March 5, 2024


Home living innovation

I went shopping for last minute Jubilee decorations – and it was a lot more effort than expected


With one day to go before the Jubilee celebrations kick off, people around the country are decorating their homes and streets with flags, bunting and all manner of red, white and blue accoutrements. A quick drive around the area shows that people are definitely getting into the spirit.

But what if you’ve remained stubbornly unmoved up to this point only to be coerced into participating through sheer peer pressure? Or maybe you just haven’t had a chance to get to the shops until now – will you be able to find any bunting left on the shelves?

My parents have fond memories of London street parties held for the coronation and it seemed a shame to not give my two boys something to remember about the Jubilee. And while my street isn’t having an organised party, there’s a festive feeling in the air in our neighbourhood.

READ: Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations: Events across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire

I headed into my local town centre, Newcastle, to see whether it was possible to put on a decent show when you’ve cut it very fine indeed. Would I be able to festoon my house with flags like my neighbours across the road, or would I just be able to make a bare minimum token effort? I was hoping to find at least some bunting or maybe some handheld flags that I could stick in the front garden.

My first port of call as I walked up the old Woolworth’s hill – surely everyone of a certain age still thinks of Friar’s Street that way? – was Poundland, where I drew a blank. An assistant told me that they hadn’t had any Jubilee decorations in at all, which struck me as rather unlikely, although I later heard the same in Home Bargains in Castle Walk and The Works in the High Street.

The assistants in Poundland, Home Bargains and The Works all told me that lots of people had been in asking for decorations though – so it seems like demand had been high in Newcastle. I was told that Wilko’s and Card Factory had sold out of everything, and while WH Smith was cheerfully decorated with bunting in store, they didn’t have any decorations as such left.

WH Smith did have red party tablecloths and napkins and one pack of blue balloons, which I passed over, still hopeful of finding something which would fit the bill better. They also had several Platinum Jubilee mugs – I confess that I let myself down by not turning one over to see where it was made – and a stand of royal-themed books and magazines, including a couple of copies of the official Platinum Jubilee programme for £10.

After trying six shops I was beginning to think that my quest was in vain. But on entering Clintons I immediately saw the remains of their display of decorations. They had helium balloons shaped like a crown and a champagne bottle, bundles of six red, white and blue balloons – two of each colour – to blow up yourself and packs of glittery ‘Time to Party’ napkins.

While they won’t cover the front of my house like a string of flags would, I went for a shiny gold crown balloon (£5.99 including filling with helium) – somewhat against my better judgment in environmental terms – and a bundle of six balloons (£2), as well as a weight (99p) to tether the floating crown to. I opted for a large bag (10p) as well to avoid having to trail the balloon after me through town.

The shop assistant told me their stock had only come in last Monday and that there had only been six of each item – which had included the elusive bunting – which had been snapped up in just a couple of days. She also gave me a good tip off – apparently Ryman was a good bet for bunting.

And yes indeed, the stationery shop had come up with a very clever ruse. They were selling packs of ‘cut out and assemble your own’ bunting for £4.20 – string not included. Studying the receipt later revealed that it was £4 for the A4 colour copying and 20p for the plastic pocket the sheets came in – the perfect product for Ryman to highlight their in-store printing services, I suppose.

For that I got five sheets of good quality paper printed with three pennants – two union flags and one purple Queen’s Platinum Jubilee design – to cut out and thread on to string, cotton, wool or whatever I could find at home. They had them up in the shop and I admit they did look good, but it’s slightly more effort – along with blowing up the balloons – than I was planning to put in.

But I suppose the Queen has given 70 years of dedicated service to the country, so the least I can do is cut out some flags and inflate some balloons. I’m not a very crafty person but it only took me about 20 minutes to cut out the flags, put the cotton on and hang them in my front window – although I admit to just sellotaping the cotton to the backs of the pennants instead of threading them on properly.

I blew up the balloons, tied them with cotton and hung them outside the house, and put the big helium balloon on the step in front of my door. Even I had to admit it all looked rather jolly and I expect my kids will love it when they get home.

Hopefully the balloons won’t burst before the celebrations proper kick off, and I’ll bring the big one into the house for safe-keeping when I’m not around. But even so the semi-homemade bunting does the job nicely.

My last-minute Jubilee decorations came to a grand total of £13.28 (£9.08 in Clintons and £4.20 in Ryman), although you could definitely make your own bunting rather than splurge on Ryman’s DIY print-out kit. While I don’t think I’d win any best decorated house competition, I definitely don’t feel like my house is letting the street down now.

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