Royal Pain in the Ass

April 29, 2011

Bladebone Inn, Bucklebury, England

8:30 a.m. through ENTIRE DAY

Notable Matter: Old woman dressed as the Queen of England; royalists; racing ducks; trotting sheep; old men dancing around, bells on ankles, hankies in hand.  

“The beer tent will open at 10 o’clock with the duck race,” says the Royal Wedding announcer who has been talking about beer since 8:30 a.m. with good reason. We’re – myself, a few residents of this tiny town and 30 media hacks – are waiting to pack into a tent sheltering a massive TV to watch two strangers get married. It’s disturbing.

I’m sitting across the street from the Bladebone Inn in Bucklebury, England, the hometown of queen-to-be/duchess/whatever Kate Middleton. From my vantage point under the tea tent, I see the following:

Morris Men, a group of crazy old men wearing colorful rag jackets and white tights for the purpose of dancing in a circle and waving hankies. I don’t get it.

Royalists. Equally as nutty as the Morris Men, this international crew obsesses over the royal family going so far as to plan vacations to destinations where they might get a glimpse of the family, places like Bucklebury on the day of the royal wedding. I had my first encounter with these people last night. Man and wife. Woman dressed in red, white and blue, easily mistaken for a fat, American housewife on the Fourth of July. Last night she placed her half-pint of Guinness between the legs of a stuffed, royal wedding teddy bear.

Animals and blimps, namely ducks that will spend the rest of the day racing one another.

Young men drinking from well thought out BYOB backpacks. I get them, would love a Foster’s, bitter, anything really.

Police. Is there really risk of a riot?

Bookies, for the duck and sheep races, naturally.

Announcement: “The duck race is starting. MSN and CBS from the U.S. have each sponsored a duck. We thank them for their sponsorship.”

The papers have been full of this whole royal wedding to-do for weeks, examining every possible wedding/relationship/royalty angle including the type of toilet the new couple will use in their honeymoon suite (it’s an original Crapper).

The Sun, a British tabloid, hired African rain dancers to prance about yesterday in hopes of avoiding this dark day and ominous clouds. I’m freezing my ass off. I don’t think the dance worked.

What do I think of this whole shebang? I think it’s stupid but no one cares about my opinion because I’m a yank and the U.S. doesn’t have a title laden social hierarchy so we therefore have no class. Or so I’m told.

These people are lunatics. I must get to the beer tent. I have to get to the bottom of this insanity.

?

Village of Needham, England

11:10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Chosen because…it’s a Church of England church and has really cool tombstones in the church yard. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the official church name and it never opened for service.

I have a tiny little pea brain and can’t remember much of what I’ve written or read for that matter, which makes writing about the Bible without text or consistent church services fairly difficult. However, I do remember some things. I remember that Jesus and maybe God, are supposed to be with me at all times. I think that’s crap not because I make dumb decisions and find myself wallowing in sorrow wondering what the hell happened but because during this 2011 quest to experience as many churches as possible, I’ve had the damndest time actually being admitted to service.

I try this nameless church, which is surrounded by “Night of the Living Dead”-like gravestones but it never opens for the 11:15 a.m. service. I try everything short of knocking. No answer. Instead, I walk the grounds searching for ghosts, reading church bulletins and watching the cop in the adjacent Needham Coronation Village Hall parking lot talk to a female speeder who is wearing exercise attire, a rare sighting in England, and a blonde bystander who clearly wants to test his authority on a more personal level.

The churches here look the same. Cold. Ominous. Hard. The church bulletin is worn, the pre-Photoshop era graphics faded, text bleached. Among other things it says:

“1 in 5 older people skips meals to save money for heating.”

And: “Surely I am with you. Always to the very end of the age.”

I wonder if either are true, know the second isn’t. Babies get raped, children die and I can’t get into service. God is either flat out cruel or he has a fantastic sense of humor.

I Want My American Red, White and Blue

I don’t know about everyone else, but I hit a cultural sensitivity breaking point when I’m away from home for more than a month. I never have them during critical periods in travel. I won’t breakdown if I miss a train, can’t understand someone or am bamboozled into eating disgusting cuisine such as pig ear. No. My inner child throws tantrums during the most civilized, insignificant points in my trips, proving that like God who would let me in a church if he was with me every minute, maturity and cultural sensitivity are sporadically with me.

Sometimes I just loose the plot which is a snobby British way of saying I freak out and act like a child. Take the f(*#&^% savory biscuit incident. I calmly handled throwing used toilet paper in open trash bins in Colombia, a practice that doesn’t sit well with a germaphobe, but finding graham crackers in England prompted a hissy fit.

I’m too tired and hungry to go to the grocery store after my failed church experience but I go anyway because I have to eat. I turn into a five-year-old when I’m hungry so this is a bad decision. Before I get in the store I start cursing the English, silently of course. What kind of a country makes people check out grocery carts? It’s only a stupid pence or pound or some other frustrating, misshaped currency but it’s the principle – the wasted act of actually getting change and renting the trolley – that sets me off. I also hate all of the change currency bursting the seams of my wallet; the stupid “hiya” greeting (are you welcoming me or about to karate chop my face?); looking the wrong way when I cross a road; and walking to the bar to order a drink. I also can’t stand English castles. They’re nothing to look at and neither is Buckingham Palace, which is a glorified government building.

This sweet employee tries to help me, asks if the graham cracker is a savory biscuit or a sweet one, brings another employee into the conversation. I try to be calm. They’re nice, trying to help but they’re slow and cannot comprehend this long, sweet, brown cracker that breaks into two halves perfect for smooshing melted chocolate and a heated mallow. I want to tell him to shove his savory biscuit up his British ass but that’s insensitive so I do the mature thing and take my anger out on my shopping mate, who spends the next 20 minutes hiding out in an aisle far, far away from me.

Always to the Very End of the Age

Somewhere in me lies a culturally sensitive person but where she is, I don’t know. Maybe she’ll reappear in a few weeks, after I refresh myself in the states and head back out on the road where other things will amuse me until they become familiar. Maybe I’ll find her the next time God stays with his believers and, as the bulletin suggests, lets me into a church.

I can’t believe that God is with believers at all times and I’m starting to believe I may lose interest in traveling, seeking new experiences, using toilets outside of America and adapting to not having everything exactly as I want the it second I want it.

If we’re not with ourselves all the time, how can we let anyone else, least of all a controversial, possibly fictious figure be with us 24/7?

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