It may have escaped your notice, but our Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, has been on the throne for 60 years. During that time American Presidents have come and gone, and the elected leaders of other countries likewise – many of whom will only ever be footnotes in history. The British Monarchy is a curious and mysterious institution, it is completely undemocratic, but some how it works, and in the end, having moaned and groaned as much as anyone over the crazy, undignified and distasteful antics of some members of the Royal Family I still think the Monarchy is one of our nation’s greatest assets.
Anyway – there have been massive public celebrations in London and up and down the British Isles, and Her Majesty can be in no doubt how much her subjects love and honour her.
Here in far-away China I was determined not to let the Diamond Jubilee go unmarked. Fortunately 3rd June this year was a Sunday, and, coincidentally a significant birthday for my DH, so I decided to hold a party in our apartment. It is not the largest space so I decided that two dozen guests would be the limit. Everyone was invited from 4-6.30pm and told NOT to bring gifts (we have too much stuff).
I produced retro British ‘street party’ food – sausage rolls, mini Scotch Eggs, cheese scones, Victoria Sponge cake, orange fairy cakes ( we are British – we do fairy cakes not cupcakes!), jellies, strawberry tartlets, and proper cucumber sandwiches (white bread, in triangles with the crusts cut off!) The management of our apartment building generously gave the DH an amazing cake covered with chocolate ganache, and filled with cream and chunks of fresh peach. Superb!
To drink there was Iced Tea, various fruit juices and Pimms. I should confess that I do not buy the bottles of commercially made Pimms (hideously expensive in China) I make ‘Cheat’s Pimms’ I took the recipe from the Financial Times over 15 years ago and it is brilliant. Lemonade is not available here so I used Sprite which seemed to work equally well as the diluting liquid.
Together with some sheets of Union Jack tissue paper sellotaped together to make a table covering, some Union Jack paper napkins, a few red, white and blue balloons, I felt I had achieved an appropriately British ambiance! We toasted Her Majesty, sang Happy Birthday to the DH, candles were blown out etc, by which time many guests were gently sloshed!!
Last night – Thursday 7th June – was a very different affair. This was the official British Embassy celebration of the Jubilee. Invitations were the hottest tickets in town….and what a party it was! On entering the Embassy grounds the first thing you saw (and heard) was the group of bagpipers – and then a whole row of Mini Cooper cars, one of which had been dolled up to look like a member of the Coldstream Guards with a huge ‘busby’,together with a giant fake gun, epaulettes, gold braid etc – surreal to say the least! Then there was a car to die for, a Bentley Mulsanne customised by Viscount Linley (HMQ’s nephew) over which various nubile lassies in slinky evening gowns had draped themselves.
Inside the massive marquee and the gardens were nearly 900 folk; British citizens from all over China who now live/work here as well as Ambassadors from all the Commonwealth countries, Ambassadors from all EU countries – and Ambassadors/Representatives from every other country from around the globe. It was a veritable United Nations. The networking opportunities and card swapping was on a mega-scale and everyone was having a great time. After the Loyal Toast and a speech by the British Ambassador there were Three Cheers for Her Majesty. We were then served a wonderful feast of cold poached salmon, BBQd prawn kebabs and umpteen other delicious delicacies- all washed down with lashings of booze provided by Diagio. By now everyone was feeling very-nicely-thank-you, at which point the Beijing Beatles took to the dias to entertain us.
They are terrific – one of the best tribute bands I’ve ever heard, and they played songs from all the various periods of the Beatles, from the early 1960s, through the middle years and up-to and including Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Given that it was over 30C and very muggy they must have been roasting in their costumes and wigs, but they brought the house down.
The Queen should be in no doubt, here in China she is just as much appreciated as she is in the Home Counties.