Everything comes to a standstill this week, as all eyes are on the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wedding on May 19, and all roads lead to Windsor. We have been flooded with information about what will happen — including that it will be a sunny day (mostly) at 18 degrees — and that they will have an organic lemon cake. There is nothing like a royal wedding to brush away Brexit blues and boost the economy! Apart from the flood of tourists from America (who are happy to place their own princess at Windsor) there will be many who arrive just because they love the pomp and pageantry and no one does it better than the Brits!
The politicians are staying away (so we have been told) and Prime Minister Theresa May and her Cabinet will not attend: this is very unlike India where all politicians love photo ops of all kinds!
Fortunately, unlike Kate Middleton prior to marrying Prince William, Markle has been in the public eye for years. She has not had an easy life, as is obvious from the details which have been spilling out. The press has been assiduously digging out a variety of “spicy” stories, about her estranged brother, her ex-husband who is reportedly making a film about an actress who marries a prince (wonder where he got the idea from?) — and now about the “down and out” life of her father.
Thomas Markle, a retired lighting director from Hollywood, lives in a drab housing complex in Mexico. He is obviously not well-to-do, and there have been reports about the plucky Markle supporting him at times. This is a very different, and very American narrative — quite unlike that of Kate Middleton who was dotingly brought up by ambitious parents and sent to the best schools and colleges.
The British press is particularly nosy when it comes to private lives. So watch out for more reports as her parents will be seen in the UK for the first time, with the spotlight on them as well, on the wedding day. Though estranged from each other — it is Doria Ragland her mother who will accompany Markle to the wedding, and Thomas Markle who will walk her down the aisle.
Photographers had managed to track down Thomas Markle in Mexico, ambling along to the shops and the local Internet cafes. They apparently staged photographs, which were then sold (can this be true?) for an alleged £100,000 each. Thomas Markle, some of the tabloids were at pains to point out, is nowhere in the same league at the royal family — and some reports go so far as to state that he is dreading his “exposure” on the world stage. Fortunately, Markle continues to, sensibly, maintain a studied silence over all these revelations. Having been an actress for years, she is undoubtedly used to gossip — and the best way would be to let the wedding happen and things to settle down. The important thing would be to reach D-Day.
And so, yes, while there will be fanfare and bugles and fine dining with 200 of their close friends, there are also going to be those miffed about not receiving invitations to the wedding and reception and other hiccups. But the couple has done one good thing: to request that instead of gifts, donations be given to various charities which they have selected. This includes one from Mumbai, the Myna Mahila Foundation, which works for women empowerment and menstrual hygiene. Most of the charities listed have a special connect with young people, reflecting the values of the royal couple.
Well… and here is something the UK almost regularly does badly in. The Eurovision Song Contest, which is fun to watch if you have want to see what rank from the bottom will the UK get this time! The results did not disappoint. But researchers at Imperial College have found that people feel that even a bad performance by their country is better than not entering at all.
The fun is not just listening to the songs staged with glamorous dresses and spectacular sets but the voting which comes at the end. Each European country plus Israel and Australia country — 43 in all — has a jury, which can vote for any country but their own. Each country has 12 points. Listeners can also vote by telephone or online. If you are a fan, the agony is the fear that your country may end up with nul points. Zero points! The UK has achieved that distinction more than once, but we plod on, nonetheless.
SuRie was the UK singer alongside 25 others. It is an annual ritual with songs in many languages but English language songs dominate. In the jury vote Austria topped with 271 and the UK was fourth from bottom with 26 points. But in the fans’ votes, the UK got 22 more votes so overall stood third from the bottom. Israel’s Netta won thanks to fans’ votes. The song was called Toy.
The May Bank Holiday last weekend was the hottest on record with temperatures reaching 28ºC. Now it is back to the standard British weather, drizzling and cold. The outside temperature is 13ºC. On such days you understand why the English poets wrote about the Summer’s Day. It appears mostly as a tantalising glimpse!