Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Queen & I

In England 2002 was the Golden Jubilee year of Queen Elizabeth II. At school there were lots of projects about the monarchy and free flags were handed out to all the children. Flags were everywhere, whcih is rare in England, on t-shirts, hanging from bedroom windows and tied to car radio masts. You couldn't help but feel English. For The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 communities had organized street parties and local fetes. I was ten then and remembered it well. This year we had a national holiday and so we went to my parents house in Nottingham. They live on a quiet surburban housing estate and the surrounding homes had planned a small street party. Each family had to bring their own food for a lunch, and we would share the cost of a bouncy castle and fireworks at dusk.

This is one time when one should feel patriotic but somehow I just couldn’t feel as enthusiastic about it as I had twenty-five years ago. Luckily Marc and Nina were excited and we dressed them up as an English Saint George Knight and English Princess, in white with English red crosses, for the day. Jacques, unlike me in France on his national holiday, was ambivalent and somewhat bored by the preparations. However he took on the lunch and made some interesting salads and a quiche for us to share and he bought some good wine too.

My dad was not so impressed by the salads and quiche and remarked that we should be eating something more ‘English’, making me snappy and angry on Jacques behalf. What did he want? Ham sandwiches and boiled eggs with a cup of tea? I said nothing because I too had cravings for English picnic food, but then Jacques had made such beautiful (and healthy) salads it would be mean to moan. And I felt Jacques contribution was important and I wanted him to feel part of the day too, not excluded. As the party started I still felt strangely distant and unable to really get into it. I felt like a foreigner too in my own country. The kids loved the day though and we did have an excellent weekend, but I couldn’t help feel that I would have been more enthusiastic if it had been in France….why was that? Had I abandoned my English heritage already? Didn’t my children need to know about important English national days as well? How do you balance two cultures?

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