Tea, Tears, and Tradition…or a Very Decent and British Event

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy https://thegraphicsfairy.com/wp-content/uploads/blogger/_CarNcodpCMA/TEeR88RjsyI/AAAAAAAAIgg/O-GeZUzm37Q/s1600/britishflag2.jpg

I spent the week between Prince Philip’s passage and the funeral watching unhealthy–well, some might judge it as such–amounts of videos about the British monarchy on YouTube. Check out the ones by Darren McGrady, former chef to the Queen, for some fun and non-toxic tidbits about the Royals, both two- and four-legged ones (like favorite foods, cooking for the Corgis, him getting chased down the hall by said Corgis, those sorts of things). In addition to the heavy days marking time between the passing and the funeral, that week also brought a round of automotive growth experiences*, the start of Hubby doing his yearly month of religious fasting, and another frantic run to the vets’ to get Oakley a refill on his IBS medication.

Maybe binge-watching royal gossip videos is not that unhealthy a choice if it kept me from stabbing anyone or away from mood-altering substances. Especially when the algorithms kindly toss in Monty Python clips, especially the ones of Graham Chapman in his Army uniform popping out of the woodwork to end skits with an announcement that it was getting too silly and to move on to something decent and British.

In a way, I had hoped that he would come out of nowhere and do the same in real life, but the Prince’s death was too real, and not silly at all. Nor were the plans as they unfolded.

So on the morning of 17/4/21 with mug in hand, scone on plate, and Oakley at my side, I watched Prince Philip’s funeral while seated on my comfy sofa. Like we who were in northern Illinois that day, the Mountbatten-Windsors had cold but sunny weather for the ceremony, making the short walk for the relatives following the coffin from the residence to St. George’s Chapel not too uncomfortable.

By royal standards, the service proved to be quite simple. The liturgy was the basic Anglican order for funerals. While they still had military units with some tie to him participating in the sendoff, HRH had requested that no eulogy or sermon be given, and had told the Queen to just chuck him in the back of a Land Rover (in this case, one tricked out with an EV motor) when the time came to send him off to the Great Beyond.

His wishes for a relatively austere sendoff were honored. Mostly because he’d planned them out in advance, like the EV Land Rover; a few were due to pandemic protocols. Only 30 family members could attend and had to follow distancing guidelines, leading to the attendees sitting in household bubbles. William and Kate here. Harry over there. Edward and Sophie and their kids there. Anne and Charles with their respective spouses as well. And the other grandchildren along with nephews from over on the Continent were there. I will save my judgmental rants about Andrew for another time.

That lead to the Queen sitting by herself. Couldn’t share the pew with anyone. Couldn’t even bring one of her dogs into St. George’s for support.

Alone. For the first time in 73 years without the man she’d described as “my strength and my stay.” I’d like to think Philip in spirit form was sitting with her. But in common reality she just looked so small (she’s not that tall to begin with, under 5’4**) and bowed by grief and alone in her huge black hat and dress seated by herself in that huge cavernous chapel where Harry and Meghan were married a couple of years ago.

I discreetly dabbed my eyes. I cannot imagine.

I hope that the Queen found a measure of comfort in the beauty of the music and knowing that she was in the hearts of many around the world.

NBC’s coverage kept the play-by-plays limited to before and after the service, and had the courtesy to cut to the bagpiper playing a traditional Scottish mourning song while Prince Philip’s coffin was lowered to the vault below the chapel. Then came the benediction, and the Queen departing in her car while the other mourners walked back to the residence.

The pictures of her sitting alone were all over the internet. One of my friends tagged me on a post with that picture and a beautiful poem about her really not being alone because Philip would always be with her. (Thank you, Claudia….)

So now comes a brief period of formal mourning for the family, until this coming Saturday (24/4/21), I think. At that time, they will pick up and carry on with royal duties. They already have done so, with Charles and the Queen and I think Anne making appearances at some low-key events.

And maybe I will quit expecting Graham Chapman’s uniformed alter ego to pop up and say “Now THAT was decent AND British!”

Indeed it was.

*We gave up and bought a new car. More on that later.

**Fun random fact: Because she’s on the small side, Her Majesty wears a lot of bright colors when she makes public appearances so her security detail can keep better tabs on her.

Premonitions and Princes: Au Revoir, Prince Philip

This past Thursday found me running an errand. As I waited for a light, an unbidden thought came into my mind: Prince Philip is not going to make it to the weekend.

