It’s not everyday you turn 90. For most people, it only happens once.
It will happen twice this year for Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, or to provide her official titles, Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, Her… hey, let’s just shorten the rest or we’ll be here all day: Queen Of Canada, Queen Of Australia, Queen Of New Zealand, Queen Of Jamaica, Queen Of Barbados, Queen Of the Bahamas, Queen Of Grenada, Queen Of Papua New Guinea, Queen Of The Solomon Islands, Queen Of Tuvalu, Queen Of Saint Lucia, Queen Of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Queen Of Belize, Queen Of Antigua and Barbuda, and Queen Of Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Her first 90th birthday will be held on April 21st this year. That’s her Majesty’s actual birthday, but her official birthday is in June. Whilst this leads to probably the coldest and wettest public holiday where I live in South Australia, it massively increases the chances that HRH’s UK subjects will have a nice day to celebrate this milestone.
I’ve been somewhat of a monarchist most of my life, though I was very unhappy when Prince Charles issued an edict which effectively prevented one of my favourite comedy teams from providing commentary on the last Royal Wedding, which I thought was a bit rich. After all, he may be the world’s oldest apprentice, but some of the things Prince Charles has said during his long and illustrious wait for a job have been nothing short of comedy gold themselves.
In fact, Australia has a bit of a problem now, because for most of my life it’s been generally assumed that whilst we love the Queen, we might as well dispense with the whole royalty thing once Charles gets the job. This is complicated now by the fact that Prince William, Duke of Cornwall and the next in line, is very popular here, and we might stick with the whole thing if we can have him. And of course, the whole thing is complicated further by Her Majesty’s determination to actually live forever.
Anyway, I want to specifically address one aspect of the celebrations: the “Patron’s Lunch”. 10,000 specially invited guests enjoying lunch outside Buckingham Palace next June, being organised in the belief that it won’t rain that day.
Marks and Spencer, a grocer I have a fair bit of time for, are providing a “wicker basket lunch”. Obviously, at $A310 per person, they just can’t call it a picnic, can they?
There’s a bit of controversy as one of Her Majesty’s grandsons seems to be taking a chunk of cash to organise the whole shebang, but to be honest, that’s not bothering me. I’m a great believer in tradition, and what could be more historically accurate than minor semi-royalty leveraging their positions for a spot of cash?
No, I have a problem with one of the items in the wicker basket. Namely, PG Tips teab*gs.
It is to the eternal shame of the once great tea drinking nation of Great Britain that, in the same year as young Princess Elizabeth was crowned, the teab*g was introduced to the UK. Not by the aforementioned PG Tips (Brooke Bond), but by Tetley, their main rival.
In the years that followed, the UK has lost an Empire and a taste for good quality tea, and gained a Commonwealth and a taste for teab*gs.
Nevertheless, I beleive it is completely outrageous for any sort of official celebration to be using teab*gs. They are supposed to be honouring someone for 90 years, and most of that spent in public service. Quite frankly, if it was a quick afternoon tea to celebrate Johnno the apprentice plumber from the next street’s 22nd birthday, teab*gs would be underwhelming, but this really launches us into the stratosphere of offensive.
When the glorious day comes when people say “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” and decide that they don’t want paper, plastic, plastic pretending to be silk, string, glue, staples or the delightfully named carcinogen 3-MCPD in their tea, there will be much rejoicing. But we know these future citizens will scratch their heads and say “what”?
“You mean they toasted Her Majesty, with all those titles, with a TEAB*G?”
I might humbly suggest that HRH call upon one of her other positions, such as head of The New Zealand Defence Force or Commander-in-chief- of the Canadian Armed Forces, and have entire squadrons of crack commandos storm the event, removing the offending items, piling them up and applying a flame-thrower, whilst proper tea is served to all and sundry. Lock the offending grandson in the Tower for a few weeks for good measure.
I don’t get the UK’s love of PG Tips. It’s owned by Unilever, the same megalith that gives us Liptons, but for some reason it inspires great loyalty from Britons living abroad. I guess taste is an important memory jogger, but for the life of me I can’t get why this particular taste is worth remembering. Then again, one of Manchester’s other great exports is the band Joy Division, so clearly ‘taste’ means something different in Manchester.
So, on The Queen’s Birthday holiday here, June 10th, I shall probably organise a picnic (under cover) somewhere and trot out some decent tea (Queen Adelaide is probably the one), raise a cup to someone who has I think, honestly done the best job of the job that life handed to her for 90 years.
And quietly fume about what is happening on the other side of the globe.