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Olympic Pride

Like many around the world, I have been taking in the Olympics in recent days. There is an added interest for us expats this time around, with London as the host city. I have to confess to a swelling of pride as I took in the opening ceremony – a swelling that worked its way right up to my throat and was so uncomfortable that it brought a tear to my eye.

A Britain I know was presented in an excellent opening ceremony.
Photography by Matt Lancashire, via Wikipedia.org

The first Olympics I can remember watching is Los Angeles 1984, and every two years since I’ve tuned in to the opening ceremony (I also make sure to take in the winter version). I have always enjoyed the grandeur and pomposity of the show and the parade of nations. But I can’t really recall any of those ceremonies. Opening ceremonies don’t stick in your mind like Daley Thompson pole vaulting, or Linford Christie winning the 100 metres, or Sir Steve Redgrave taking Gold again.

I think this one will stay with me though. The reason is that the narrative was recognizable. It conjured images and sounds of British history and culture that I am very familiar with. From working men in an industrial setting to the comedy of Mr. Bean. From the Eastenders theme tune to the Arctic Monkeys and Hey Jude. James Bond, the NHS, Chelsea Pensioners, Shakespeare, Chariots of Fire, Cricket and Her Majesty herself. I thought the World Wide Web was an American thing, but no, that was born in Britain too.

Yes, watching the opening ceremony gave a real sense of pride. It will live with me for a long time.  Good job Danny Boyle.

The BBC has a pretty good photo gallery of the opening ceremony, here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-19020830

The Royal Wedding

April 28, 2011 2 comments

The Monarchy is a polarizing institution on both sides of the Atlantic.

I’ve never been a royalist. The idea of a group of well-to-do people being idolized and lauded through the good fortune of birth never quite sat well with me. It could be my working class roots. It’s pretty difficult to sit there in your council house, wondering if your Dad’s ever going to get off disability, and wishing you had the money to go on a school trip, while ‘your’ Royal Familyare off swanning around all parts of the globe, playing polo, and talking all posh. It definitely always felt like a ‘them and us’ situation. And they seemed to do alright out of our tax dollars… I mean, pounds.

I have mellowed over the years. I think there are a number of reasons for this: I’m now definitely in the middle classes – money is less of an issue; I’ve met some of those well-to-do, posh speaking folk, and a lot of them are actually ok; and I’ve seen the impact the British Monarchy has on the rest of the world.

I’m still not a royalist, but I appreciate the history, and I do feel a little sense of pride when I see the whole world obsessed with my country of birth and it’s traditions.

Hmmm... classy. Image source: http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/

It has been truly fascinating to see the American and Canadian media covering the pending wedding of our future King Billy and Queen Kate. What other event could possibly stir so much interest, and throw so much attention on the UK? British tin tray, key ring, and mug manufacturers must be boosting their retirement funds as well.

And, then there is the realization that these people are human beings. I simply cannot imagine having to go through this very personal process under the glare of the whole world. I get tetchy when people look over my shoulder at lunch time and ask me what I’m eating. As for Wills – he seems ok really, not a bad apple.

So, I wish them well. I hope the world enjoys the show. But there is no way on Earth that I’m getting up at 4am to see it.

Swearing Allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen

Ma'am

It was a strange day when I had to swear allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. It was a day at the back-end of 2005 (or one of the first few days in 2006. I can’t remember, but my Citizenship Certificate says 2006/01 on it). The location: a hotel in downtown Montreal (The Sheraton, I think – but don’t quote me on that either). And the reason? To become Canadian.

Now, doesn’t it strike you as a little odd that I didn’t have to say as much as “old Betty’s alright by me” to be British, but I did have to promise my loyalty and devotion to her to become Canadian? Yup, it does to me as well.

The actual oath of citizenship goes like this:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

I raised my right hand… or maybe it was the left one, and swore allegiance to the Queen. Shortly after, I half-mumbled, half lip-synced my own illegible lyrics to the tune of O Canada! And, I was in.

Standard procedure I suppose, but I still find it a little difficult to get my head around.

Maybe Canada should have one citizenship process for the Brits that skips this irrelevance, and one for the rest who obviously can’t be trusted not to commit treason without swearing an oath. Just a thought.

UK. Great Britain. British Isles. England. What’s the Difference?

February 13, 2011 3 comments

This is a question I have been asked more than once. It’s a complex subject. These are concepts that even the British struggle with, never mind Canadians and the rest of the World. People are further confused by the insistence of the Scottish in particular refusing to acknowledge they’re British and correcting anyone terming them as such.

As I researched the subject (yes, I did have to research this subject) it became clear that it was even more complicated than I first thought. I had written 7 paragraphs (about 500 words), and I was confusing myself. Then, up popped a tweet. The Difference Between The United Kingdom, Great Britain and England.

The tweet had a link to a video, which fully explained the differences and relationships between the UK, Great Britain, the British Isles, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Not only that, it also did a pretty good job at outlining all the commonwealth countries, crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories. I could have used that tweet a couple of weeks ago – before I started writing!

So, I highlighted my 7 paragraphs, pressed the delete key, and posted the link here instead. Click on the image to see the full explanation. It’s a good 5 minute watch, if you can keep up with it.

After watching this, you do have some sympathy for non-Brits feeling a little perplexed.

The Difference Between the UK, Great Britain and England - courtesy of Grey's Blog

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