The psychology of the traffic cop enters into the opening ceremony, too. One becomes inordinately fearful that the giant Middle Earth trash compactor will not arise on cue, or the dry-ice machine will fail to blow smoke up Voldemort’s skirt, or one of the massed ranks of top-hatted mutton-whiskered extras recreating the Industrial Revolution in hip-hop will miss a stomp. And you’re so grateful to have dodged these calamities that it never occurs to you to wonder whether taking 40 minutes to do the Industrial Revolution in interpretive dance was a good idea in the first place. Britons seem unusually touchy on the subject, touchier than they’ve been since the week of the Princess of Wales’s death, when the prudent pedestrian on the streets of Kensington avoided catching the eye of the natives, lest they club one to a pulp for being insufficiently maudlin and lachrymose. A Conservative member of parliament who made the mistake of tweeting his thoughts without running them by the party’s focus groups was disowned by his colleagues and forced into groveling public recantation. It seems his now-disowned tweet that the whole thing was a load of codswallop was an unfortunate typing error and that what he’d actually meant to say was that the highlight of the evening, Government Health Care: The Musical, was far too riveting to be confined to a mere two and a half hours…

Turning the Queen into her own Queen impersonator (as Commentary’s John Podhoretz put it) underlined that vague unsettling feeling you get walking around Central London that these days it’s the theme park of a great capital rather than an actual one. The iconic red telephone boxes, for example, are currently the home of eccentric “artwork” — in Covent Garden, a statue of a giraffe busts through the roof of one and nibbles the leaves overhead. Meanwhile, the red boxes without giraffes have non-working phones, stink of urine, and are plastered with prostitutes’ business cards — though even these have a quaintly dated, semi-parodic quality about them: In the one round the corner from the Houses of Parliament, a Russian lady promises clients “the ultimate Soviet Union.” Like the Queen’s, it’s a 007 gag, but from the Roger Moore era.