Saturday, April 30, 2011
What Did You Do?
Several Brits & ex-pat bloggers have talked about being sad to be away from home for the Royal Wedding. I wasn't. I think I probably had a more fun day that if I'd been at home, when I'd have just been watching it on the telly. And I probably felt more British & proud because I was away from my home country. And suddenly, of course everyone thinks you're an expert on the wedding & all things Royal simply by dint of nationality.
All the Brits in Tirana were invited to the British Ambassador's residence for a 'street party' & to watch the wedding. I thought it was a pretty cool place to spend the day. Where were you on Will & Kate's wedding day etc.....?
Dress casual. But my flamboyant British friend of the leopard print shoes, decided it was her one & only chance to wear a hat in Albania, so she wore a patriotic red hat, red coat, red shoes, navy trousers & white blouse. I donned a posh summer frock & sandals, & raced off to school as usual to teach my 3 morning lessons, then went & picked up 5 Brits from the Lower School , who were all in red, white & blue, having somehow purloined Union Jacks, flags with Will & Kate on them & even Union Jack scarves. My dress was turquoise & taupe (hadn't occurred to me people would wear red, white & blue.......)
Sadly Albania being post-Communist & not post-Colonial, the Ambassador's residence is more Barratt home than Viceroy's villa. Nevertheless, a lawn in Albania is something of a novelty. What am I saying? It's unheard of. So, standing on a lawn, in a garden, felt very English, even without the herbaceous borders. The Ambassador's lawn was festooned with bunting, balloons, red, white & blue 'swags' between trees & even Union Jack paper chains inside. And of course Emma Bridgewater napkins & paper cups. All brought in, in the diplomatic bag no doubt. We had Gin & Tonic on tap, with the Albanian waiters pouring the gin saying,
'Tell me how much you want, I don't know how much you are supposed to have!' Or what to mix it with I discovered....
So I knew for sure I wasn't in a British pub being served a watery one measure G&T. I haven't had such a strong gin since my husband's great aunt in deepest Devon used to pour ones which made the plants wilt (should you have disposed of yours in that way). Strong gins are even named after her in the family.
There was even a raffle with Walkers' shortbread, tins of tea, marmalade, sherry, Will & Kate tea towels, Union Jack mugs & cushions, all laid out on a Union Jack cloth. It was fantastic, so over the top.
We watched the wedding on about 6 wide screen TVs & I loved every minute of it: the dresses, the music, definitely the maple trees in the Abbey, the sermon, Harry joking around, the verger doing a cartwheel down the aisle in the empty abbey afterwards, the mix of ceremony & informality, the roaring, well behaved crowds. I felt proud to be British.
Actually no, those hats. I couldn't love those. They looked to me like UFOs perching on a hostile planet; Tara Palmer-Tomlinson & the Fergie Sisters were the worst culprits. Oh & Victoria Beckham's shoes. 6 inch heels with built in platforms, & the same UFO landing up top. And she's pregnant. And poor Samantha Cameron getting stick for NOT wearing a hat. I'm sorry but if those hats were the options........& anyway why should she?
Oh, & I learned a new word - Fascinator. For those sculptures masquerading as hats. Turns out it's not even a new word; it had fallen into disuse by the 1970s, but it's back with a vengeance now. I think Abominator would be better, but hush, I'm beginning to sound very middle aged & like Victor Meldrew. And what do I know about fashion?
I must show the pictures to my children & get their honest, uninhibited verdicts.
I went to a garden party at Buckingham palace with my parents when I was 20 & loved it, partly for curiosity's sake & partly for the 'sense of occasion'. But that was a poor shadow of Friday's ceremony. Everyone says it and so do I,
'No one does pomp & circumstance quite like the British.'
Funny thing to be good at, not necessarily a terribly useful national skill, though as my husband says,
"Wow, that's some project management, planning & executing a day like that!"
In our bleak & economically straitened times it was good. It was good to have a day like that with a good-news story, full of pageantry & celebration; something positive about Britain, & more particularly a day when for once you feel 'allowed' to be proud to be British. It was quite a fillip to my ex-pat soul. But indeed a fillip to anyone with a sense of wonder & romance left in their world-weary souls.