Yes, this blog shares a birthday with Queen Elizabeth 11 and is five years old today! In celebration, I am republishing the very first two posts I wrote on that April day when I had no real idea what I was doing:
From April 21st 2006:
From April 21st 2006:
When I was a little girl, in Bristol, England, in the 1950s, you could only get tangerines at Christmas. They were about the most exotic food you could buy and we didn't differentiate between tangerines, mandarins, satsumas or clementines. Any round, orange, citrus fruit that was too small to be an orange was a tangerine!
I can still see my father's delighted face as he came home on winter nights and produced a tangerine from each of the pockets of his long, dark blue overcoat. I thought the smell of the tangerine was heavenly and even now, it signifies Christmas for me. I didn't know where the fruit came from but I knew I wanted to go there!
Coincidentally I am writing this almost 33 years to the day since my father's death. How happy he would be to know that I have come to live in the land of the tangerine!
BUON COMPLEANNO, MA'AM!
I'm not even a royalist so I am surprised to find myself in the least affected by the Queen's birthday.
But one of the elements of culture shock, about which I have done a lot of research, is that an event in your country of origin which wouldn't even interest you, were you there, can suddenly take on importance for you as an ex-pat. As an Italian linguist and someone who knows and loves the culture of my adopted country, I didn't expect to suffer from this condition: but, as my research bears out, the more you do know and love the adopted country, paradoxically, the more you are likely to suffer to some degree; it's as if, at times, your very perceptiveness works against you.
So today I, the Republican par excellence, found myself feeling strange because it's Lizzie Windsor's birthday and very few people here know about it or give a damn! - and, indeed, why should they?
This morning I talked to the nice old gentleman who always greets dog Simone and me on our walks and for some reason I found myself telling him that the Queen - I did add "of England" as he looked a bit puzzled - is 80 today - and, whilst he didn't exactly shrug his shoulders, I could see that he was wondering why it should matter.
And why, indeed, should it matter to me, of all people? It was one of those times when you can feel a bit isolated, that's all, because if I had been in the UK on this day I would have been arguing about the occasion with everybody on the bus and being my iconoclastic self.
It's a very British thing, this "collective memory" that the Queen represents: it's hard to explain to others. It's just that, whether you are a monarchist or not, you do remember her being "there", at every important national event.
And for me, the monarch's ageing is a reminder of my own: I was 3 when she was crowned and I thought it was like the Presidency of the USA - I thought anybody could get to be the Queen [or the "Preen", as I called her, as I couldn't pronounce "Queen"] . Then my Dad explained that I would have to marry Charlie to be Queen, and that certainly didn't appeal! Then, as I grew up, the whole absurdity of the monarchy as an institution struck me.
Nowadays, whilst I am quite happy to wish Her Majesty a happy birthday, I cannot understand these "fans" of her gracious self who send / give her cards and flowers! [And I couldn't understand those who did the same for her mother, either.] Why don't they go to their nearest care-home and do something [ in Her Majesty's name, if they must!] for those who are really in need?!
Incidentally, every Italian I have spoken to today thinks that "gli Inglesi" are a little mad. [Being Welsh, I can happily dissociate myself from this, of course!]
Not a word about any of it in "Corriere della Sera" today - at least, not in the edition I read at lunchtime for, hypocrite that I am, I strolled along to my favourite bar to read the paper and drink to HM!
22.4.06: Incidentally, HM is referred to as "Queen Elizabeth", not "the Queen" on BBC World and "la regina Elisabetta" in the Italian press. I note that the event is covered in "Corriere" online today.
Well, now Lizzie Windsor, my blog and I are five years older and I think it's fair to say that we are all three still going strong! If I didn't know what I was doing on 21st April 2006 I had still less idea where it would all lead: My blog has disciplined me as a writer, enabled me to see my own country through Italian eyes, helped me settle in Italy and indirectly brought me paid work. But most importantly, it has brought me into contact with you, my dear readers and today I would like to thank you all for your pazienza, encouragement and friendship over these five years. Cincin!