View of the queue

“a meditative magic of its own”

This is the queue’s destination, an opportunity to walk past the Queen’s coffin in St Stephen’s Hall in the palace of Westminster. It will be the culmination of a long walk for those passing it as I write (5.45am).

The BBC describes watching the “long silent queue” as having a “meditative magic of its own

But thought the brief time spent by the coffin will be the culmination, the queues’ the thing and though it is long , for most of its length it is not silent but energetic and purposeful. It’s a human tide that washes along the banks of the Thames in waves.

the back of the queue with Tower Bridge a distant landmark to the west

These people joining the queue in Bermondsey early in the evening last night, will be arriving now after maybe 9 hours on their feet. There is a queue to join the queue and a steady flow of people coming from London Bridge who double back on themselves once they have received the green wristband that will eventually give them admittance to the Hall.

I walked down to Southwark Park and back alongside those in the queue. It is not a slow queue , in fact at times it was a fast paced walking queue. It is an energetic queue made up of thousands upon thousands of individuals who will be able to say “I was there, I queued“.

I likened the queue to the Carmino Santiago, the pilgrimage route taken by those on their way to Santiago de Compostela. There are toilet stops , ice cream vans and some enterprising residents whose properties have lined the route are making a few bog (as at Notting Hill Carnival) but for the most part , the queue is sufficient unto itself.

There are some in black, some wearing union colours, many wearing medals and sporting military uniforms. For the most part, people seemed prepared for walking – many had sticks.

There is a “queue tracker” to tell you where the back of the queue is (and now how long in geographical distance the back of the queue is from its destination) . The queue is clearly shorter in the early morning than it is during the day (4.5m at peak)

The Pathe news of 1952 shows a different London but the same queue.

As for George VI, the majority of time spend in the queue is near Westminster where it snakes around barriers , adding considerably to that geographic distance and meaning that most will have walked 10 miles by the end.

In its early stages, it is not glamorous

It is free flowing

I’m pleased to see that some enterprising soul has created a version of the route that allows pilgrims to get liquid refreshment

Once  the queue passes Tower Bridge Road , drinking opportunities diminish, The route takes its human tide past HMS Belfast, the Globe, Tate Modern, Oxo Tower, the National Theatre, Festival Hall and on to Jubilee Park and the London Eye. These great sights are all the product of the last 70 years.

And so on to Lambeth Palace, the seat of the clergy and finally over the water at last, to Westminster.

A view of the queue

My three words “energy, community ,purpose“. The queue is what people remember as much as the destination. People stride together for a common purpose, to pay respects to a monarch who they feel they have known and who touches them.

Because it is always moving, you can hardly say “I was there” before you are not. It is a different experience from sitting awaiting the arrival .

I thought hard about taking a green wristband and queuing through the night. I didn’t and won’t now – last night was my chance. But if you are thinking of going , the weather is on your side

and I am sure God is too!

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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