto full carriages before giving anyone the chance to get off. I cringe when I think of it now, but trust me, the day was enough to turn even the most understanding of metropolitans into a road raging black cab driver.
On Tower Bridge, we met this guy, UKIP's official weapon dog. Note the traces of blood around his eyes and muzzle, drained from the bollocks of Brussels bureaucrats and benefit-happy asylum seekers. I don't know what his name was, but Kilroy is a great name for a dog, don't you think?
What is it with people dressing up as WW2-era soldiers? I appreciate there's an inherent romance about it, but really, they were the people with probably the worst job to have, in the worst era to have that job. Nobody would throw a Bosnian massacre party with Pony sports jackets and plastic AK-47s, then claim they were just appreciating the aesthetic and not expect some kind of taste backlash, would they? Yet these people get away with it because they have nice hats on. They need to be reminded that rationing in this country stopped ten years after the war ended, which is probably why some poor Tommy had to pawn his medals and uniform in the first place.
As for this guy, well, he can just fuck right off. Homeboy looks more like the protagonist of a politically incorrect German fairytale or the Loony Party mayoral candidate for Hell than somebody's who's out celebrating his country.
Now this is the Dunkirk spirit in action. Whereas the rest of her colleagues took the day off to nurse hangovers in front of a Roger Moore-era James Bond film, this brave woman is keeping our faltering economy just above water with her selfless Sunday working. Lady, there's an OBE with your name on it.
Outside it was starting to rain, so I decided to head indoors before I had to take shelter under a gastropub awning next to that horrible Mad Hatter man. We were invited into a party nearby and it seemed as good an excuse as any to avoid the rain and Glastonbury patriots outside.
Inside, it was good to see real, cheap cupcakes being served up, rather than those overpriced Soho ones peddled by part-time burlesque dancers who claim they were "born in the wrong era".
But evidently the cupcakes weren't to everyone's taste.
After the first pavement pizza of the day, it seemed like a good idea to head back out into the action. By now the rain was pissing down, and the sheer amount of umbrellas made the streets look like a scene from some particularly lame and disorganised musical. I found myself staring at bored coppers, wondering if they were about to burst out in a tap dance. Sadly nothing of the like happened, just a confused procession of wet tourists sploshing back to the station.
I met this guy outside the crappy version of the London Dungeon that, for some reason, has been allowed to open directly opposite the original. I'm not really sure what look he was going for. He seemed to be aiming for "patriotic medieval executioner", but the blood-soaked white shirt made him look like a City trader who'd just been bottled by a business rival at Liverpool Street Wetherspoons.
There's a lesson to be learnt here; drape a Union Jack around your shoulders and you look like a loveable idiot on a package holiday. March down the street with it at full stretch, and you look like you're at a Lancashire race riot.
Ladies and gentlemen, you are now witnessing the birth of forensic littering. And Phil, wherever you are, don't think you've gotten away with this. A crack team are working around the clock with the people at Starbucks to make sure this flagrant disrespect for the environment never happens again. This could just be the most expensive Latte you ever had.
For all the Met's crime-fighting innovations, it's heartening to know that the dockside prostitutes are still covering their tracks by keeping things strictly cash-only.
A visual metaphor for this country's entire identity, a symbol of a faded empire swimming in a puddle of shitty water. With a bicycle lane running through it. The events had taken a turn for the worse, with only a few fat Texans in transparent ponchos and shivering stewards sticking around for the afterparty. It was time to head to the heartland, and get the British experience in full, inebriated Technicolor. It was time to go to a Jubilee-themed karaoke night in South West London.
En route, we met this guy in Sloane Square, who seemed intent on harshing everyone's royalist vibe. Listen mate, nobody wants to hear about your unjust treatment and governmental neglect; we want to know where P-Middy got her hat.
When we got there, the party was jumping and what could be more quintessentially British than a bit of ABBA? I know they were Swedish, but they had bad teeth, worse clothes and a 100 percent divorce rate.
Needless to say, it was a hell of a scene inside. But you know what? Two guys called Gary in bad suits singing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" made me far more proud to be British than a weird family waving disinterestedly at boats for five hours. (BTW, I'm aware it's very easy to end up sounding like a Thatcher-era alternative comedian when talking about the Royal family; there's a fine line between Noam Chomsky and Ben Elton.)
So what did I feel about the Jubilee celebrations? Well I don't know, really, because I still can't put my finger on what the purpose of it was. The only one there with any personal reason to celebrate seemed to be the least impressed by it all, there wasn't much drinking and it was mostly just obedient people stood out in the rain to catch a glimpse of their beloved leader. It was all a bit North Korea to be honest; the red hats, the crocodile tears, the inane cheering and the military muscle flexing.
And before you know it, all of that pomp and circumstance will be gone. The bunting will be in landfill, Cliff Richard will be banned, the Queen will be dead, our national pride will dissolve back into the default sneering cynicism and all that will remain, really, is that our children's children, and their children's children, will be able to accurately pronounce the word "flotilla".
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
Photos: Nicholas Pomeroy