The queen and I: How we got it together
Posted: Friday, August 10, 2012 8:01 pm
By: By GLENDA CAUDLE
I went to London to visit the queen. But I found her in Edinburgh, instead.
It happened like this. My almost-youngest daughter and I spent the month of June in London where I did my best to complete a novel I had started this spring and where we did every tourist-y thing we could think of.
We lived in a tiny basement flat — the British designation for an apartment.
We bought groceries in neighborhood mom-and-pop shops owned by people who didn’t speak either British English or American English and who certainly didn’t understand Southern English, so we communicated a lot with smiles and gestures.
We came to think of raincoats as everyday apparel and we went through three umbrellas each, since the wind persisted in turning every model inside out on a regular basis. Eventually the spindly spines were pushed beyond redemption.
We turned pro at mapping a route anywhere in the city by tube (or subway) and in time we learned to accept the fact that, for young couples in London, public transportation is a popular and potent aphrodisiac and, so, hugging and kissing are unavoidable behavior from the time the pair step on the tube until they exit.
We became adept at dodging crowds of tourists intent on following tour group leaders and determined to let no individuals stand in their way.
We learned to look right, left and then right again for traffic before crossing a street, since cars move on the wrong side of the thoroughfare, and we eventually stopped worrying about bicycle riders taking their lives in their hands as they darted in and out among double-decker buses and famous London black cabs and private automobiles and worried more about being mowed down personally by one of them.
We found out pigeons and squirrels and ducks in the public parks will demand you feed them, so it’s best to go prepared with bread crumbs when you leave the house. We also found out they don’t particularly care for gummy worms.
We discovered a wealth of free museums where it was possible to spend not just one day, but two or three, and a corresponding lack of reasonably priced film theaters. It is necessary in London to float a short-term loan to secure a theater seat and fortify yourself with popcorn and a lukewarm soft drink.
We were stunned to see English police — renowned for going armed with nothing more than their famous bobby sticks for subduing British criminals — toting high-powered rifles for overcoming terrorists instead. It was somewhat reassuring, however, to know they don’t pretend there are no terrorists among them.
We explored the pleasures of train travel at the end of the month and headed north for Edinburgh in Scotland, our only disappointment being that we never got to see the queen during our London sojourn. We had visited Buckingham Palace and enjoyed a wonderful exhibit of Leonardo DaVinci’s anatomical sketches there; alas, the queen was not receiving guests that day. I think it had something to do with Prince Philip’s illness, which came on during the early summer celebration of Elizabeth’s 60 years as the queen. We watched for her at other grand events and even during less prestigious opportunities — such as when we were strolling through Green Park near the palace —but our schedules just never seemed to mesh. We were so-o-o-o busy, you see.
In beautiful Edinburgh, we grew accustomed to seeing heavily armed, brawny looking men with long hair and blue paint smeared on their faces battling the winds that sweep through the town and trying to keep their colorful kilts covering strategic territory. Tourists tossed money in their clan bonnets, lying at their feet, for the opportunity to appear in photos together. And yes, we contributed, as well.
We learned there is no level ground in Edinburgh, only hills that stretch up forever at impossible angles, especially the one that leads to the famous castle perched high on volcanic rock and towering over the city. The impressive stone edifice there is where Queen Mary Stuart gave birth to Scotland’s King James VI, who later also gained the title of England’s King James I.
We figured out that Scottish parents induce heartiness and good health in their children by underdressing them for the elements. While bundled in our sweatshirts and jackets, we returned single-tooth grins and chubby-handed waves from infants and toddlers outfitted in short pants and sleeveless shirts. And there wasn’t a runny nose in the bunch.
We asked questions we already knew the answers to just to hear the charming Scottish accent and then obliged them by speaking Southern, in turn.
We delighted in every day there, despite the persistent cloudy skies, constant breezy conditions and unseasonably cool temperatures, even for Scotland.
We grew accustomed to the music of bagpipes and took a morning off when I had no writing classes to enjoy a bagpipe parade on the main thoroughfare. And that’s where the queen and I finally got it all together. Alerted to her presence and plans to take part in a more simple parade progress later in the day, we found places on the front lines of the parade route, made friends with the security detail keeping an eye on the area and so received a heads-up when it was time for Her Majesty to come rolling past.
I thought it charming of her to follow me so far north since we couldn’t connect in London. And I knew her wave from the back seat of her limo was just for me — after all, what are the chances she recognized a single soul standing behind me in line?
Special Features Editor Glenda Caudle may be contacted by email at glenda email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 8.10.12
Glenda Caudle, Just A Thought