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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Jubilee tour diary: The South West
Nick Higham's Jubilee tour diary
Nick Higham is following the Queen's Jubilee tour
The BBC's arts and media correspondent Nick Higham is following the Queen on her Jubilee tour of the UK.

This is the first of a series of dispatches from around the country.


Tuesday 30 April

Falmouth in Cornwall. With 18 hours to go before the start of the Queen's Golden Jubilee tour of the UK, things aren't looking good.

Back in London, Her Majesty's speech to both Houses of Parliament has been well-received. But down in the rain-lashed South West, the palace press officers are deeply worried.

The new National Maritime Museum in Cornwall, a spectacular oak-clad building by Falmouth Docks, is still a building site - more than three months behind schedule.

Truckloads of gravel are being spread over the ground outside to give the Queen something firm and dry to walk on. Yesterday it was a sea of mud, they tell me.

At Trelissick Gardens just outside the town, the Queen's second stop, it is still mud. The army has been called in to lay temporary roads through the quagmire.


Wednesday 1 May

The next morning dawns warm and sunny. There's a brilliant blue sky over Falmouth's spectacular harbour.

The Queen examines her shoe during a walkabout
The mud gives the Queen cause for concern
But the crowds at the museum are only some 1,500 strong: respectable, but not huge.

They cheer happily when the Queen arrives to the sound of a 21-gun salute from a Royal Navy frigate anchored in the harbour. But the atmosphere is muted.

The Queen names a new lifeboat and sets off for a trip across the harbour, clutching her hat in the breeze.

Naval cheers

When we get to Exeter, and all doubts about the success of the tour, or the Queen's personal popularity, evaporate.

The Queen is due here at teatime, when schools and offices have closed, and they've come in their thousands to see her.

The Queen boards the new Falmouth lifeboat
The Queen boards the Falmouth lifeboat
The authorities have prudently doubled the length of her walkabout down the main street, to accommodate the 20,000 they expect.

In Exeter's beautiful cathedral close the people wave their union jacks and flags of St George, cheer everything and tell you they've come for the children's sake, or because they remember the last time she was here, or because they think the monarchy is wonderful and the Queen herself admirable.

These are traditional, rather old-fashioned sentiments. You don't often hear them in trendy, multicultural, metropolitan London - nor in some other parts of the United Kingdom.

But here in Devon and Cornwall they really are pleased to see her.

The Queen herself appears en route from Guildhall to Cathedral for a performance of music, dance and drama by local schoolchildren.

She moves slowly down a broad walkway between crowd control barriers, crossing first to one side, then to the other, accepting bouquets and smiling broadly.

In front of me the press photographers are getting agitated. These are potentially the best pictures of the afternoon and they're being ruined by some policemen standing between monarch and snappers.


Thursday 2 May

In Somerset the weather and the crowds are both good. Avon and Somerset police say there are 20,000 in both Taunton and Wells.

The Queen meets local residents in Taunton
Thousands of people turned out to greet the Queen in Taunton
In Taunton she visits a farmers' market and meets an old lady who nursed her father, George VI, through lung cancer at Buckingham Palace.

In Bath there are more crowds, and more contrasts between old and new, formal and informal.

The Queen gives a short speech in the Guildhall before a lunch cooked by the chef from a local Michelin two-star restaurant - and served by dinner ladies from Bath and north east Somerset schools.

She touches on one of the topics this visit to the South West was intended to highlight - the importance of agriculture and tourism to the region, and both industries' recovery this year from the devastation of foot and mouth.

Personal sadness

She touches on another theme of the Jubilee as a whole - recognition of community service. And she thanks the people of the region for their "heart-warming" welcome at a time of personal sadness for her, after her mother's and sister's deaths.

Then it's off on another walkabout, en route to Bath Abbey, the city's late medieval parish church.

Prince Philip on a walkabout in Taunton
Prince Philip raised eyebrows with his comment about anorexics
In the pump room next door, Prince Philip drops his only brick of the two-day trip, telling an ill-judged joke about anorexia to a blind woman with a guide dog.

And then the couple depart, beaming broadly, for a helicopter ride back to Windsor.

There's no question the visit has been a triumph.

A few weeks before the tour began a senior aide at Buckingham Palace told me they expected a couple of thousand people for city centre walkabouts these days.

With crowds ten times that number the palace (and probably the Queen herself) will be well chuffed.

The question now: will the same crowds turn out, will the same atmosphere be achieved, when the sun doesn't shine and the tour moves on to regions less naturally loyal than South West England?


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