There are certain defining moments in one’s life that coincide with other events to ensure they stay fresh in the memory for a very long time. In my case there was Kennedy’s assassination (I was at the first performance of Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana in London’s Royal Festival Hall); Germany in the final of the World Cup (I was mooching through Dubai’s Bur Juman listening to the roar of the crowds watching a giant screen as the call for prayer over the loudspeaker system hopelessly struggled to make its mark); and today’s Royal Wedding of Will & Kate (I was stuffing my face in an Indian Restaurant, downing roast pork and glasses of red “beverage” in this supposedly Moslem country).
I have to admit that it makes a nice change when the broadcasters finally decide that everyone is totally fed up with hearing about Arabs shooting at one another. And for one blessed day we realise that there is absolutely nothing going on in the rest of the world save for the British Royal Wedding.
My day starts as I log on to the web and find that Google has joined the spirit of the day with its own little doodle to mark the celebrations in London. It also reports that the wedding has overtaken all other search results for April, with people checking in on every possible detail, from the carriages to the wedding cake.
A reported 2.1 million tweets have flown across the Internet thus far. A live-streaming video company reports that all records for concurrent viewer-ship have been broken — with an expected two million people expected to log on to one of the streaming videos of the day.
I switch from radio station to radio station as I cruise along Al Wasl Road and find there is absolutely nothing else to listen to. Ever the patriot, I switch over to BBC World Service and am appalled by the trash they are putting out: a programme called World-Have-Your-Say which is so pathetic it would put the UK’s local radio stations to shame in its banality (and believe me, that is really saying something!). Does the world really want to listen to an American tourist in London linking up with her mother in Ohio telling her the place is awesome? I mean, not just for a minute or two minutes, but for what feels like hours.
I press the button for Dubai Eye (yes, I really am that desperate) and am pleasantly surprised to find an interview with Filipino haute couturier Michael Cinco – the Dubai-based Filipino designer who has been dressing up Tyra Banks’ aspiring supermodel-wannabes in the current season of America’s Next Top Model. Here is someone who actually has something interesting to say about what Kate might be wearing when she leaves her hotel en route to the Abbey. Well done Dubai Eye (though I fear you will still be on my B-list of must-listen-to-radio stations).
I arrive at my lunch date a full hour before the wedding is due to commence. We walk in to the dining room where photos of Bollywood starlets crowd the walls for space. On the TV is playing a Bollywood movie – and decide this will go well with the meal. As it’s a buffet style lunch, we wait for our red beverages to arrive and then go next door to attack the hors d’oeuvres.
But what’s this? While our backs are turned, one of the waiters has had the foresight to please his British guests by switching channels to BBC World News and we find ourselves sitting down at the table to see various cars rolling through the streets of London. Oh well – maybe on this occasion we can join in the special day from afar.
There is a report that Legoland, just a gnat’s whisker from Windsor Castle, has made its special tribute by modelling what they imagine the royal day will be like – even down to lego’d corgis and a lego’d wedding dress. Oh, you guys at BBC World Service (Radio) could learn a thing or three from your erstwhile TV colleagues.
Posh and Becks arrive on the red carpet at the Abbey as some unknown sneezes his head off behind them. Maybe he has caught a whiff of Posh’s scent? Might it be the equal of her hat, I wonder. The BBC commentator – ever the expert in filling air time – informs us that Victoria Beckham is said to have lent Kate Middleton some of her dresses – “not that she probably needed them, but there you go...” he adds wryly.
The excitement mounts. Kate emerges from her hotel in a Grace Kelly type of dress which looks OK. But I have to say, in my eyes she is well eclipsed by her younger sister - maid of honour Philippa Middleton, who arrives at the Abbey along with the bridesmaids and page boys. Apparently Philippa was named the No. 1 Society Singleton by Tatler in 2008, and while tradition dictates that guests should never wear white to a wedding, she does just that and looks fabulous.
Charlie arrives with Ugly Camilla – OMG doesn’t he look old! Yet again I am convinced that the only reason he married this old bint is because here is someone who looks even more awful than he does.
And the hats! This is worse than a bad hair day at Ascot FGS! The Daily Mail’s web coverage summed it up for me: “Leading the way in the fashion faux pas were Princess Eugenie and Beatrice, who wore almost comical outfits. The girls are known to love experimenting with fashion, but perhaps today wasn't the time. Beatrice's taupe Valentino Haute Couture dress and matching coat were elegant, but her headpiece was a ludicrous addition, perching on her forehead at an impossible angle, detracting from her sophisticated outfit. Her hat, which celebrity bridal stylist Camilla ridley-Day suggests was the wrong shape for her face, has already sparked a Facebook group named Princess Beatrice's Ridiculous Hat, with members mocking up pictures of the Princess with monsters on her head.” (Actually the Mail article is a definite must-read if you want a good laugh!) Maybe Bea and Euge were getting their own back for the snubbing given to their mother.
The wedding went predictably well – the Brits are good at ceremonies. I saw HMtheQ nodding off only once, which can’t be bad, given her age; and Phil the Greek looked almost alive (though you’d think he could have afforded a new set of teeth for the occasion).
As for the Bishop of London – someone should tell him not to appear to enjoy the sound of his own voice too much. (But there again, I suspect many a clergyman has entered the profession having first been rejected after auditioning for RADA).
For me the most touching story of the day was about a group of three orphans in the south west of China who had written to Will & Kate asking for an invite to the wedding. Though unlucky in this request, the British Embassy in Beijing flew the happy trio to the Chinese capital to join in their celebrations there. Nice one Mr Brit Ambassador!
And the nicest “music” of the day? Yes, it just had to be the peal of ‘Spliced London and Bristol Surprise Royal’ rung on the Abbey’s 10 bells as the couple left the church.
There’s no doubt about it – there are some things (admittedly not very many) that Great Britain plc does extremely well. Today was one of those days.