I was at the royal wedding last week. I mean, I wasn’t actually sat in the church of course – I was around the margins, doing my PR job. Sorting out media interviews, sitting in green rooms, arguing over wrist bands, pushing through crowds.
That’s my role at important events – I’m there but nobody notices. Do you remember Zelig? It was a film by Woody Allen, back in the day, about a character who was always on the fringes of history – popping up anonymously in the back right corner of photographs. That’s me, I’m Zelig. And that’s most writers I think. We like to be where the action is, but we don’t want to be part of the action, we want to observe it.
I don’t really do reportage any more, I haven’t done it since I was a newspaper reporter, and that was back when we used to use typewriters. I don’t suppose I will ever write about the royal wedding in a direct way. But I will squirrel things away – ideas, impressions, and they will pop up in what I write in other places and at other times.
I don’t even know what those things will be – maybe that all Personal Protection Officers (royal bodyguards) dress the same, in tweed jackets and chinos, maybe that every famous news anchor you see looks older and more ordinary than they do on screen, perhaps because the thing someone noticed about them, which got them the job in the first place, was how wonderful they look when the camera sees them.
It might be the mass of the crowds filling every nook and cranny of Windsor. The electricity in the air when a crowd like that is silent with anticipation. The sound that crowd makes when it is roused by excitement and how that sound differs from, say, a football crowd.
One thing I know I will remember is walking among all those people, the tens of thousands, the stadium-fulls, out on the Long Walk at Windsor, and wondering what they were all doing there. I knew why I was there, I was doing my job. But what had brought each of these unique people together?
Maybe they came for the excitement, the change in the air, when the coach came past? Maybe they came for the sense of community, or the idea that they were part of history – something which would be written down and remembered after they were gone.
Hey – maybe they were there to celebrate love. It’s an idea which brings out my cynical side. But in a world which seems to go out of its way to glorify hate, would that be such a bad thing?
And there I was in the background, where we writers always are, working stuff out, storing stuff away.
‘I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do,
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,’
That’s what Eliot said and he was right, that’s who we writers are, it’s what we do, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
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