The three days in May which showed Britain throws the best parties - Christa Ackroyd

Happy New Year to you all.

Today is the day when the trimmings of Christmas traditionally come down and the house gets back to normal. I used to hate this day when I was a child when the house looked bare, the holidays were over and it seemed an eternity until next Christmas.

But then as you get older, there is something comforting to everything being back in its place. And there is absolutely no point in wishing your life away.

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Nevertheless it is the time of the year I look forward to making plans, not necessarily expensive plans of long-distance holidays or major house moves or new car plans, as I once might have done, but simple, achievable plans to see friends more and to make every day count.

The Wood Hartley and Sykes families celebrate the King's Coronation at a community event, ‘A Right Royal Day Out’ held at Pontefract Castle  photographed for The Yorkshire Post by Tony Johnson. 7th May 2023The Wood Hartley and Sykes families celebrate the King's Coronation at a community event, ‘A Right Royal Day Out’ held at Pontefract Castle  photographed for The Yorkshire Post by Tony Johnson. 7th May 2023
The Wood Hartley and Sykes families celebrate the King's Coronation at a community event, ‘A Right Royal Day Out’ held at Pontefract Castle photographed for The Yorkshire Post by Tony Johnson. 7th May 2023

This week I make no New Year’s resolutions to break before the month is out. I need no costly gym memberships or New Year sales to add to my bulging waistline and even more bulging wardrobe. I am divesting myself of the Christmas pounds simply by throwing away the uneaten Christmas chocolates (well only the ones I don’t like) and talking bag after bag to the charity shop. One thing is for sure, I will never need half a dozen news-reading jackets ever again and as for formal clothing, I have enough to last me a lifetime.

Divesting oneself of the past is always a cathartic exercise, so I hope you will indulge me as I take this opportunity to look back at the highs and lows of the past 12 months and then we can all move on. You know the low points without me even listing them.

On the day we traditionally celebrate Epiphany in the Christian calendar, we certainly don’t need three wise men to tell us what those have been; political turmoil, inquiries about who did or rather didn’t do what in that terrible time not so long ago when people were dying in a pandemic, wars ongoing and potentially just beginning, the cost-of-living crisis with ever increasing mortgage rates, fuel prices and food bills.

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A strike a week, some I had sympathy with others I didn’t, and the new low for me, that terrible description of homelessness as “a lifestyle choice” by a former Home Secretary, which amongst other things led to her being shown the door, thank goodness.

Ms Braverman might not believe that kindness pays, but she certainly learnt the lesson that using the most vulnerable as a political weapon pays even less. And as a result, the funds in my homeless charity’s coffers swelled accordingly, because people are better than one cold politician ever imagined them to be. And so is this country.

Nothing illustrated that more than one event last year which brought us all together and showed the true spirit of the nation. You may not agree with me but May 6, 2023 will live long in the memory for me and perhaps you too.

And just as my mother used to do, now in my memory box is an illustrated celebration souvenir of the day Prince Charles was crowned King, and Camilla his Queen. What’s more on our fridge there is still a Post-it note upon which a six-year-old drew a stick figure with a crown proclaiming the news “Our King”.

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In keeping with the times, while the ceremony was strangely at odds perhaps with 2023, a new emoji was created of a crown. Four thousand streets were closed for parties. We ate broad bean quiche for tea, although I am not sure it will enjoy the same longevity as Coronation chicken, and we scoured charity shops to make King and Queen scarecrows to adorn the village near Skipton where we celebrated, though Camilla’s wig slipped a little and Charles’s homemade crown had be stapled to his head in the rain.

The ceremony itself was weirdly magnificent. The anointing with oil of a man stripped to his shirt, the incredible music which stirred the soul and echoed through a historic abbey with its congregation made up of dignitaries and ordinary folks alike and watched by 20 million people on television. It was superb.

Yes, there were protests, but then that too was celebrated as our right to make our views heard in a country I firmly believe was shown to the world that day as a nation to be proud of. The pomp, the ceremony, the spectacle which caused many to utter the phrase “nobody does it like we do”. And they don’t.

The concert the following day was spectacular with its drone imagery bringing 21st century technology to the fore while supporting and encouraging the world of volunteers with 500 Coronation champions. The best of British celebrating what Britain does best. And that’s care.

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The party on the Monday will equally live long in the memory. No one arrived empty-handed. The grandchildren dressed in their finest handed around the food and waved union flags in time to the music. And if I never forget it, then I hope they don’t too.

There are a lot of things wrong with this country. But those three days in May last year showed us there are also a lot of things right. If the politicians mess up, so be it. There will be others come along to take their place. And I firmly believe there are more good people than bad to help pick up the pieces.

Our King, and didn’t it take some time for that to slip naturally off the tongue, is, I believe, a good man. He may not be able to make his views on a myriad of subjects known now he holds the crown but I suspect he will continue to do so in his own way.

His campaign against waste is a political statement that we need to do more to help the poor and save the planet.

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His decision to release his 75th birthday photograph on the front cover of the Big Issue spoke volumes without the need for words, and was a slap in the face for a suggested policy of fining charities for handing out tents on the streets which mysteriously disappeared from his first King’s Speech to Parliament.

My mum always told me she never forgot our late Queen’s Coronation. I suspect neither will we our King’s. Among the darkness, the harsh realities of everyday life, it was a beacon of hope, a symbol of coming together in one cause, not to slavishly adore our ruler but to remind ourselves that this country still has much to be proud of. Above all, its sense of service and commitment to make the world a better and fairer place.

The King may have been born to high office but I genuinely believe that over the past few decades he has shown us he understands that some people need help and support which organisations like the Prince’s Trust had done for so many.

Most importantly, it showed that when we come together for a common cause we can and do achieve great things. And whatever the world says about our little island, we really do throw the best parties.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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