I’d seen the pictures of him when he was on his way back to Windsor about three weeks ago after undergoing the heart procedure and treatment for the infection. The unbidden thought then: hospice.

Well, at 99 and getting discharged after a month in the hospital, no one can be expected to retain the glow of youth. But the bruising and drawn cheeks did not bode well.

Que sera sera. The light changed. I pressed on the gas and went home.

The next morning, Friday, I called Hubby. “Did you hear the news?” he asked.

“No…” I don’t turn on news until I’ve had a cup of tea and written my morning page.

“Prince Philip died.”

Despite my morning page lying there blankly, I turned on the TV. Not quite time for “Today.” This shooting; that vaccine story; yet another carjacking. Prince Philip finally appeared on the crawler. Died peacefully at Windsor at 99.

A small, thin chill ran through me.

I flipped back and forth between the three networks. Their morning shows lead with the story and the summaries of a long life. Not always the nicest person, a definite relic from a harder, more structured world invested in keeping it that way; yet his work for the World Wildlife Fund pointed to a progressive streak that I didn’t know about.

Friday and Saturday found me camped out on the BBC website. Details about the funeral were finally posted mid-afternoon yesterday: 17/4 at 3 pm BST (that’s April 17 at 10 AM eastern, 9 central). Very paired down due to COVID, but would be televised.

In between new postings on the BBC live blog, my thoughts went in two directions: 1. The Queen. She had just lost her husband of 70+ years. How will she cope with his absence? and 2. What is the future of the British Monarchy?

On the first count, I silently wished her and her children strength and comfort. If she’d been a neighbor I would have made a cake or some cookies and taken them over, but since I’m not, and don’t live anywhere near Windsor, and her pastry chef is likely better than me at cakes and whatnot anyway, that was out of the question. All I could do was spare some thoughts as I would for any other woman in her later years. And hope that when the funeral’s done and she can relax her upper lip a bit, go out into the woods near Balmoral with the Corgis, and wail like a banshee until the grief subsides.

My hope is that she’ll get the love and support she needs to carry on around the great gawping canyon of Philip’s absence and stick around a few more years. I’ve always seen them as the type of couple that literally would not be able to live without each other and the survivor would follow the first to slip this veil in a short amount of time. We’ll have to see.

The second one is a lot trickier. The Monarchy reaches back into the mists of time a thousand years ago. It’s been argued that it’s provided structure and continuity since then. There have been calls to abolish it, and after the current Queen passes into the next world, will Charles or William be able to keep it going?

I don’t know. Oh, it needs to be updated without a doubt. But to do away with it altogether…

Perish the thought. It wouldn’t be Great Britain without a monarch. Would it? I don’t know. I have several British friends in the world of social media who feel that it should have been done away with years ago due to costs, creating a more egalitarian society, and so on. However, the last time that happened, England endured years of civil war. I would hope that wouldn’t happen, but in these crazy times, who knows?

As this week plays out, there will be tea to steep and scone recipes to be researched for Saturday. Until then, there are visits to be made to the BBC to see if any new related stories have popped up while hoping for a few more years with Her Majesty before Charles takes charge.

If Only We’re Brave Enough To Be the Light: The Post-Inauguration Report

Oakley’s snores woke me up. He’d been at day care the afternoon before. That was Tuesday, so that meant that this was Wednesday. And not just any Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021.

Inauguration Day. The inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Kamala D. Harris was finally here.

That realization made me fly out of bed like a sugared-up toddler on Christmas morning. After four excruciating years, we were getting a new president. Make tea. Tend to Oakley despite his judgmental stare as I danced around the kitchen island while I mixed up his breakfast. Scrawl a few lines in my journal while watching the apricot and gold sun rise in the space between the blinds over the family room window.

Turn on the TV. There was the minor distraction of shipping President Biden’s predecessor off to Florida in his last flights in Marine One and Air Force One after a ceremony designed to give his ego one last inflation before taking off with the strains of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” playing as the plane taxied down the runway and rose into the sky.

And then the networks returned us to the quiet but troop-lined streets of Washington, D.C. and video of the Bidens attending a church service before heading over to the Capitol for the ceremony. Scaled back due to COVID and still open wounds from the insurrection on January 6, but just like the country itself, going on in spite of it all. No balls planned for that evening, not much of a parade except the motorcade from the Capitol to the White House accompanied by the Howard University and University of Delaware marching bands, but the day would be marked to forge the link in the chain of history stretching back to George Washington and the other founders of the the republic.

