Get out your bearskin party hats

9 June 2018, 20:37 | Updated: 15 June 2018, 20:46

guard

Rejoice! It is Her Majesty's birthday. Not the real one, the extra one she gets as a bonus for excellence in waving.

What do you get for the woman who has everything? A fantastically expensive and completely pointless nostalgia trip involving thousands of soldiers, musicians, horses, bands and carriages.

They stand in straight lines for ages, then twirl their rifles and march up and down to the accompaniment of quite a lot of shouting, which is the only thing that keeps much of those watching awake.

Her Majesty can see this ruinously expensive spectacle because she was lucky enough to jump straight to the front of the queue for cataract surgery, while her subjects idle on waiting lists 'till they go blind.

It is the Household Division, her personal soldiery, which provides the troops – more than 2,000 of them, all got up in costumes that must cost thousands and are totally useless for anything other than standing bolt upright, or perching on horseback while clip-clopping along at a stately pace.

The breathless television commentary told us that these men would be delighted that the Duke of York was leading them onto the parade ground.

I had to look up who the Duke of York is. It's Airmiles Andy! I'm sure the hardened men of that fighting force are over the moon.

Not only do they have him as their leader, the job they do was described as one of the worst jobs in the British Army.

The Daily Telegraph reported in 2005 that the troops who protect the royal palaces and the Tower of London are forced to live in “atrocious” conditions and have to undertake a variety of tasks that senior officers described as “onerous, debilitating, repetitive and unattractive” and that constitute “real and unique pain”.

If you have ever stopped to gawp at one of them stood still for hours on end outside one of the many palaces at the royal family's disposal, you might have wondered how they do it. The boredom and discomfort that must come with remaining stationary under all that kit in the blazing sun, or the pouring rain, looks excruciating.

They do it because of the severe punishment that is doled out if they fail.

Still, as long as the Queen's happy.

Those poor soldiers, at least some of whom must have signed up because they believed the ads on the telly about hanging out in bars with your mates, impressing girls and going to exciting places to shoot people, are instead spending most of their day polishing silly bits of antiquated uniform that seem designed to collect dirt and repel a shine.

And what kit they have got! Each and every one of those men and women parading up and down must be stood up in thousands of pounds worth of uniform, knee-high boots and hats made of dead bears.

The horses don't come cheap either – you can't just park one and forget it 'till the next time a royal personage requires an escort from another age.

Then there's the cost of the barracks in prime central London and the assorted trainers and handlers and all the tailors, hatters and cobblers.

If there are over a thousand officers, two hundred horses and more than 200 musicians with all their instruments and regalia, shall we say that it must cost about five million pounds to maintain those that put on the birthday parade?

This, at a time when the Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff Nick Timothy said senior military figures have told him that government cuts have left them with their worst equipment shortfall in decades.

There are barely enough tanks, artillery pieces, radios and body armour to properly equip 40,000 soldiers – less than half of the army’s 82,000 standing strength.

We don't have the money to protect our soldiers in battle, but we do for an RAF fly-past and the cost of closing much of London and all the attendant police security.

It's not as though the police couldn't be better spending their time. The incidence of violent crime has increased by 100% in the last ten years in the capital. The murder rate went up 44% last year alone.

Yet there they were, making sure that no passing member of the public got to take a peek at the show they were paying for.

They could probably hear the national anthem from behind the barricades, even though they won't have been able to see the person it was being played to.

That funereal tune is all about the leader of the family who happens to be in the big chair when it is played. The winner of the game of thrones is the one who our country's own song is about.

The hymn of praise doesn't mention us lot at all, apart from the bit about us being pleased to pour on her our “choicest gifts”.

So that's what you give to the woman who has everything, on her second birthday of the year.

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