On Wednesday I went to see The Queue.
It wasn't very long, only from Lambeth Bridge to Jubilee Gardens around the back of the London Eye. That's because it hadn't started moving yet, the doors weren't yet open so nobody'd be getting inside Westminster Hall for at least five hours. The earlybirds enjoyed the chance to sit on the low wall, a luxury which wouldn't be afforded to those shuffling through later. A group of foreign teenagers had to move out of the way as the space where they'd been sitting was suddenly commandeered by the tail, and so The Queue inexorably extended.
I had no intention of queueing for five hours so I went home.
On Thursday I set my alarm for 5am.
The Queue's bound to have got shorter overnight, I reasoned, because far fewer people will have joined it in the small hours. I could therefore get the first tube into central London and join the back and maybe even be home after breakfast. But when I woke up and checked my phone The Queue hadn't got shorter, if anything it was longer than when I'd gone to bed, and the rear was now somewhere near Blackfriars.
I had no intention of queueing for eight hours so I rolled over and went back to sleep.
Yesterday I went back to see The Queue.
It was very long, indeed it had reached its full length of five miles and admission had been temporarily paused. I decided to walk the entire length but in reverse so that I wouldn't continually be mistaken for someone trying to queue jump. In Jubilee Gardens The Queue was shuffling with no chance to sit down for a rest. Under Waterloo Bridge The Queue was enjoying the opportunity to watch archive royal footage on a big screen. Along the South Bank The Queue was moving fairly steadily, occasionally fast enough that it didn't look like a queue at all. By Southwark Cathedral The Queue had sneaked in a brief chicane to squeeze in more mourners, and another longer one in Potters Fields by Tower Bridge.
Here was the magic point at which wristbands were being given out, which means everyone behind had essentially been queueing on trust. They were a motley set of mourners including couples, family groups and old soldiers with medals, and were generally dressed for queueing comfort rather than in respectful black. A few were loaded with more food than they'd probably be able to eat, while others were taking advantage of the coffee carts that had sprung up along the way. The cross section was more suburban English than central London normally sees, hence the riverside estates of Bermondsey weren't familiar territory, and most looked like they didn't have to go to work today.
It took me almost an hour and a half to walk back to Southwark Park, where police were only releasing slow dribbles through the gates as numbers allowed. Between the railings I could see a massive chicane of captured mourners, which was being fed by another massive chicane behind, and it was at this point that I understood why they'd closed The Queue earlier. Actually it turned out they hadn't because if you wandered into the still-recreational half of the park it was again possible to enter the first funnel past a sign warning of lengthy delays, nodded through by easygoing security staff, and The Queue then quietly swallowed you up.
I had no intention of queueing for fourteen hours so I went home.
On Tuesday I'd been to see the Queen.
It may have been on a wet dual carriageway near Greenford rather in the splendour of a medieval hall, and it may only have been for a couple of seconds as the Royal Hearse sped by, but I'd had my turn and therefore had no need to go again. What's more I was only out of the house for four hours and nobody queueing for Westminster Hall managed shorter than that. The Queue has been an absolute phenomenon, but one that many in Middle England have been slow to latch onto, and it turns out the best time to join was always 'yesterday'.
Unless you plan to queue for twenty-four hours this weekend, best stay at home.