Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Diamond Jubilee

This year marks 60 years on the throne for Queen Elizabeth II (Queen Victoria being the only other British Monarch to achieve such a feat), and Great Britain is in the middle of celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, over an extended weekend.

Between this and the coming Olympics, there has been a surge of patriotism back home.  I'm aware of this from communication with friends and family, but for us, on this side of the pond, we've not felt it.  I'm deeply regretful that we're missing the Olympics.  Having it in our own country might well be a once in a lifetime event.  Especially considering the comparative small size of the UK, which means the Olympic torch has been passing through just about every place we know over the past few weeks and the weeks to come.  When we first moved to the US, I swore we'd be back for the Olympics... it was not to be.

The Jubilee hasn't really been on my radar.  I've been vaguely aware of it for a few months, but haven't paid much attention, until very recently, and even then I just supposed it was one of those things that we'd miss out on.  Then on Friday, I read this BBC news article, and in the roundabout way of my thought process, I remembered Charles and Di's wedding.

That wedding is perhaps not the most auspicious moment in the history of our Royal Family, but it was a landmark event.  I was three at the time, the same age as my son, and I was living in Hong Kong courtesy of the Royal Navy.  Despite being so far from our country, we watched the Royal Wedding on television and I remember doing so.  It's a memory I share with all my British friends, it's something that contributes to my cultural identity.

With that in mind, I decided that we were going to celebrate Jubilee Weekend and I drove down to the British Shop to buy some cheaply made yet hideously expensive Jubilee flags and some crumpets.  The crumpets, it must be said, did not go down well with the children at breakfast the next day.

Still, there was a picnic held by the local Brit community yesterday, which included a prize for the best crown.  Yesterday morning I cut up an old cereal box and made templates for the children.  My son helped me wrap his in silver foil and then we decorated it with glitter glue (a mistake, since it didn't stick to the foil very well). 

For my daughter, I covered her crown in blue construction paper and then tried to get white and red handprints on it.  In my mind, this would come out as a union-jack-reminiscent star effect on the front of the crown: the white print first, then I applied the red to her hands with a brush, to create narrower lines.  In reality, as soon as I placed her hand on the paper, she started moving it around, so we had a big white smudge, with a little red smudge on top.  I'd have done better to try this idea with my son.

Needless to say, we didn't win a prize.  On the plus side, it was obvious that they'd done the decorating themselves!  They were also just about the only children to go around wearing their crowns during the picnic... those with real works of art kept them carefully pristine on a separate table.  To be honest, I'm somewhat surprised our crowns held up, but both of them are still going strong after two days of celebrating.

Both children had a great time.  There were some traditional silly races, which ours were a little young for... they competed in the under-fives category, but none of those children understood the rules ("We can hold the egg in one hand and the spoon in the other, right?").  We were also given letters to write to the Queen, with word being that some sort of reply would be sent back, so we helped them 'write' their letters, and took a picture of each with the finished letter.  The activity didn't do much for them now, but it's something we can show them in years to come: the letter they wrote to Elizabeth II.

One of the events happening across the UK on Sunday was something called the Big Jubilee Lunch, where residents of the UK were encouraged to have street parties, and thus get to know their neighbours and foster a sense of community.  On Saturday morning, I decided we were going to have our own street party.  Well, driveway party.  I don't think the local police are supporting the Big Jubilee Lunch.

Obviously, it was short notice for a party.  We had no decorations, not much in the way of food and no idea who might want to come.  But at the picnic, I asked if I could have some of the disposable Union Jack tablecloths, and found myself being given all the leftover burgers and rolls.  The children also had a Diamond Jubilee balloon each and I snaffled some Union Jack napkins.  We printed out some smaller Union Jacks and pegged them up on yarn for makeshift bunting (sacrificing a printer cartridge for the purpose).

My neighbours were entirely amenable to the idea of a party, my brother was up for it, along with his Canadian in-laws (so the Commonwealth was represented), another British couple were free and we roped in a few other American friends.  The barbeque, table and chairs were carted down a level to our driveway, and we all sat in front of our open garage and made merry.

The Queen had joined a flotilla on the Thames a few hours earlier, so I brought down the water table and some playpeople and let the children re-enact it as they saw fit.

My daughter takes the Queen for a swim.  Don't forget to admire her patriotic crown!

The UK celebrations will go on for another two days, but as we don't have the benefit of two bank holidays, we're probably finishing here.  My son might keep his memories of this; my daughter clearly won't.  But we've got the pictures and souvenirs.  There will be a time in the future, when they will have reason to look back at the Diamond Jubilee, and we'll be able to say: this is what we did.  And that is something that they will have in common with their British-born peers.


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    1. Ironically enough, I don't really remember the Golden Jubilee at all, though I was in England at the time. For various reasons, we Britons seem more disposed to like our Queen this year--I think the fact she's so close to beating Queen Victoria's record for longest serving Monarch helps too!

      At any rate, I am totally up for celebrating a Platinum Jubilee in 2022! The kids will have to make their own crowns for that one though...