At 3pm on Christmas Day each year, the majority of British citizens switch on BBC TV to listen to The Queen’s Speech.
There will be clips of the Royals and what they did throughout the year; as well as a topic which will be the focal point of what the Nation will focus on in the coming year. This could be an emphasis on: older people who live on their own, disabled veteran servicemen and women, war and our defences, unity of faiths, what is a Christian? etc.
However the speech is really commissioned by the Prime Minister for the Government of the day. People watch The Queen intensely to see if there is a flicker of approval or disapproval in her manner while delivering the words.
For instance, in her last speech at the re-opening of Parliament in May 2016, it was virtually a list from Cameron’s Conservative Party manifesto and The Queen looked very miserable. She just looked down and read it off the paper: “Proposals will be brought forward for a British Bill of Rights. My ministers will uphold the sovereignty of Parliament and the primacy of the House of Commons…”
The programme ends with a rousing anthem of God Save The Queen and though I know of many who will be crashed out and snoring on the sofa by this time on the 25th of December, there will be others standing up and raising their glasses.
At Christmas time, we are bombarded with both new and traditional weird combinations of rich eats that we would not bother with at any other time. Each year celebrity chefs and supermarkets offer shocking products to pile on the calories and get in the news – it has become more like a jungle challenge from “I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here”
Michelin Star chef Heston Blumenthal, who brought us the likes of snail porridge and lollypops made from real mice paté has come up with Banana and Bacon trifle this year to replace our traditional English one.
Some British try to sample every single item that is considered ‘traditional’ over the festive period, which costs a fortune and prevents you from moving from your armchair.
By no means exhaustive, there’s: Russet apples, Anjou pears, quinces, clementines, Medjool dates, Quality Street chocolates, chocolate mice, chocolate tree decorations, advent calendar chocolates, chocolate selection boxes, Belgian chocolates,
chocolate biscuits, short-bread biscuits, gingerbread, lobster, prawns, salmon, raised pork pie, turkey, venison, goose, Brussels sprouts (which no-one seems to be able to cook properly), pickled onions, pickled gherkins, pickled red cabbage, assorted chutneys, parsnips, turnips, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, pigs in blankets (chippolata sausages wrapped in bacon), nut-roast, chestnut-stuffing, Stilton cheese, baked Brie, panettone, stollen, samosas, Turkish delight, sherry trifle, crisps, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, chocolate Yule log, and lots of cakes and puddings made with dried fruits, marzipan and all soaked in alcohol (I’ll need a separate post for the booze, though WordPress are telling me I am running out of space on my post): Christmas cake, mince pies (nope no meat in these).
Then pour plenty more alcohol over your figgy pudding (Christmas Pudding) and set alight to it! Serve these with brandy-butter, rum-cream, vanilla custard or any flavour ice-cream you fancy – Heston has brought out marmalade-on-toast flavour for Waitrose this year!
It is a great time to relax when you go home for Christmas. I love spoiling my daughter. However some people have no homes to go to…
It has been very frosty in the UK and weather forecasters are predicting a white Christmas this year, which is no fun for those who have nowhere to go and are sleeping rough. Why not make a gift of a night in a homeless shelter or buy a Christmas dinner for someone homeless this year?
About an hour drive from Southampton towards London on the M3 is the giant funfair Thorpe Park, making it the nearest one to London.
My husband, sporting a blue cardigan, will be 80 this year (much older than me). He spent a joyous day on location at this attraction last week, shooting its latest commercial with Emily Barker – a character who visits on a regular basis.
Seniors have campaigned against age-discrimination with regard to special offers at funfairs. So in an effort to correct this, Thorpe Park have just launched an Old Age Coasters(OAC)Pass which provides multiple discounts for the over-65s.
My husband is a retired helicopter pilot and loves the rush. He is a bit of a dare-devil – last year he went paragliding with my daughter – she takes after him.
Are you an adrenaline junkie? (No I am not getting paid for this)
Camden Lock’s ‘Global Kitchen’ in London is a great place to go for dinner* or lunch. The market stalls have a plethora or fresh dishes cooked by various nationalities that go to make up London (observed by strict food health regulations). Choose your fare and eat at communal tables under the canopy or by the river. Open 7 days from 10am to 6pm. www.camdenlockmarket.com
*When is dinnertime in Britain? This it depends on which Class you are from.
The upper-classes, including those at private boarding schools have dinner around 8pm and dress up (you’ve seen Downton Abbey?) The day’s feasting order is: breakfast – morning coffee – lunch – afternoon tea (or tiffin for those returned from the Continent) – dinner.
But for the working classes: including state school children, dinnertime falls somewhere between 12 noon and 2pm. These hours were settled during the Industrial Revolution in the Victorian era. Factory workers would go home for an hour’s dinnertime when the bell rang and be re-fuelled on a big meal for manual labour, served up by a mother or daughter who remained at home slaving over a hot stove. Order: Breakfast – tea break (at work) – dinner – tea (high tea which includes food) – (+ supper for those in heavy manual trades). There were usually stalls selling beer at the end of a shift at the factory gates.
Theatre performers and crew traditionally have their dinnertime in the middle of the day also, so that they fully charged for rushing about the stage in the evening.