And considering the circumstances, that was OK.

We had a couple of snacks, and I plied myself with tea as we watched the Bidens, the Harris-Emhoffs, and the Obamas, Bushes, and Clintons make their ways to where they needed to be. There was a cutaway offering visual proof that the predecessor had landed, but not a long one. They quickly refocused on the Capitol and the history unfolding there as well as the fun bits, such as Dr. Jill Biden’s and VP Harris’ dresses and Michelle Obama’s pantsuit (damn, I’d wear that) and coat, and this historical tidbit and that bite of trivia.

And then, finally, here we were. A Marine escorted Lady Gaga (speaking of outfits–hers needs to be enshrined at the Smithsonian both for the sheer Gaga-ness of it and its nod to the ladies of the past with the design harkening back to the early days of the country). Took the mic, and oh, did I get chills when she performed “The Star Spangled Banner.”

And when she pointed to the flag when she reached the line “that the flag was still there,” I choked up. I usually don’t have strong reactions to patriotic music, but the relief of surviving the last four years without nuclear weapons getting brought into play and the prior fourteen days with troops in the DC streets due to the ongoing threats of insurrection part two had to come out sometime.

And then the tears welled again when VP Harris took her Oath of Office. Finally, a woman, a woman of color, was at that level. After the debacle in 2016 and the repressive sexist tones of that regime I didn’t know if I would ever see a woman in that level of government in my lifetime. But there she was with a strong supportive man at her side.

And then, finally, President Biden took his oath. Would we get through this, or would his predecessor send a nasty distraction from Florida? No, nothing happened. He took his oath, and somewhere between the fading of the last line, “So help me God,” and taking his hand off his Bible, and the applause, the world became a much brighter place.

I collapsed like a limp rag for a few moments, then put a pizza in the oven for our inaugural celebration. I don’t know what the Bidens and Harris-Emhoffs had, but I doubt that fast food was involved.

The ceremony ended with Amanda Gorman reading her poem “The Hill We Climb.” For there is always light/If we’re brave enough to see it/If we’re brave enough to be it.

I whispered a prayer thanking the Mystery for all the people who had stood up to the predecessor and his minions. Prayed that in the light of things that need to be fixed that I could be a light down these pocked and pitted roads.

President Biden started righting the ship of state that afternoon by signing a stack of executive orders and issuing a mask mandate running concurrently with his first 100 days in office. And that night, Jen Psaki, the press secretary, gave a briefing about the first afternoon under this administration.

As the day wrapped up with a show of socially distanced performances that closed with President and Dr. Jill Biden walking out onto the balcony and looking towards the Washington Monument, I felt for the first time in oh, say, four years that things are going to be OK. There’s a lot of work ahead, but if everyone can grab a rope, a dust rag, a laptop and get busy doing their part, we’ll get the lights that make us a beacon of hope back on sooner rather than later.

Infamous Days

The last few days have seen me with tea in one hand and one device or a remote in the other as I watch history unfold around me. This event, that resignation, and oh, yeah, the little thing that happened last Wednesday some call an “insurrection.”

Hubby and I kept the TV on to monitor the results of the Georgia runoff and the last formalities involved with declaring Joe Biden and Kamala Harris President and Vice President Elect. Hubby watched for a few moments, mumbled an unflattering remark about the Republicans, and left for his dental appointment.

We expected the nonsense thrown in the road by the Republicans. What we didn’t expect was the angry mob overrunning the Capitol Police and desecrating the House and Senate chambers.

I texted Hubby. I knew that he would’t be able to respond right away, but it seemed the rational thing to do in the face of such irrationality. And it gave my hands something to do while I sat frozen to the sofa and staring at the tube in disbelief.

It was not unlike 9/11. Hubby had taken the day off so we could drop off refinancing paperwork at the bank and go out to lunch. I had walked Orion at the state park. When we drove home and I pulled into the garage, the TV blared though the insulated walls. Just as I was starting to tell him to turn it down, I saw the second tower collapse.

Oh. Well, I guess that a major landmark getting taken out by commercial airplanes is a good reason to crank it to 11.

This was in the days before cell phones, so he couldn’t have given me a heads-up anyway. But I used mine to alert him to the situation.

About an hour later, he strode into the house and greeted me with a hale and hearty “What the hell is going on?”

