Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Memories of The Queen's Coronation

2012 was certainly a big year for Queen Elizabeth. When King George VI died on February 6th, 1952 Princess Elizabeth succeeded her father to become Queen Elizabeth II. As only the second British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee, Britain and The Royal Family celebrated in style last year. And the celebrations continue this year as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Queen's Coronation.

Westminster Abbey
The Queen was crowned in Westminster Abbey on June 2nd, 1953. Coronations have taken place at Westminster Abbey since 1066. At the Queen’s request, the entire Coronation ceremony was televised for the very first time so the entire nation could appreciate the importance of this event. My Mum was 16 in 1953 and clearly remembers only one friend’s family at that time owned a television set so many friends and neighbors all convened at that friend’s house to witness history in the making, albeit on a very small black and white TV screen! Mum says her clearest memory is thinking how incredibly heavy the St. Edward’s crown looked on the Queen’s head! My mother-in-law was a little older and working at the Post Office telephone exchange in Southend-on-Sea in Essex on the day of the Coronation. They didn’t get a day off, “After all, we were working for the Queen,” she says, and they listened to it broadcast over the radio. She remembers a festive atmosphere and parties afterwards. Southend (where my husband grew up) is located on the Thames estuary and my mother-in-law does remember seeing many ships and boats moored at the famous Southend Pier from all the dignitaries that would be sailing up to London for the ceremony. Streets were decorated with patriotic bunting where parties were held throughout the country. And so Queen Elizabeth’s reign officially began. 

A Coronation Street Party in 1953

Original Queen's
Coronation Programme
Inside the Programme
I’m sure there were many mementoes of that day and I was thrilled when I recently found an original souvenir programme from The Coronation among some Royal Family books my Mum brought over for me from England. I couldn’t believe I had found such a treasure. The front cover is emblazoned with The Queen’s crest and the inside is filled with black and white photos, details of The Coronation Procession and all who would be taking part, a short history, and the order of ceremony for the Coronation. The programme had cost 2 and 6, or 2 shillings and 6 pence, which I think is about 12 pence in new money or about 18 cents! I wonder what that would cost nowadays.

Souvenir Programmes

Together with the programme from The Queen’s Coronation, I also found an album to commemorate
Original Programme from
King George VI's Coronation 
her father, King George VI’s Coronation from 1937! This one only cost three pence!  It was, however, an album to collect Players cigarette cards. Can you believe it? And I am pleased to say that the album is complete with all the cards still neatly glued in place. I certainly remember celebrating The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 with street parties, bunting, the works. And I have the souvenir programme from The Silver Jubilee too. I love these wonderful souvenirs and hope to add to the collection this year with a souvenir of The Diamond Coronation celebration. Mum, if you’re reading this, can you get your hands on a souvenir for me? Thanks!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wherever I Lay my Hat . . .

Donna and I were recently talking about what it is like to have lived in different places from where you were born. Donna was born in England and lived in various places – including another stint in England from age 10-12 – as her father was in the US Air Force. Her family finally settled in Texas, where her English-born mother still lives. I was born and raised in England, but left when I was 20 to go to college in Germany before moving to the States in ’96, where I have been ever since. 
Donna and her mum.

All this moving about is fun and character building and gives you a wonderful broad view of the world, not to mention all the experiences that you encounter along the way. You also end up with friends in lots of places, which, if you can find the time and money to visit, is a great advantage to all this moving about too. Sometimes it’s even fun being the foreigner: We always laugh when we’re traveling in the US telling people we meet that we are from Boston using our best English accents. We are usually then met with a look of confusion! However, Donna and I both agreed that sometimes you do end up wondering where you belong!

Me and Mum.
I definitely try to have that “Wherever I lay my hat . . .” kind of approach but sometimes it’s hard to keep the stiff upper lip. Case in point: My mum returned back to England this weekend after visiting for just over two weeks. We have such a great time when she is here and considering my kids have always lived 3,000 miles away from her they have a wonderful relationship. We are very lucky that she is able to come over twice a year, and she tries to coordinate her visits with special events and birthdays if possible. We do try and do some new things when she comes but it is also nice that she gets to be part of our (hectic) day-to-day life. We are truly able to appreciate the time we have together. A friend said to Mum while she was here that she thinks Mum spends more time with her grandkids than the friend’s mother does who only lives an hour away. My mum was the brave one who got on a plane three weeks after 9/11 for a visit that was already planned. I was never so pleased to see her. I do see all the benefits of these visits and the “quality time” we have, rather than just popping in and out if you live close by. But then, the day always comes when she has to leave and it is very hard to say goodbye knowing that usually it will be at least three months before we see her again. 
With Mum in NYC.

The question then arises in my mind as to whether we should be living in England. If you live abroad people constantly ask, “Do you think you will ever go back?” The answer is, “Who knows.” 17 years ago when my husband and I moved to Boston we came on a three-year visa and we just assumed we would head back to Europe when the visa expired. But one thing I have realized is that you never know how things will turn out. We got a dog, then a Green Card, had a baby, my husband changed jobs, we had another baby, moved house, made lots of wonderful friends and have been fortunate to have lots of regular visits from family and friends from across the pond. We have made a life here in Massachusetts and it certainly feel likes home.

We are very lucky that we usually get back to England to visit once a year. And when we are in England all the family gets together and we celebrate like it’s Christmas in August. The key is to focus on the being together, not whether it is a specific day of the year. Donna also gets back to Texas whenever she can, and her mum recently surprised Donna with a visit for her birthday. I helped
Donna’s daughter plan the surprise, was there to witness it and it was fantastic! So it’s a trade off. And for the most part it’s all great – right up until I have to say goodbye. Thank Goodness for Facetime and Skype! It makes the distance seem so much closer until the next visit . . .