Gloriana and the Ice Cream Van
On a wet weekend in RichmondTom Aitken in London
He reports: ‘We have a new neighbour.
Gloriana, the brand-new Royal Barge is now moored in Richmond, just five minutes walk from our house.
It is, we are told, ‘being prepared’, like a good boy scout, for the Queen’s Jubilee later this year.
Two weeks ago, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh braved heavy rain and driving winds to name the barge, which was built specially to mark the Jubilee.
The royal couple travelled to the East London dock where Gloriana is currently moored, awaiting the moment when it will make its way to Wandsworth Bridge on the Thames from where it will lead a Jubilee pageant on June 3.
Dressed in a bright red coat and hat that cut a swathe through the morning’s gloom, the monarch descended a gangway at Greenland Pier on the Thames in London’s Docklands before boarding the Gloriana.
And, according to the security guard at Richmond I spoke to, the preparation seems to consist mainly of ‘doing up’ the varnished woodwork.
The vendor in the ice cream van parked alongside in Richmond didn’t seem to be expecting a flood of royal patronage when the Queen and her entourage arrive to sail down the Thames.
For him, I suppose, it was just business as usual on an overcast English spring day.
(Editor’s Note: It turned out not to be business as usual for the Ice Cream vendor — a Turk who has to travel all the way to Richmond from his home in East London. Soon after Tom Aitken left, and after ignoring warnings that a high spring tide was on its way up river, the ice cream vendor saw his van was flooded up to floor level. He had to climb out of the window to avoid standing ankle-deep in water sloshing through the van for half an hour or so.)
Britannia in retirement
Meanwhile, the former Royal Yacht Britannia, the 83rd such vessel since the restoration of King Charles II in 1660, is in retirement.
Britainnia was the second Royal yacht to bear the name, the first being the famous racing cutter built for the Prince of Wales in 1893.
She’s now permanently moored as an exhibition ship at Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.