I gestured to the TV. That. I couldn’t find words for it.

I took Oakley out, made dinner for everyone. Listened to the commentary, witnessed events unfold. Wondered if the certification would be done that day.

Technically, it happened in the wee smalls of the next morning, but House and Senate got it done.

The fallout continues. Arrests, including 25 for domestic terrorism, have removed some of the insurrectionists from the street. The FBI is asking for help to identify more of them. Investigations into who and what and how unfold as I type. Two of the Capitol Police officers died as a result, one of head injuries, the other of suicide.

I had really hoped that 2021 would be calmer, but it’s not looking like it at all. Especially until we can get President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris sworn in safely on the 20th.

We have nine days to go at this writing. I hope that they will be a little less infamous than last Wednesday.

Letters to the Future: Notes on Journaling During the COVID-19 Crisis

photo of person holding cup
Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

For over half my life, my morning routine has included journaling. I note ten things I’m grateful for, such as health, friends, basic needs met, Oakley’s snoring–the stuff of life that makes it good. And then I write about dreams and analyze them. And then I just free write about how the day unfolds.

In addition to fit the puzzle pieces of my life into a coherent whole, I’m also aware that I have a responsibility to my descendants, to anyone who might be interested in the journals of a not-so-young woman living in these times to record events in real time.

Personal journals provide historians with a wealth of knowledge about what really happened, not just what governments and those writing history on their behalf say did. Queen Victoria’s journals gave hints about what being pushed into greatness at a crazy young age was like. Anne Frank’s diary should be mandatory reading in every school to educate further generations about being Jewish life in hiding in 1940’s Amsterdam under Hitler’s regime.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve journaled or not before now. Just get a blank book (Barnes and Nobel, Half Price Books, and any place that sells art supplies on line should have them on line. Please don’t go out unless you absolutely have to do so). Date your entry. And begin writing.

What should you write about?

  • Where were you when…your state/province/country went on stay at home orders? (Announced March 20, 2020, 3:10 PM. Order effective  starting at 5 PM March 21, 2020.)
  • What were you doing? (Getting ready to get Oakley from day care. Ran to the store to get him some more food. Hubby and I had done a haul recently.)
  • What have you been feeling? Whatever emotions you’ve had are OK.
  • How have the stay at home orders impacted your routine?  (Biggest thing is dog day care being closed until the order is lifted. Able to get grocery delivery from the mom and pop store near his day care. We’re still able to walk at the forest preserves. The state parks are closed until further notice.)
  • What have you done to cope? (Finding funny stuff on YouTube, cooking, longer walks with Oakley, making watching the daily briefings a time for ritual tea and treats.)
  • Moments of despair? (Two. One of the deaths in Illinois early on was a nine-month-old baby. I was just gutted. You could have called me a doe and hung me up by the ankles and finished the job. The other was John Prine’s death. I don’t openly weep for many performers, but he is one of them.)
  • Moments of hope? (Watching Governor Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the public health department, doing the daily briefing.)
  • Inspiration? (The ones finding humor in the situation, such as the people on the Bin Isolation Outing page on Facebook. )
  • Has COVID-19 directly impacted you, your friends, or family? ( Two friends had it before it was a thing. Possibly three. She’s making arrangements to get tested as I type. Please send her good energy, thoughts, vibes, etc. )
  • What actions have you been taking? Have you donated to food banks, organizations  that are helping people in compromised situations? Are you ready to vote in November? Are you contacting your elected representatives about the issues the pandemic has brought to light? (Need you ask?)
  • Self care? (More yoga, added strength training, trying not to compulsively eat, meditating to guided sessions on Mindful.org.)
  • What else would you like future generations to know about this time in history?

Every generation has their crises. Hopefully, we can distill our real life experience to guide the future through theirs.

The Grace of the Grandmothers

 

 

woman holding pan with food
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

It’s a cold but clear still early morning here in the soybean field. I took Oakley for a quick run around the house just now. A little earlier I did yoga for the morning. I’m on my second cup of tea.

While it might sound pretty normal, it shapes up to be another infamous day in my life’s timeline. In an attempt to stave off the spread of COVID-19, the state of Illinois will be under  a mandatory stay at home order (as in shelter in place) at 5 PM tonight. So far five people have died from it. I don’t recall the number of people who have it, but there is one reported case in my county. We’ll still be able to get out for walks as long as we observe social distancing (staying about six feet apart) and to the grocery store and medical appointments, but for the most part we’ll be working and staying home.