For the last few decades however, industries and schools have tried to standardise the hour’s break as ‘lunchtime’. However this is still confusing when for many children of working parents, this may still be their main meal of the day.
Julia Hilling, one of my most charming friends died last August.
Her stage name was Julia Bretton. She began her career at the age of 17 as a Windmill Girl at London’s Windmill Theatre.
The Windmill was known worldwide as the theatre that “never closed” or should that be “never clothed”? Scantily-clad beauties performed in this basement theatre throughout WWII to keep up the morale of allies and locals alike. It was seen as an important beacon to keep spirits alight during a frightening time and always remained open while bombs dropped.
It was the subject of the award winning film “Mrs Henderson Presents” starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, and is currently being staged as a musical at the Nöel Coward Theatre in London’s West End.
Julia explained to me how, with the other ‘girls’ she slept at the theatre in their dressing room while performing in revues alongside people like Sir Bruce Forsyth. “We were well looked after and any men backstage behaved very gentlemanly”.
As well as starring in other staged musicals as Julia Bretton, she had minor roles in films (talkies) in the1940s.
She outlived five husbands – all of whom were, “absolutely wonderful! – “I loved them all!” One of whom is buried in a cemetery in the New Forest, Hampshire, but she could never remember whether it was in Lymington or Lyndhurst.
I first met her when I called auditions in the mid-90s. She had retired to live in Spain and I was directing The Sleeping Beauty, a pantomime I had drafted for the Salon Variétes theatre in Fuengirola. Julia was having problems remembering lines and moving around the stage by that time, but she had such audience charisma and was so regal that I gave her the part as the Queen, sat her on a throne and taped her lines to props. She was marvellous and even brought her own little Spanish hairdresser to tidy up her locks while she was off-stage.
Although much older than me, we remained friends as we both had a love of opera and Cole Porter. She did a wonderful rendition of “Mad About the Boy” and she belly-danced at my 50th birthday party. When theatre crowds are renowned to be bitchy, no-one I know has ever heard Julia utter a bad word about anyone.
In 2005 she, along with other colleagues on the Costa del Sol, was sold a dodgy, equity-release investment package by fraudulent financial advisors. After handing over the deeds to her home in return for living expenses until death, she was only given living expenses by the Rothschild bank for the first two years, then was expected to hand over her apartment. She took all this in her stride and refused to move.
This enigmatic woman deserves to be on the amazing-people-I-have-known list. She had charm, class and even well into her 80s, had sex-appeal.
Before I left to return to England she started dating another ‘amazing’ friend of mine called Sid – a famous Talk of the Town pianist who accompanied 1960s divas from Shirley Bassey to Julie Andrews.
Julia had a big sexual appetite apparently, and despite both being in their 80s then, Sid complained about the amount of viagra he was having to take to keep up. Sadly he also died. So she outlived him too.
My biggest memory is bumping into her in a Lidlsupermarket one morning. She was wafting around with a trolley, just after opening time, wearing a cocktail dress and full make-up including false eyelashes. “Julia! Look at you – always so glamorous” I remarked.
“Oh! I haven’t been home yet, Darling!” She explained: “I’ve been to a party. It lasted all night!”
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Victory.”
HMS Victory was Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Built in 1758, she is the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission and is one of the most visited museum ships moored at Portsmouth, England, where I took these photos.
27 British ships led by Nelson onboard The Victory, defeated 33 French and Spanish ships under French Admiral Villeneuve just west of Cape Trafalgar, Atlantic.
The Franco-Spanish fleet lost 22 ships, without a single British vessel being lost. The British victory spectacularly confirmed the naval supremacy that Britain had established during the 18th Century and was mainly achieved because of Nelson’s new style of naval tactics.
Nelson was shot by a French musketeer during this battle and died shortly after.
To this day Nelson is regarded as one of Britain’s greatest war heroes and his statue on tall pilar stands in London’s Trafalgar Square.
To visit Portsmouth’s Historical Dockyard visit http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk
Further photos I took accompany my poem ‘Portsmouth’: https://southamptonoldlady.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/portsmouth/
Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest serving monarch today, overtaking Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years, seven months and two days. So I am placing her in my series of Amazing People.
When Elizabeth became Queen of United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in 1952, Stalin was still leader of the USSR and Truman President of the USA. She has reigned over 12 British Prime Ministers, starting with Churchill. Most of my life, I didn’t really support having a monarch; I could not understand why my father did and felt very sorry for the British Commonwealth. It was not until I moved abroad in the 1980s that I realised how important she was to the nation’s identity and stability. She has not put a foot wrong ever, and is such a wonderful role model to represent us. She did not opt for her role; like a queen bee, she inherited it and was bred for the part. She is a workaholic, carries out her Duty impeccably and would heroically give up her life to save ours if necessary. I just love her.
I have met Her Majesty twice: once at the 100th Royal Variety show at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, during her diamond jubilee year, and again last year when she came to Southampton, to name P&O’s ship Britannia at her home port.
Psychologists philosophise that, most people will dream about a meeting with their country’s leader at least once during their sleeping lives. I had a vivid dream once, long ago that I was having afternoon tea with the Queen while she sought some confidential female advice from me. Yet I have never dreamt about any of our Prime Ministers. It proves to me who I really looked up to subconsciously.