21 April, 2006

Happy Birthday, Queen Elizabeth

Do you suppose the Queen had such pretty Easter eggs last weekend? (I'd ask also if she had such a pretty little girl to spend Easter with, but that would be unkind). No, I know for certain she did not have such pretty eggs, because one thing we discovered this year is that the British do not color eggs. Well, actually Avery reports that some very religious people dye some eggs red to symbolize purity and blood (how cheerful). How did we find out that our cherished tradition was not observed here in our new home? Well, for one thing there was no dye in any of the shops. Anywhere. I discovered this too late to bleat helplessly to Alyssa, my friend and source for all things American that we miss, like microwave popcorn and People magazine. Then, on our way to our National Trust holiday, we stopped at an enormous grocery store to stock up, and... there are no white eggs in Great Britain. Can you dye brown eggs? With no dye? It turns out you can. Weirdly, the night before our trip I had a very vivid dream in which I discovered a cache of food coloring bottles on my top kitchen pantry shelf. And... sure enough, in the morning there was a whole section of bottles from some bygone Tribeca crafty thing, moved here to my London kitchen. So the whole Easter egg dye racket is a scam, the idea that you need something special to color eggs. So much for all the research I did online, finding creepy ovo-lacto vegetarian tofu-obsessed websites that assured me a quick dip in boiling water and onion skins would make fine yellow (never mind the smell, I guess) and that beetroot shreds would produce red without all that pesky cancer risk, and blue? I don't remember what they claimed would produce blue. Because have you ever looked inside a blueberry? It's sort of a phlegmy white, certainly not a hue we were aiming for in Easter eggs. And strong coffee for to get brown? For heaven's sake, this is where we came in! The darn things ARE brown already. Anyway, my point is that plain old Durkee food coloring in warm water makes perfectly good dye, and the brown eggs took to their adventure like ducks to water, thrilled at their opportunity to rise above their lesser brethren, destined only for egg cups across the British Isles, knowing that theirs was a higher fate.

So all England is agog today for the royal 80th birthday. Please promise me you'll click on this link. She looks like an American Girl doll gone large I swear. I heard on the BBC this morning that so far she has received over 20,000 cards. Today a huge self-congratulatory flag is being hoisted over Windsor Castle (the BBC announcer said solemnly that it was "a much larger flag, indeed, than we're used to seeing flying over the Castle, isn't it?"). She's going to do a "walkabout" in town to press the flesh, and receive posies, and 25 members of the intimate Royal Family will be at a dinner hosted by Prince Charles this evening. What do you suppose she asked for to eat? When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she said "a nice sunshiny day." Trust her to choose the one thing that doubtless she cannot have, here in England, land of the perpetual grey sky. And yesterday she invited for tea at Buckingham Palace all the people who could prove that they turn 80 today as well. Kind of cute if you like that sort of thing. I'm not a huge fan of the Queen, I hesitate to confess, but there is something catching about all the birthday fever and we succumbed last night and taped a show all about the ten most significant days in Queen Elizabeth's life. Would you believe the show lasted an hour and a half? Must have been some ten days. Oh! Yesterday outside Marks and Spencer I saw Lady Helen Taylor, with her little girl Eloise. She was very pretty in person, but not in the Body of Armani way you'd expect, from all her pictures in Hello! magazine. Just trotting along in jeans and sneakers, holding her little girl's hand, not acting at all as if she's 11th in line to the throne. Actually I'm making that up; I can't remember how far away she is, but still! She's a princess.

Speaking of the Queen, who is Avery's school's Patron, exciting news: Avery was chosen by the art teacher of King's College to create a portrait of the Queen for the school's birthday card to her! To be delivered, Anna and Avery told me in breathless excitement yesterday, in "a special Queen's birthday taxi" to Windsor Castle this afternoon. Well done.

And more news about Avery's achievements, if you can bear it. She won the Form Four Storywriting Competition! This was her greatest goal, and she poured her heart and soul into her story, written before break. Mrs Davies assured us in her pre-Easter headmistress letter that all efforts would be made over vacation to judge the entries and come up with a winner for each form. Our New Girl, can you imagine it, heard her name called out at assembly yesterday and was the proud recipient of two really scary chocolate bunnies, as a prize. As you can imagine we are all quite proud. Her story and her royal portrait, all in one day. And the new summer uniforms have arrived at John Lewis Department Store, so I stopped off yesterday for a ruinous shopping trip and came away with dresses and new white ankle socks, as well as a cute short coat. I shall have to get a good picture of her in her new gingham dress. And boater hat, if she'll put up with it. Lots of fun.

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