The announcement came during noon news yesterday. I watched the briefing later in the afternoon when Governor Pritzker announced his decision to sign the order. He’d consulted with epidemiologists, statisticians, and public health experts. After last weekend’s blatant disregard of the stay at home suggestions, he had to make it official. Not done lightly because he knew jobs were at stake, but because lives were and those are more important.

So came the news. Not with the collective shock of the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr.; not with the gasp of Nixon’s resignation; not with the violent chaos of 9/11. It’s much quieter than that, except for the hoards spilling into the street to binge shop, even though we can do that at leisure over the next couple of weeks.

Well, so be it. My first question to myself was what would my grandmothers have done, what did they do in similar circumstances.

First thing would be make sure there was enough food for everyone. We’d done a big haul/stock up the week before, so Hubby and I are set. I picked my way through traffic  to the pet store where I get Oakley’s food and grabbed a few more bags in case of interruptions in the supply chain. His food is made by a Milwaukee-based company,  so I doubt it, but just for my own peace of mind I went. And found out that pet stores are considered a necessary business and will be open.

Second, touch base with relatives, blood and spirit. We talked to Gram at least once a week (she lived in Massachusetts) and Grandma (across town) daily.  Talked to my brother. He and Sister in Law and kids are fine. Will call my sister later today. Texted with one of my friends last night. All good so far.

Third, engage in spiritual practice. Grandma quietly prayed when she woke up, again at bed time, and as needed through the day. Gram would make coffee, then sit with her prayer book and slide the crystal blue rosary beads through her fingers as she laid her petitions at Mother Mary’s feet. I’ve meditated and done yoga. Spiritual practice doesn’t have to involve a deity of any kind; just engage in some activity that helps you feel connected to the whole.

Fourth, find something enjoyable to occupy your mind. Gram read and knitted bandages for the leper colonies that were still in existence in the post-WWII era. Grandma cooked, crocheted, and listened to the radio. I’ll find something to do. We can and will still get out for walks. And I have a stack of books to be read.

Gram and Grandma survived two world wars, the Spanish flu, and the Great Depression. They went through rationing, scrap collection, watching pennies during the Depression, and a myriad of other things with grace and strength.

I think I can stay home with the same.

 

 

 

The Keeping of Hope and Faith in Strange Times

 

Image courtesy Old Design Shop

 

 

Just when it looks like rock bottom’s been hit, the current administration digs a hole and goes even lower. I’m not going to post the picture of Melania-Antoinette in her jacket with the graphic on the back proclaiming “I don’t really care” as she left her photo op  at one of the children’s concentration camps in Texas. Please Google it. I will not post her picture or say anything further  in this space to curtail the spread of evil.

I will tell you that yesterday’s act of casual cruelty shook me to my core. With a heavy heart and aching head, I shut off the computer.

Unfortunately, we live in times where we can’t go into lassis-faire mode about the news. The challenge is to stay as well informed as possible without events numbing us into apathy. How, then, do we pay attention without losing our minds?

  • Find a reliable news source, but limit checking it. I go to the CBC website a couple of times a day unless something such as a perp walk  or indictment breaks. I also like BBC and DW for their calmness and refusal to normalize the BS coming out of DC.
  • Read history books and articles. I find impermanence comforting, and I find the stories of how everyday people survived craziness inspiring. On my to-read list is The Fourth Turning (sorry, don’t have author info at hand). The authors stipulate that modern history runs in cycles of approximately eighty years of ascension and decline, but with each cycle, we end up closer to a just and equal society. The US Civil War (the declared one, not the one going on right now through bad behavior and social media) and World War II were about eighty years apart. We are about eighty years on from the beginning of World War II starting in Europe. The decline is happening, but there are signs that the ascension is on the way (look at how many young ones are getting involved, registering to vote, speaking out).
  • Keep an eyewitness journal. What’s changed in the last eighteen months? How has it impacted your personal world? Think about Ken Burns’ films and how the letters and diaries featured gave names and faces to the people alive at those times, and making it more real than a list of dates and events ever could.
  • Kindness. Look for kindness. Journal on that as well. I’ve quoted her before and will do so again: Mr. Rogers’ mom reminded him to look for the helpers in troubled times. Be kind any way you can.
  • Anti-toxins for the spirit include nature (if you can play in the woods or a garden, great; if not, YouTube has a plethora of videos); art that you create or appreciate; uplifting music; and handing out with friends.
  • Let your voice be heard. The rep for my district or whoever runs his social media put a person I know in Twitter jail earlier this week for tweets about detained children. Very well, then. I started tweeting my senators and letting them know about the lack of response from the erstwhile representative. I tweeted to the Democratic candidate,  I also tweeted to other possibly interested parties like the UN Human Rights Commission and the International Criminal Justice Court. You know, the one in The Hague? Yes, that one.
  • If you have a spiritual practice, do it with the intention to stay sane and grounded during these turbulent days. If you don’t, just set an intention to do so.

