Monday, 2 May 2011

Royal Wedding day.

Friday 29th April. Royal Wedding Day.

I don’t know how the bride was doing but I was getting frazzled trying to get people to come round and watch the Royal Wedding with me.

My friend June in Guildford said she was scared of transport problems in London. “I’m not interested in these English things,” said Kayoko, my Japanese friend.

Another Japanese friend said she couldn’t come because she is addicted to a Korean soap opera.

“I can’t ask the children to travel all that way by car just to watch TV,” said another and my friend Pam had a cold.

I felt gloomy thinking of watching it on my own, then I began to picture them all arriving just as the bride got to the abbey, needing help to park their cars, demanding tea while she was taking her vows. I regretted ever suggesting it. It also dawned on me that perhaps I shouldn’t have invited anyone as my TV screen is only 13 inches wide.

My mother, aged 88, far away in her Staffordshire village said she preferred to watch it alone, then both her neighbours were having afternoon parties and her favourite old people’s home in the village, there are now five of them, had invited her as well.

I suggested she went to all of them, imagining her rolling around the village full of champagne.

“Don’t be silly. I couldn’t possibly do that,” she said to me, but then I heard her talking on her mobile to a friend, saying she was going to try to get round all of them.

The morning of the wedding Kayoko rang up and said, “What time are you expecting us?” I pointed out that she wasn’t coming. “Of course I am,” she said, “you are mixing me up with someone else.”

Five guests turned up, four women and one man, all good and early as I was finishing off a plate of cucumber sandwiches. As one helpful friend managed to open the salt cellar and pour salt over everything, I considered the party was underway. Everyone brought champagne and strawberries.

The BBC commentators were rather boring and lacked historical knowledge, they don’t provide context these days as they don’t know it. I recognised the 1930s scroll tiara, and Kayoko turned out to have detailed knowledge of the British monarchy.

“I have studied it,” she said, managing to be both slightly sinister and impressive as usual.

There was a bit of murmuring about the size of my TV screen, comments that it was left over from the Coronation. I wondered if the ladies didn’t spend most of their time glued to the plasma, but we could all clearly see the beauty of the bride’s dress, with its modest grace and clean lines; she was only slightly outclassed by the abbey itself which was the splendid star of the show.

The service was beautiful, and we all agreed, so very English. No multi-cultural, multi-faith junk, at last we were allowed something of our very own, quite a surprise. It was also so simple, one reading by the bride’s very brave brother, no soprano flown in, as Charles would have done, no homily from Stephen Fry although we did keep getting the grotesque spectacle of Elton John.

Among the 1, 900 guests there was certainly a panoply of powerful, complicated hats. Princess Beatrice looked like that little alien who appears on TV trying to introduce us to going digital. Tara Palmer Tomkinson wore something like a giant Quality Street choc, which pointed to her new nose. It seemed to have been made rather hastily, rather large and broad, making her look as if she should be pulling pints somewhere.

Quite unexpectedly it was a perfect Christian marriage service and, delicious irony, no bling. The Middleton family were perfectly elegant and as calmly focussed and unflustered as if it had been just a small country wedding with a local photographer.

How could the mother with two dazzling daughters on show conceal her pride so well? Some women would have burst with it. I take my fascinator off to them.

My mind did slip back once or twice to what I was doing at the other royal wedding, thirty years ago. I had recently arrived in London and was living in a tiny room in a council flat on the Wandsworth Road with a mattress on the floor. Councils hadn’t got round to double glazing in those days and the traffic roared past my window night and day. The mattress had fleas which would bite the back of my neck whenever I tried to sleep but I was glad to be in London. My only certainty in life was that I wanted to be there but I felt appalled by what I saw every day on the streets of Lambeth, the filthy plastic bags hanging in the trees, broken potholed roads and the constant mugging and fear of street violence.

I felt I hadn’t yet found the London that I wanted but I knew it was out there somewhere. By the time of the Charles and Di wedding I was sharing my room with beautiful Bruce, a graceful American I’d met on a trip to Iceland. It was one of those relationships where you know immediately that you must have sex, and you don’t care how or where, up against a wall or under a hedge would do. We managed it in snow under the northern lights, not bad, but as soon as he arrived at Heathrow even across the concourse I could see he was a stranger. I was working as a cleaner in a local pub, the South Pole, but he lay on my mattress all day every day in a fog of marijuana. I wanted to help him but I couldn’t. He’d rouse himself at night and we’d make love, but in the day time we hated each other. He wasn’t the person I’d seen in my mirage in Iceland. Eventually I threw his banjo over the balcony and he followed.

With great determination and drive I set myself up in London all those years ago, but I still haven’t lived in the right place or found the right person.

During the service Kate kept trying to smile at William. At first she couldn’t quite get her face to relax enough, but she was palpably supporting him. In a slight re-run of the Queen Mother George VI situation, Kate, the loved and cherished child of stable parents, doesn’t look neurotic at all. She can provide a damaged prince with just what he needs. Occasionally the Windsors get lucky and find an emotional rescue.

The next day I looked at photos of Charles and Diana on the balcony. There is this child, weak, emotional and needy, and next to him Diana, lunging towards him, also desperate for an overwhelming, unconditional love. He can hardly bear to kiss her. His lips are sealed, his shoulders turned away from her, almost as if he has no idea who she is. He looks as connected as a gay man faced with a busty, blousy, amorous woman. If only Diana had ignored the fact that her face was on all the tea towels, and cancelled the whole show, as Kate would certainly have done if she’d felt like it.

Sandwiches, chocolate rolls, jam tarts, strawberries and cream, broken glasses, squashed sandwiches, crisps on the carpet, my little party went well and everyone agreed it had been a good one June rang up and said she would have liked to join us but the size of my screen had put her off.

I have my next party, for my birthday, now looming up. I want this one to be small, so that I can really cook something, instead of providing a buffet c/o Waitrose. I have already invited too many people and I bet they will all turn up, oh dear.

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