Saturday, April 30, 2011

British Heritage Day

I know my ancestors fled to escape royalty, but I was cheering with the rest of Britain yesterday when the queen drove by.  Sorry ancestors.

Because of my first experience waiting for a long-awaited event, I actually came to London feeling a bit of trepidation.  I was anticipating long hours of foot-weary standing and tight crowds with selfish jostling.   How wrong my expectations were proven to be!  Yesterday was one of the most pleasant days I have spent in England and one I think will live long in my memory.  This wasn't due so much to my royal sightseeing, but more to the happy, friendly and celebratory atmosphere.  The crowd was a delightful mix of best-dressed and game attire.  People walked along the mall, searching for the most ideal spot to settle in with their flags, balloons, blankets and hats. One very big difference from the red carpet premiere was the families.  Yesterday was a national holiday, and the streets were lined with kids, parents and grandparents.  I was strongly reminded of Provo's University Avenue on the morning of the 4th of July.

We found a place on the mall, across from St. James's park.  Next to us were two older women and behind us were two adorable families, with three little girls dressed up and excited to see the new princess.  Even the policemen were cheerful.  The man in front of us had such a pleasant face and smiled softly to himself all morning.  He and his companions would pick up flags when dropped behind the make-shift fences and take pictures for groups when their arms weren't quite long enough to take self-portraits.  They cheerfully gave directions to lost pilgrims when they were able; we quickly discovered, though, that most of them were recruits from police brigades all over the island and didn't know their way around London any better than we did!  Around 10 am we were joined by one of the palace guard marching bands, and they kept the crowds dancing to Star Wars, Moulin Rouge, Copacabana and a few other, more-sophisticated tunes as well.  


The cars started driving by at 10:20, headed by William and Harry in their armed forces attire (saluting the guards as they passed our marching band, which made it impossible to see their faces.  Etiquette, etiquette...).  Before the hour was finished, we'd seen the Middletons, royal guests from other monarchies (including the crown prince of Kuwait in his white kafiya), and Prince Charles and Camilla.  The last cars held the queen and husband, the Duke of Edinburgh and finally the bride!:

They broadcast the audio ceremony down the entire mall and were selling programs for two pounds.  As a result, all million of us were able to participate in the ceremony as well, singing "Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah" (or Redeemer in this translation), cheering when the "I Wills" were said (admittedly, those didn't transmit.  Both Will and Kate said their "I Wills" very softly!), and lending our "Amens" to the prayers.  Esther, Courtney and I gave a few extra cheers when we heard them proclaimed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge : )  It was very cool listening to the whole of London singing "God Save the Queen" together.

The procession back towards the Palace was more visible, of course, as they whole wedding procession was in open-topped carriages.

Harry and the Pageboys
Kate's Sister Pippa and the Flower Girls

The Queen 
Not long after the procession had passed, we watched the spectators from the back of the mall file behind two rows of policemen down the mall, waving flags and smiling broadly. When it was our turn, we joined them in the parade of hundreds of thousands, filtering towards the Buckingham Palace plaza.  My little group ended behind the plaza monument, meaning that we were unable to see the kiss(es) on the balcony, but I can say we were part of this:

Even in those close quarters, people were (in almost every case) cheerful and polite.  Hooray for weddings and the joy they bring!  My husband asked me last night if I supported the existence of a royal family.  I told him it wasn't my place to support or not support; I'm not British.  I'm not the one that is affected by any of the positives or negatives (and there do exist many good positive and negative arguments).  I will say, though, I immensely enjoyed my royal family experience yesterday.  The queen looked beautiful in her pale yellow dress and hat, and Kate looked stunning, of course.  I find Kate's story absolutely fascinating.  At one point I was thinking about how different this wedding was from what Kate must have imagined when she was giggling with her girlfriends at age 18, oblivious to her public and royal future.  I grinned a bit to myself, though, when I realized that though her venue is gorgeous, mine was remarkably similar:

Yesterday afternoon contributed to the already happy and pleasant experiences.  We met up with friends in Russell Square Gardens and relaxed under the big shade trees eating grapes, apples, baguettes and boiled eggs.  The girls passed around copies of the London Evening Standard, fresh off the press with photos from the ceremony, gushing over the bottom two-thirds of the dresses (since we'd only been able to glance the tops).  Afterwards, I spent some time in the Assyrian section of the British Museum, gaping at the wall panels depicting the Assyrian conquest of the Kingdom of Judah and the downfall of Lachish.  I realize that most people spend their time gaping at the Parthenon in the next room over, but Lachish made the nerd in me very, very happy.  

One of my dear Cambridge friends blogged yesterday about her experience at the royal wedding.  I have her permission to post the link here, so that anyone who is interested in fun balcony pictures and real musings on monarchies can enjoy.  I thought the way she ended her post was perfectly appropriate:

The Bishop of London said today at the wedding: "Many are full of fear for the future of today's world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one - this is a joyful day."
Here's to the joyful days and events of our lives that remind us to hope rather than to fear.

Friday, April 22, 2011

* What You Yanks are Missing *

One week from today, you all miss receiving a Friday off work permitted by the government SOLELY for the purpose of getting together with all your friends, turning on your TV and partying.  In fact, because of the Bank Holidays today (Good Friday) and Monday (Easter Monday) and the extra Bank Holiday next Friday, many Brits are taking the whole week off work.  Today marks the first day of a week of national holiday.  Sorry you're all missing out on all the fun.  

A day off work isn't the only thing you're missing though.  I know you have your own tabloids filled with royal wedding news.  Ours say things like:

We even have the wedding in garden newspapers (all about Kate's flowers - speculation, of course!):

What you probably don't realise is how far from tabloids this wedding is going here.  The royal wedding is everywhere and, literally, on everything!  This extends from the cheap souvenir stores in the market to the most posh department stores.  I have spent a couple of jolly hours running all over Cambridge to collect my own photo-documentary.  I hope you enjoy:

Fridge Magnets
Coasters, Rulers, Key Chains
Tea Towels and Decorative Plates

Collector Teaspoons
Digital Calendar?  Countdown?  I'm not quite sure...
Fancy White Notepads
Children's Books

Collectible Stickers?  Baseball Card Style?
Playing Cards

Framed Paintings
Dress for the Big Day, Including Hats, Clutches, Purses, Scarves and Bangles

Wedding Dinnerware
More Mugs 

Specialty Plates
35 Pound Specialty Chocolates with Gold Wedding Inscription
Etched Vases
China Mug, Pill Box and Plate

During our search we also found Royal Wedding paper weights, ballpoint pens, t-shirts and antique radios.  My absolute favorite paraphernalia item was at the Cath Kidston store though:

"Knit Your Own Royal Wedding" 
with instructions and detailed pictures
Amazing, right???  If you Americans are mourning because you don't have the opportunity to knit your own royal wedding, let me know and I'll make sure to bring you back the instruction manual.  

So what am I doing for the royal wedding?  That is still to be determined, but you can bet it will include donning some of these:

Congratulations Will and Kate!  One week to go :)