Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal wedding blues

Posted By on April 28, 2011, 3:51 PM

While I will not be one of the millions who wake up at some ungodly hour after midnight tonight to watch the royal wedding, my slumbering thoughts, as a humble Brit, will no doubt be with the merry couple as they parade towards their nuptials.---

I will probably record the wedding and watch it with my children Saturday morning over egg and soldiers. That's a primal British breakfast feast involving three-minute boiled eggs and slender slices of buttered toast liberally spread with Marmite, a salty yeast extract that visually approximates tar.

On occasion I have been asked my thoughts about the monarchy and have been stumped how to reply. They are simply there -- a never-ending soap opera, it seemed, not so long ago; more recently benefiting, it seems, from PR advice, not to mention appearing in various TV reality programs I have happily not seen. I do not wish my memories and thoughts of the Queen - God bless Her - to be trampled on by some noxious Charlotte Street oik with a camera crew following them around for months on end.

Americans have a particular romantic passion for Princess Diana. I never understood the Diana phenomenon, least of all the insanity that erupted after her death, London suddenly drowned under a rotting wreath of flowers. I held a sneaking admiration for her though.

My dear friend John Conrad was caring for his dying lover in a London hospital when one afternoon a head popped the door and asked if he'd like a cup of tea. He said it was Diana and her simple gesture of taking the tea trolley round the AIDS ward broke his heart. John was on his own death bed at the time he told me this. For some reason that vignette he shared with me remains more vivid than anything else, other than the dryness of his cheek when I kissed him goodbye.

While I was living in Argentina, I on occasion found myself in conversation with a local veteran of the Malvinas conflict, known in my old country as the Falklands war. The men I talked to carried their trauma much like veterans here - awkwardly hidden yet painfully present. I often found myself wondering after those conversations if there was a call-up to arms would I go? Would I fight for Queen and country?

And the surprising answer - or was I merely deluding myself? - was yes. I love the Queen, I confess, much as I love my mother. There's an odd sense of the two merging in my mind. My loyalty to both is unquestioning and unyielding. I cannot say the same for the rest of her family, however.

I wish the soon-to-be wed royals all the best for the future. Such fairy tale romances are the stuff of souvenir industries and made for TV movies I suppose. But I still cling to my memories, my thoughts of the Queen as a distant figure, stern, wise, undemonstrative in terms of affection, and yet the pinnacle of all we could ever hope to achieve. Not in the sense of rising through the class system, which is an impassable logjam of prejudices, money and too often stupidity, but rather of the highest sense of duty and honor to one's country, one's people, one's self. 

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