Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Tuesday, August 26, 2008 Off Guard
I heard someone on the radio this morning talking about seeing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and mentioning that it all happens far behind a wrought-iron fence now so you can't get close enough to try to make the guards laugh any more.
Actually, that was the case even way back in 1997, when I was there. There were a lot of things I didn't expect about London. Mulder's voice being kind of squeaky as a result of The X-Files episodes being stuffed into a forty-minute time slot. Having to walk upstairs to get to the "first floor." The fact that it takes like a half hour to change a damn guard.
We were actually running a bit late for the noon shift change that day, and while were on the tube I was sort of fretting that we'd get there at 12:01 and miss it. Most people reading this probably realize how ignorant it was of me to think that. We did cut it close, and were in the back tier of spectators, but I don't feel like we would have missed any vital exposition or anything if we'd just caught the second act. I swear, having people show up to watch this every day over the centuries has just encouraged them to cruft the procedure up more and more. In another couple of decades they'll probably add fireworks, or maybe a donkey show.
Actually, my favorite part of the whole thing was when one of the tourists in the front accidentally dropped her sunglasses between the posts of the fence. They hit the pavement of the Palace's front courtyard and skittered out of her reach. Even when she crouched down with her shoulder jammed through as far as it would go, her fingers fell millimeters short of being able to retrieve them. Eventually a suited MI-5 agent noticed her plight and kindly walked over, picked up the shades, and handed them back to her through the grate.
Needless to say, I was bitterly disappointed. I thought the official policy should be, "Sorry, ma'am, they're the Queen's sunglasses now." I even imagined a whole table in Buckingham Palace littered with lens caps, hats, Tube passes, even the occasional fanny pack with a few quid inside. I mean, shit, the monarchy has to support itself somehow, right? As long as they're putting on this big free show for the punters, they might as well get some return on it.
But of course this was 11 years ago, before the Tube bombings and 9/11. Maybe they can't allow strange items into the Palace at all any more, or maybe the wrought iron has been replaced by bulletproof Perspex. Whatever the case, as we were walking away that afternoon I couldn't help wishing that one of those bearskin-hatted guards could have heard me say, "They're the Queen's sunglasses now." I wouldn't expect him to crack a smile, but maybe it would be worthy of saving up to chuckle about after the end of his shift. posted by M. Giant 5:59 PM 3 comments
I haven't seen the changing of the guard at the palace, but I did see the changing of the guard at the Horse Guards. And there's no gate. You're right up close in the courtyard of the Horse Guards. And there are horses. Lots of horses. And not many people. I really liked it. So did my little kid buddies who were along for the event.
Next time, consider the equally long, but more entertaining Changing of the Guard at the Pakistan-India border, where the hammy guards barely restrain themselves from spitting on each other.
Yes, they still do all of the above, there's just more scary guards with guns milling around now. I wonder if they mock the other guards who wear the tall hats.