People who read TheEye must be sick and tired of reading about THE QUEUE, but she had planned to write her own thoughts about this curiously British queuing tradition raised to epic proportions by the Queen’s funeral.

She loved the Private Eye account; as always they manage to get away with what most other papers can’t.

When a friend asked TheEye to join her to go to the Queen’s lying in state at Westminster Hall and estimated it would take about 5 – 6 hours to get inside the hall, TheEye declined the offer thinking it would be too tiring and not really worth it. A foolish decision as it soon became clear. It was undoubtedly a most moving and special moment and when the waiting time swiftly changed from 5- 6 hours and then longer and longer, and even longer than that, TheEye was sorry because the 5-6 hours it would have taken the day before seemed a doddle. But too late for regrets. If David Beckham was prepared to stand in line for 12 hours on a not very healthy footballer-ish diet of Pringles, sherbet sweets and sandwiches and not complain, he was setting a great example and also the idea in the minds of many about who they too might encounter – who knows – maybe Harry Styles (not, me thinks, a person that waits) or another glamorous heart throb.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The media was exploding with stories about the friendships made in THE QUEUE, telephone numbers exchanged with a promise of ‘keeping in touch’ and even the odd romance.

All this led TheEye to ponder the unique Britishness of queueing. A national pastime.

If there ever was an OLYMPIC GAMES category for QUEUEING an the U.K. entered, there would be a Gold Medal.

Image Courtesy of The Times

Times journalist, Caitlin Moran, who manages to be both funny and on the button when it comes to observation, devoted a long feature last Monday – brilliantly observed – and TheEye will quote some of her more acerbic comments:

“Britain cannot help being 100 percent Britain, 100 percent of the time.”

If Beckham can do it, so can we

“The fact that Britain has responded to the immense cultural upheaval by producing a series of gigantic queues has been viewed by the rest of the world as absolutely adorable. The Brits are queueing! Doing our most stereotypical national thing, spontaneously, and on a grand scale. We’ve been so endearingly us.”

Without paraphrasing Moran’s entire brilliant and unusually long article, TheEye has to mention two of her other comments. One about the high quality of the candles around the coffin which had been burning for several days showing little-to-no drip and an excellent steady glow.

John Lewis should be allowed to stock them.

“And finally, experiencing The Queue in the flesh were the spectators around the Queue who were not actually in The Queue. The ratio seemed to be 20% people in The Queue to 80% people who came to see The Queue – or experience the upside down, rules-suspension of the whole thing.”

Thank you Caitlin, you summed it up perfectly.

But TheEye has for a long time been fascinated by the British tradition of queueing – nothing like a sale to get some people camping outside a shop’s overnight to be first in The Queue and through the door with the determination of drug squad officers about to make a heist, and the memorable occasion when a fight broke out amongst sale goers at a much publicised sale over electrical equipment. Police were called, arrests made, but it only involved more queuing. This time it was the curiosity.

Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield

The “popular press” were thrillled to be able to name and shame (nothing they enjoy more): Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield were seen queue jumping. Using their “celebrity status to jump past the tired and patient souls who had been shuffling patiently through the night and into the day.” That is not the British way, celeb or otherwise.

The queue has earned its place in English folklore vocabulary and it’s not just a queue – it’s THE QUEUE


  1. Well observed as ever! It was an incredible day with lots of emotions and amazing organisations and detail.

  2. Well observed as ever! It was an incredible day with lots of emotions and amazing organisations and detail.

  3. What a wonderful observation, we should have all been there of course.
    Brilliantly written.

  4. My Hungarian mother & my friends’s Argentinian mother didn’t do queuing. They just went straight to the top. For the latter, “Do you mind but I’ve just arrived from Buenos Aires” always did the trick. Mortifying for us kids!

  5. As ever, love it Jan

    I am not a great queuer ( does that word even exist?) but I may now adopt it

  6. Great! Said everything! What a wonderfully British the whole week was.

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