We will get through this. I don’t know how, but somehow, we will.

 

 

 

The Royal Wedding Entry That You Knew I Was Going to Write

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy. Not Harry and Meghan, but you get the idea.

Yes, I was up at 5:30 AM with my tea. (I’m usually up by 6 give or take, so no big deal.) And tissues. I get a little weepy at weddings. (Sometimes a lot weepy, like at my brother’s. Slamming back three apricot sours to numb the agony of a recent breakup while suiting up for bridesmaid duty didn’t help. But that’s a story for another time.)  I dabbed my eyes quietly (neither Hubby or Oakley were up) as I watched the magic, the romance unfold.

After a week of the ongoing constitutional crisis here in the US highlighted with threats to the social safety net and ending with two school shootings on the same day, we needed Bishop Michael Curry to remind everyone of the healing power of love to change the world for the better through his words and the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

We needed the quiet dignity of a mother who moved mountains by fiercely loving her daughter into a woman of strength, intelligence, elegance, and grace. Meghan’s second major at Northwestern University was international studies. Remember that.

We needed the living timeline of the British royals to see how far the world has come, yet has along way to go.

We needed to see a warrior duchess* and her brave, bold, handsome prince join hearts and hands to advance humanitarian efforts around the world. Their selection of “Stand By Me” took on an added layer of meaning in that light.

Of course there were critics castigating them for spending that much on a wedding in the face of today’s plagues on society. The wedding and receptions were paid for by the Windsors. Meghan paid for her own dress. The balance of the cost was for security, and that came in at around $43 million. That’s rather staggering in total, but if you divide it by  the population of the UK (66,529,896), it comes out to less than a dollar a person. Considering that the Queen and company are a huge attraction, the tourists will get it paid for shortly.

Two days later, I’m back in the groove of tweeting on social issues, doing what I can to promote Lauren Underwood for my next congress rep (I gave up on Randy Hultgren. His apathy towards constituents and rude staffers is legion. I’d rather put my energies on Ms. Underwood). I turn over Bishop Curry’s words in my mind, hoping that love coupled with a healthy dose of action will somehow pull us out of this mess.

I wish Meghan and Harry all the best and then some, but if I had one piece of advice to give them as they go about their lives, I would remind them that they are two fantastic humans, not pizza, not tacos. Not everyone is going to like or approve of their causes. Not everyone is going to support their efforts.

May they stand by one another on this journey, and may all that is good go with them.

*Meghan will be known as HRH the Duchess of Sussex, not Princess, due to not being a royal or noble by birth and her US citizenship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Tastes Like Chicken

 

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

 

The good news: Hubby aced his midterms. His hard work paid off in aces and spades.

The bad: After the last month (as you may recall, we have two relatives in ongoing life-altering situations that have to play out on their terms), we needed to climb up into our happy place. Bristol Ren Faire closed for the season Labor Day weekend. We missed out on Stronghold Olde English Faire. We also missed Quad Cities Ren Faire. Of course they both fell the weekend just before midterms week.

The constant playing of appropriate music and burning rose and sandalwood incense by the package provided some respite, but we needed something more. So we went to Medieval Times .

And did we have a blast. OK, except for the part where we blew past the entrance and drove a few miles north when we exited the tollway. (If you’re in the Chicago area, the castle’s address is on Roselle Road in Schaumburg, and that’s the exit you’ll take off of I-90. It’s actually on Central. You’ll have to turn east into the office park just north of the tollway.  The combination of fog and the high berm between the tollway and the property made the building fade out. Very Halloween-esque.)

Digression over. On to the show.

