Clockwork Orangemen.

A weird coda to the TUC cost of Living demo in June was that the Orange Order marched down Whitehall behind us at about 3pm, just as I was drifting away in the opposite direction in search of the free loo at the National Gallery.

They made a very strange sight. Loads of them. Big flute band at the front playing a tune I know as “Come out you Black and Tans”, but I guess they have different lyrics. Stopping outside Downing Street and going no further, they started playing “There’ll always be an England”, which struck me as a bit abject. 

At the front there was a squad of rather short and overweight blokes all dressed up in original UVF uniforms, all Khaki and Puttees, doing an impersonation of marching. It was all very weird. A throwback in so many ways. Rehearsing for when they become completely a museum exhibit (hopefully).

From all over the country, with those odd little icon style banners in orange and purple; a few with bowler hats, most without, all white, mostly men, from places you might expect (Toxteth) and places you wouldn’t (Salisbury).

What struck me about them was that they looked like people who could have walked in off the set of a film with Will Hay in it; what the working class looked like in 1937. And prominent on the sashes their fathers wore, the acronym for Loyal Orange Lodge – LOL.

I wonder if any of them had noticed…

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