A Royal waste

Bob Wakeham
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It was Mary Walsh and/or Cathy Jones I thought of last weekend as I tortured myself enough during channel changes to catch a minute here, a minute there, of England’s over-the-top, near-nauseating, self-indulgent celebration of the Queen’s 60th Diamond Jubilee, one of those opportunities the Brits exploit in order to ignore reality and try to convince the rest of the world that Britannia still matters.  

Obviously, there are fans of the monarchy, here in Newfoundland and elsewhere, refusing to believe that the poor old Queen’s reign, especially in the last 20 years or so, has been not much more than a walking, talking soap-opera, a dream come true for not only the tabloid press, but the supposedly legitimate members of the Fourth Estate as well.

But I have a notion that the bulk of the non-British world shook its universal head in embarrassed amazement as the Queen and her family were escorted down the River Thames by hundreds of vessels, from canoes to yachts, like an event from the past when the monarchy really mattered, part of the celebration of just how long Elizabeth has been waving that little, white-gloved hand of hers like a metronome (those monotonous timers for pianos so many of us were forced to adhere to as the nuns tried desperately to beat us into a Newfoundland version of Liberace).

So, thus, the reference too many sentences ago to Mary Walsh and Cathy Jones: I can’t recall whether it was just one, or the two of them, who, in their Codco days, would do an outrageous and irreverent imitation of the Queen.

What I do remember specifically, though, was the caricature of Elizabeth slowly losing strength in her robotic-like hand as she waved to her subjects, and then grabbing hold of her wrist with the other hand, without missing a stroke, to continue her greeting to the delighted peasants.

And, so, as I watched with a container of Gravol nearby on the weekend, there was the actual Queen herself, not a Codco spoof at all, but the real thing, her wrist ready to fall off as she tried to let her subjects on the banks know she really cared about them, she really did.   

“We love all of them, each and every one, do you not think so, Philip?” Something along those lines is what her loyal subjects may have wanted to believe Elizabeth was whispering to her near-comatose husband, the aging Phil barely able to stand with all those medals hanging off his uniform, enough to make you believe he won World War 11 single-handedly.

What she was probably saying, or at least thinking, was: “Philip, you know that derriere of mine, the same one the public apparently jokes that never emits an odour of any sort, under any circumstances? Well, that same derriere, or arse, as those quaint  Newfoundland colonialists describe it, is freezing off in this damn blasted boat. Will you take me ashore, Philip, and bring me home to my warm dogs?” (No kidding, though, there was “breaking news” the next day that Philip was rushed to hospital with a bladder problem, perhaps a result of the poor old chap standing on a ship for hours, weighed down with medals, without getting a chance to tap a kidney).

While watching the celebration of the Queen’s 60 years of waving, I couldn’t help but think, as well, of the CBC, of all things.  

I don’t know exactly how much air time the celebrations got on the CBC, but surely, for a corporation trying to remain a legitimate alternative to the other Canadian media, to continue to reflect Canadians to Canadians, as the mandate has it, the bridge-to-bridge coverage of boats bobbing in the Thames did not do their credibility any favours.

Yes, I was interested in the boat paddled by Canadian women who had survived breast cancer; it was a legitimate and continuing story of fortitude and resilience, a proud example for Canadians of how a group of their fellow citizens maintain hope and optimism in the face of a deadly illness.

But a journalistic crew of three CBC employees could have done justice to that story (or perhaps stories about the enormous costs of the event in a country smothered in financial cuts, or whether or not Canadians still want the monarchy in their lives, at least to this extent).                                                       

Instead, the CBC covered the entire extravaganza for hours upon hours, days upon days, led by the forever sedate Peter Mansbridge (honest to the gods of journalism, Peter could turn a dramatic hurricane story into a benign weather report), and a team of innumerable on-air journalistic “personalities,” most sounding near-orgasmic as they described the Queen’s wet trip down The Thames.

And behind the scenes, there were undoubtedly countless producers and technicians doing their best to help Mansbridge and the on-air talent deplete the CBC budget.  

Ironically, during the weeks leading up to what I’m sure was a ridiculously expensive bill for coverage of the Diamond Jubilee, we were treated here in Newfoundland to examples of what public broadcasting is all about, or should be all about, as a nightly schedule of Land and Sea programs were aired during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tremendous documentaries produced by a crew of three or four people, money well spent.

I’d say Mansbridge’s accommodations alone in London would have supplied money for an extra documentary or two produced by the local Newfoundland crew.

Regional CBC broadcasting has been cut to the bone, barely surviving, while the corporation bosses still see fit to pay a fortune to give us days and nights of the Queen doing her metronome thing.

Good show. Tally ho. Bang on. Hip hip.

Wave that hand, Queenie.     

 

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: CBC

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, England, River Thames London

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  • jeff
    June 11, 2012 - 07:55

    Well Bob I couldn't disagree with you more and I took offense to the way you bashed the Queen. She is indeed a Royal lady and I take pride in our Canadian association with her and the British Monarchy. I still fly the Union Jack flag as well as a Canadian Flag, and (most importantly) the Newfoundland flag, I am very proud of where we came from and that Newfoundland was a British colony. I am not so sure I agree with the money wasted every year for a Lieutenant Governor, but I am still very proud of our ties with England. After reading your article Bob all I can say is "shame on your for the way you "dissed " the Queen. "Long live the Queen!! :)

  • Blake
    June 10, 2012 - 20:05

    The monarchy and all associated offices such as the Lieutenant Governor should be abolished. Historical allegiances aside, they have no relevance in our current society. All the time we spend fawning over the royal family is time that could be better spent elsewhere - why don't we reflect upon real Canadian culture, history, or social issues instead? The Senate should also be abolished. They are a hyper-partisan waste of tax dollars, and contribute nothing to the country as a whole. It is about time that the Canadian government puts the affairs of everyday Canadians first... These reforms would be a great start towards reinvigorating our troubled nation.

  • speedy
    June 10, 2012 - 19:06

    Bob, reading this has made our day, fnaly my wife and I can get a good laugh out of the whole show. How much of this did the CBC think we as Canadians could take.

  • johnboy
    June 10, 2012 - 15:59

    Right smack dab on brother!

  • Delia
    June 10, 2012 - 15:38

    I personally sit on the fence as regards whether Canada should retain the monarchy. But like it or not, we have one, and it's an integral part of our history. As such, the CBC would have been remiss in their duties had they not provided comprehensive coverage of the Queen's 60th Diamond Jubilee. And I gotta wonder what your real beef is with Peter Mansbridge. I absolutely adore him!

  • Joseph McGrath
    June 10, 2012 - 10:23

    I did not watch the Royal Flush down the Thames but I throughly enjoyed your column on the event.You nailed it Bob and for that I send you a sunshine compliment for a column well written.Keep up the good work !!!!I always give credit where credit is due.Cheers!!

  • Holden
    June 09, 2012 - 08:01

    Wasn't it Greg Malone? Someone has to update the mandate of CBC and no that does not mean giving Stevie a free ride. At least the Liberals did not see it as a free prpopaganda machine for the government of the day.