When it gets to nearly 30 Celsius in Scotland, the world becomes surreal. The meagre tufts of cloud look like something hatched from a Kinder Egg: adorable but indubitably useless. People slow down; they cease to frolic with the wanton abandon that swept them along during the low to mid-20s. It is like we are all stunned, hovering in the murk of humidity, dried sweat stinging our eyes as we hold a day-long squint.
The children in the park across the street sit astride their fat plastic push bikes and with sluggish, methodical thrusts, drive themselves forward in wide circles, each bit of movement bringing with it some semblance of a breeze. One tiny boy has abandoned his bike to sit on a bench, his feet dangling in the air. His hands in his lap, he resembles an old man who has handed in his participation card and is now content to simply observe the world.
On Tuesday JP and I attended the Queen’s garden party at Holyrood Palace. It was, in a word, Splendid. With a capital S. Luckily, this was before the heat wave hit us like the steam that comes out swinging when the film on the TV dinner is peeled back. Instead it was a perfect, gentle, green afternoon, the clouds and sun playing languidly in the sky while the bees hovered past in their finest fat suits.
Oh, the dresses. Short dresses, long dresses, flowery dresses, shiny dresses, and even a leopard print number that looked like a bed sheet with two hasty seems sewn in. And the hats. Oh, the hats. My favourite was a huge red hat with a matching explosion of feathers threatening to escape from one side. Then there were the men, so sharp in their suits or uniforms, but also often wearing a look of slightly bored acceptance as they watched their excited, chattering women point and grin and sip their tea.
Onto the food (pause to fan myself to keep from swooning). In my attempt to do as many cliché British things as possible, I chose a slice of Victoria sponge, a tiny cucumber sandwich (refreshing!), and the most delicious lemon tart I have ever eaten (perfect buttery pastry with a filling that held an unexpected sharpness that detonated on the tongue and left the mouth ravaged with saliva). There was also the perfect square wedge of ganache which simply called to me. It would have been rude not to answer. It was one of those things that looks sturdy but which really can’t wait to turn into chocolate lava at the first opportunity. I blush to remember it now.
Not having the grace necessary to balance a dainty tea cup and saucer and my little plate of treats, I went with a glass of iced coffee, which was grand. Also, despite being instructed by my friend Major Gaw to simply stand in front of the strawberry tarts and consume them until I was asked to leave, after glancing at them I didn’t trust myself not to drop a mountainous clump of stained cream on my dress. However, later in the day I did leap at the chance to dig my way through a miniature bucket of strawberries and cream ice cream.
Oh, yes. The Queen. Good ole’ Queenie. She wore a pink hat and a lovely cream coloured coat with matching handbag. We only saw her from a distance as she walked around the Royal tent, greeting the guests who were far more posh than we will ever be. Philip looked like a smiling, stretched raisin and Edward looked like…Edward.
Before we left we wandered through the garden, past the brass band and over to the ruined abbey that stands behind the palace. We took the long path through the garden just so I could soak it all in just a little bit more.
Overall it was one of the most bizarre and wonderful people watching experiences I have ever had. I would love to go again, just to repeat the opportunity to be in that kind of atmosphere and to wonder at the genuine weirdness of humanity. I am only saddened that we were not allowed to take photos, because everywhere I turned there was a flash of colour, a gorgeous curve, a curious tilt of a tea cup to painted lips. Sigh. I do have the opportunity to buy a DVD however. If I can score an extra one I may offer it up to an interested reader who professes him or herself to be an obsessed Britophile.
As I write this it is quarter to 11pm, the window is wide open, and I am still having to stop periodically to fan myself. If a bus drives past it creates enough of a stirring in the soup to drive a small gust of cooling air into my living room. Roll on Saturday, the Farmers’ Market, and the now ripe jubilee strawberries.
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