Helen Martin: Patriotic ploy’s won me over

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IT was one of these spur of the moment things. Gary Barlow was being interviewed on TV the day before applications opened for tickets to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert.

It was always going to be a long shot because only 5000 people would be successful in nabbing a pair of tickets. But Himself, being in upbeat, optimistic mood, decided to give it a go.

Yup . . . out of 1.35 million in the draw, our number came up.

So there we shall be, nibbling at the contents of our Heston Blumenthal picnic box showcasing the best of British fare, in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, before making our way to the concert area where we shall be entertained by Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Kylie Minogue, Paul McCartney, Jessie J, Annie Lennox, Tom Jones, JLS – the list keeps growing – all for free.

We were just beginning to salivate over the promise of chilled country vegetable soup with mint-infused oil, Lapsang Souchong tea-smoked salmon, Coronation Chicken and strawberry crunch, washed down with Champagne – and thanking our lucky stars that it wasn’t some typical Heston-style experiment of garlic and chocolate-stuffed mouse heads served on a bed of silage – when a BBC radio presenter attempted to burst our bubble.

She asked Heston: “Don’t you think your menu might be a bit too sophisticated for the ‘ordinary people’ at the concert who might be more at home with a cheese sandwich?”

Speak for yourself doll! It was sheer jealousy, of course, though given the number of duplicate crews the BBC’s TV and radio stations send to anything more exciting than the opening of an envelope, she could well be on the next blanket along the grass from us – as will the performers, according to the itinerary.

I can see myself now, asking Jessie J to pass the salt, although I think it’s a fair bet that there may be VIP area rope between us.

If I was from the south-east of England, I’d already be rejoicing because the perversity of the British climate guarantees that, if you have 13,000 folk planning a picnic and an open-air concert in London on June 4, the heavens will open and we’ll all watch our Coronation Chicken and cardboard picnic boxes fall apart and be washed away in the torrent. Just what the drought-ridden south needs.

Not to worry, every picnic box also carries a plastic poncho. We’ll manage.

It’s the last item in the hamper I’m worried about, which brings us to the point of the whole story.

Himself is not really a Royalist. In fact, we have regular debates in which I stick up for the Queen and do that bit about how hard they all work and where would we be without them, and he turns into a rabid socialist citing the advantages of the French Revolution. He’s proud of his nationalism.

The last item in the picnic box is described as “a patriotic flag”. Now this is what’s going to make the entire family at home sit glued to the television, afraid of missing a single second of the Jubilee Concert.

As the camera grabs odd snatches of crowd for “atmosphere”, he may just be picked up, come rain or shine, waving a wee red, white and blue flag, singing the national anthem, or perhaps miming, or just squirming. And if so that moment will be recorded and watched again and again. A piece of family history – something we sincerely believed we’d never see.

Yet as I kept reminding him when he heard about the flag, he was the one who applied for the tickets to this genuinely historic occasion.

If we find ourselves sitting next to Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and Sean Connery, and surrounded by accents from Plockton to Portpatrick we’ll know the whole Jubilee Concert/Gary Barlow/Heston Blumenthal thing is a cynical ploy to win over Nationalists and disgruntled Scots. Bet David Cameron’s kicking himself that he didn’t think of it.

Frankly, I’m so excited I think it might have worked.

Footy fall-out fear

ANOTHER historic occasion, for Edinburgh at least, is the Hibs-Hearts cup derby. Opinion is divided over whether the match should be played at Hampden or, since both teams are from the Capital, staged right here at Murrayfield.

I’m completely unbiased about the result because, as regular readers will know, I’ll probably be doing something more interesting, like scrubbing the pantry or clipping my toenails. Apologies to both, it’s just not my thing.

But Murrayfield seems like a much better location. I don’t want to be negative but somehow I can’t imagine jolly banter on the train to and from the west and – especially on the way back – the victorious empathising with the defeated, gentlemanly back slaps of commiseration and the companionable sharing of Werther’s Originals. In fact, my heart goes out to other passengers who having no interest in the “beautiful game”, don’t even know it’s Scottish Cup day, let alone who’s playing where, and might find themselves in the midst of opposing fans.

If everyone behaves well, great. If not, it would at least spare our city blushes if the fall-out was on home turf.