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Your hat looks wonderful!

By Barrie Mahoney features@algarveresident.com

Barrie Mahoney was a teacher, headteacher and school inspector in the UK, as well as a reporter in Spain, before moving to the Canary Islands as a newspaper editor. He is still enjoying life in the sun as a writer and author.

Nothing says “Royal Wedding” quite like an ostrich’s bottom joined to your left temple. No, I had told myself, I would not be spending the day watching the wedding celebrations and associated hats of a couple I did not know, would never meet and who were representing a country many miles away.

It was a country that I had left many years ago and would be unlikely to return to. Participating in such an event from a small island in the Atlantic did seem a ridiculous way to spend a day, when I had far better things to do.

Although I respect and admire the Queen, I suspect that is more to do with the fact that she represents continuity in my life, rather than a wish to celebrate the wedding of her grandson.

I had another chapter of my book to write, and that was the way that I fully intended to spend the Royal Wedding Day.

How wrong I was. After being initially drawn by the excitement that was building on the radio, curiosity led me to switch on the television.

The atmosphere was infectious and by 10am I found myself watching and sharing the events on television with around two billion other people in at least 150 countries around the world.

The enthusiasm and excitement of the crowds waiting and watching brushed away all the usual cares and sorrows of the world. Gone, for the day anyway, were thoughts of war, rebellion, recession, bankers’ bonuses and students’ tuition fees.

In its place came a kind of raw innocence, one of belief and hope for the future, and a sense that history was being made without the intervention and manipulations of politicians and big business. It was a simple hope and belief in the future that the union of two people always brings, and an infectious joy that is so hard to put into words.

How we marvelled at the hats – as ridiculous as some of them were. After all, wearing a dead parrot, or the entire contents of a florist’s catalogue, on your head, does not look particularly ‘cool’ or stylish come to that. “Please do not turn your head whilst in the pew, Madam, otherwise you will flatten the gentleman to your left.”

Did these ladies actually look at themselves in the mirror before they left home? Were their partners too frightened to make a negative comment, or were they just too subdued after being crammed into a morning suit and trussed up like chickens for the day?

I suspect that one of the young princesses, who was wearing part of a tree on her head, learned the hard way when the cameras caught her leaning forward at an angle of 90º in order for the limousine to accommodate both her and her generously proportioned hat on the way to the palace for the obligatory canapés!

Spirits were lifted whilst listening to the music of some of the great British composers in the spectacular and familiar surroundings of Westminster Abbey, now decked with beautiful, fresh green trees. Innocent looking and freshly scrubbed choirboys singing their new M&S socks off, fusty Archbishops, Cardinals and Deans, with far too much white facial hair, all brought back memories of earlier times of national celebrations long ago.

Along with most other people watching, I was drawn into the spirit of an event that I could not explain. Watching the beautiful bride and her handsome prince is, I guess, the stuff of fairy tales and early childhood memories. Yes, I too felt a lump rising in my throat and found that I had moist eyes at several times during the service. This was surreal and quite ridiculous to be feeling and behaving like this, I told myself.

Mums, dads, children, grannies and granddads swarmed down the Mall to watch the newly wedded couple appear on the balcony. A sea of different coloured skins, ages and nationalities greeted the cameras. Awkward and surly looking teenagers admitting that they too were having a great time and were waiting to see ‘that kiss’ made me feel that I had somehow slipped into an alternative universe for the day, but maybe that was the effect of Victoria Beckham’s spikey alien creation. People were just so happy!

Later I found myself attending a ‘Royal’ barbecue and joining in with a toast to the happy couple. It was a sincere toast, not only to the Royal couple, but to the love of all couples everywhere, gay or straight, and with the sincere hope that they will have found their soul-mates and can live in happiness together for many years to come.

I still cannot explain my reaction, or that of millions of others, to the Royal Wedding celebrations. However, one thing that I have known for some time is that although you can take the Brit out of Britain, you cannot take Britain out of the Brit.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his latest book, Letters from the Atlantic (ISBN: 978 184 386 6459).
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