We lined up, had our tickets checked, and collected our color coded seating assignments. On the way in, we met one of the stars of the show, Liberty the falcon, as she calmly perched on her trainer’s gloved hand. Once in the lobby and past stands with mementos and adult beverages, murals and maps illustrating Spain’s reach at that time gave guests a very brief history lesson, just enough to entice into maybe reading up on it a little more.

Finally, one of the lords of the realm called to the crowd to start the seating section by section. Easily done, since paintings of the knights’ coats of arms decorated the areas just above the doors. The sections encircle the arena where the jousting and combat take place. I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house.

Once seated, the servers (either a serf or a wench) began bringing food and drink. Water or pop? Water, please. Dragons’ blood soup? Yes. It resembled tomato basil, but I won’t tell if you won’t.

And then it grew dark. The spotlight came up by the arena’s entrance where mist floated up from the floor as the show’s narrator spoke to the relationship between humans and horses throughout time, the mist parted. There stood an Andalusian, bold and big, gleaming silver.

If we’d had to leave then, I would have been fine with it.

Obviously, we didn’t.

As the story unfolded (a joust arranged by the king for our entertainment interrupted by a representative of a foreign power attempting to trade a horse for the princess of the realm), the servers made their way as unobtrusively as possible with the pans of roasted young dragon (tasted and looked a lot like chicken), dragon eggs (resembled spiced potatoes), and corn (that looked and tasted like, well, corn). Add in the coffee and the lemon poundcake and we were both very satisfied.

Most importantly, for the first time since the last Ren Faire, we had fun. I came away inspired to learn more about horses, and more about Spain–as with many Ren fans, I’ve been slanted towards the British/Celtic side, but there’s so much more out there to read.

Between that and the “Tudors” DVDs, we should be occupied until the first weekend after July 4 when the call “Open wide the gates!” rings through the air at Bristol again.

 

A Song for Canada…I Think

(Many thanks to Sandra and Helen  for the inspiration)

 

Today is July 4. We are keeping it quiet, low key, and close to home to avoid the ones let out of the homes for the rude and the lacking in common sense today. Hubby’s doing yard work. Oakley’s dozing in front of the fan. I’m planning on grilling chicken for dinner.

This last weekend  July 1 brought the birthdays of my sister, a dear friend, and Canada’s 150th. Two awesome humans and an awesome country all on the same day lead to much reveling. I went to the friend’s party. My sister went for a lovely lunch with her husband. Cities large and towns small celebrated Canada’s 150th without untoward incidents. Everyone looked as if they were having a great time in the pictures on the CBC website.

In honor of the sesquicentennial (type that without autocorrect flipping you off), Ontario’s government released a video with the provincial song updated for 2017 to reflect the growth and change  of the population since the centennial in 1967. Pretty awesome.

The 1967 version of the song was pretty awesome, too. Until recently when a couple of my comrades in social media who live in Ontario posted it a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know that it was a song. I thought that the “On-tar-i-ar-i-ar-ohhHHHH” part was a jingle for a tourism commercial released in my home state of Michigan.

And a beautiful ad it was: the image of a honey colored setting sun transforming a lake into a pond of gold with a soprano singing the province’s name as the image faded out.

As with many things of beauty, it became dangerous when it fell into the wrong hands. Or vocal chords in this case.

Such as the ones of lower elementary and preschool children. Mine, and Laurie’s and her little sister Becky’s, and Janie’s. We lived within a few doors of each other. On a slow summer morning, we circled ourselves on a lush lawn; I can’t recall whose. It was one of those childhood things that just happened. I don’t remember how. It just did.  At first everyone took a turn singing “On-tar-i-ar-i-ohhhh,” and then that went up the scale to the point where we plugged our own ears.

“ON-tar-i-AR-i-AR-i-O-OHHH!” Giggles. Up a few more notches.

And finally, “ON-TAR-I-AR-I-AR-EEEEEE-O-OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”

Becky was the youngest. I think her ability to hit that note at age four that made the neighbors think a murder was in progress. Dogs in a two-block radius started going berserk barking back at us. Had car alarms been the norm, we might have set off a few of them as well.

On cue, all our moms flew onto their respective front porches and as one shouted “FRANCESLEIGHLAURAJEANREBECCALEEJANEMARIE! Will you PLEASE stop screeching?”

We all mumbled a short apology, then as Janie’s mom closed their front door, we looked at one another.

Very quietly, but at the high end of her range,  Becky sang “on-tar-i-ar-i-ar-i-o-ohhhh….”