Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Myrtle and tiaras: the count down to the royal wedding


Even the most cynical of us is now looking forward to Friday's royal wedding. I have to say, until fairly recently, I found Prince William and Kate Middleton very dull and would quickly turn the pages in Hello! looking for more interesting royals (eg Princess Stephanie of Monaco).

But since the engagement was announced, they seem to have stepped it up a notch. I'm very impressed with how confident and polished Kate looks. And the constant TV programming about royal weddings is helping to stoke the fervour.

I particularly enjoyed Sophie Raworth's two part programme. I was amazed that so few photos remain from the Queen Mother's wedding. And I loved the Queen's Hartnell dress with all the amazing detail. Part two, which featured the weddings of Charles & Diana, Anne & Mark and Andrew & Sarah, was illuminating in that all of those marriages ended in divorce.

With the benefit of hindsight you could see that Charles & Diana's marriage was never going to last. The body language was excrutiating, particularly compared with how relaxed and supportive William and Catherine were of each other.

Now for a few curious facts about the Friday wedding:
  • Kate will carry a sprig of myrtle in her bouquet, a tradition for royal brides. The meaning of the flower is love.
  • She will probably place her bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey, a tradition started by the Queen Mother;
  • When she arrives at the abbey she will not be wearing one of the royal collection of tiaras, but as soon as she is married, the Queen may make her a gift of a tiara. The Duchess of York wore flowers on her way up the aistle, and a tiara on the way out. Diana had her own Spencer family tiara. It's thought Kate might inherit one of the Queen Mary tiaras. If you Google this, you'll see that Queen Mary had several. My favourite is the Cambridge knot tiara made in 1913 (right).  It included 38 pearls that were a wedding gift to Queen Mary.
  • She won't enjoy the bride's tradition of arriving late. A royal wedding is so tightly choreographed she may only be allowed to be 30 seconds late
  • After her marriage to Prince William of Wales, Kate Middleton's title will be Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales. On the engagement announcement, Kate used her full name, Catherine. So she will likely be known as Princess Catherine of Wales. If Prince William receives a dukedom following the marriage, she will be known as Duchess as well as Her Royal Highness.
How are you planning to mark the day? Will you be watching on TV, having a champagne celebration or even going to a street party?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Two bluebell woods for the price of one

Every Easter or thereabouts we take a stroll to a wonderful bluebell wood. We made the trip today and unfortunately the bluebells were past their best. But J is nothing if not resourceful, and he had another bluebell wood up his sleeve. There the bluebells were in better shape (and we saw some rabbits.)

Hasn't it been a wonderful bank holiday weekend? The best Easter weather on record.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blood sweat and tears

The 2011 London Marathon was hot. Too hot for many of the runners. Even the spectators got a bit hot under the collar. But it was all in a day's work for J as he ran his 23rd marathon (and eighth London Marathon).

As in previous years, I was fortunate to be able to park my shooting stick at one of the elite runners' drinks stations, manned by John's running club The Orion Harriers.

Opposite St Paul's church in Shadwell, this is a perfect position because not only do I get an unobscured view, but I see the runners twice.

The first task for the marshalls was opening the box of drinks and setting them out on the right tables and in the right order. The elite runners have their own special bottles, some decorated, some with a gel attached, some only half full. Here's one of the most attractive bottles (left).

The elites run past at such speed it's quite difficult for them to grab their drink as they barely pause, but very few bottles were dropped.

The elite runners dealt with, it was time for the "ordinary" runners, in their thousands. J trains diligently for the marathon, six days a week, and his training includes hill running and speed work. He tests gels, different shoes (and socks: he was wearing his long compression socks) and anything that will help him to the elusive Personal Best. This year he also lost quite a lot of weight. Every pound counts.

It all paid off. Not a PB this year because of the weather, but nonetheless, J still finished in the top 200 for his age group. Here he is at looking remarkably fresh, indicating that another Orion runner was not far behind (Kym). 

When we saw him for the second time, at 35km, he was lively enough to spray us all with water he'd been keeping for the purpose.

Having escorted him on many of the world's top marathons, including Berlin, Paris, Toronto, New York, Chicago and Boston, I can say hand on heart that London is the best. The most spectators; the most noise and eencouragement; the most friendly atmosphere. There's nothing to beat it. So well done to all the runners, including the ones who really struggled in the heat, and see you all next year! (And before you ask, I will still be snapping and not running!).

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The constancy of a cat (or dog)

This weekend my brother's family is welcoming a tiny kitten, Leo, into their home. And it got me thinking about how having a dog or cat is a delight that never changes. When we had Holly, our first cat, and I was nine, the experience was no different than it was when Molly came along in 2005. Each cat has its own character and personality, but the experience of having a cat is exactly the same.

They don't get stroppy or have an iPhone pressed constantly to their ear, or moan about austerity measures. They don't complain they didn't get a big enough pay rise, or that they're being bullied on Facebook. They just bring us joy and remind us of the simple things. Like basking in the sun, or on top of a warm radiator in the winter.
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