Sunday, June 3, 2012

Don't Rain on My Parade

This afternoon was the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, a parade of over one thousand boats floating down the river in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation.  While the official parade route began in Battersea/Chelsea, the boats were mustering upriver in Putney, which is just north of Wimbledon, where we live.  With over one million people expected to line the Thames to watch the festivities, we decided it was worth missing some of the pageantry in exchange for being able to actually see the boats as they started their journey towards central London.

It turned out to be a good decision.  It was an easy 20-minute bus ride to Putney, and while we certainly weren't the only people who decided to watch from there, we had no trouble finding a nice spot with an unobstructed view AND a place to sit between Putney Bridge and the Putney rail bridge.  It was chilly and threatening to rain, but the crowds were in good spirits and very excited about the parade.   After about half an hour, we caught sight of the first wave of boats.
First boats approach Putney Bridge
The boats were divided up into different categories.  First up, the people-powered boats... about 260 of them!

Row for Freedom
Dragon Boats
Patriotic support boat
Venetian gondoliers
In order to give the rowboats a decent head start, there was a huge gap between that group and the next, during which many people decided they'd seen enough boats and went home.  (Yes, it was that cold!)  We stayed put, and eventually were rewarded with the next group:  the Commonwealth Flags
Sea Cadets with Commonwealth Flags
Dunkirk Little Ships - privately-owned boats that aided in evacuating British soldiers from Dunkirk during WWII.
 Historic & Service Boats

 Steam Boats, Tugs, and Working Boats
Rescue boats

Fire boat
Barnabas (with giant flag)
Queen's Hat boat
Fire boat
 Recreational Boats

Including the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers, of course!
Special Diamond Jubilee sails
The boats continue up along the Thames
 Narrowboats (canal boats)

  Passenger Boats

Yarmouth Belle & Viscount
Thames River Experience boats
 And taking up the rear, a Port of London working boat.
It was incredible to be there in person and watch as hundreds of boats passed by -- many of them full of costumed, flag-waving crews and passengers.  There was quite a festive atmosphere along the waterfront in Putney as well, despite the chilly weather, but after sitting out in the cold for three hours, we were in need of some time indoors with a hot drink.  We were having a hard time believing it was really June.
The Boathouse pub in Putney
We stopped at a cafe inside the Exchange mall and were treated to a free concert by a string quartet raising money for cancer research while we had tea and a snack and regained feeling in our fingers and toes. Delightful!  We tossed some coins in their violin case on the way out, and emerged into a downpour.  So glad we caught the parade early before the rain!  We hopped on a bus back to Wimbledon and watched the pageant coverage on TV so we could see the few bits we missed: the Gloriana, the music barges, and the Queen and the rest of the Royal family.  We were very happy to be snuggled up on the sofa under a down comforter rather than out braving the crowds and rain.  I guess we're getting old...

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