Friday, April 21, 2006


I'm not even a royalist so I am surprised to find myself in the least affected by the Queen's birthday.

But one of the elements of culture shock, about which I have done a lot of research, is that an event in your country of origin which wouldn't even interest you, were you there, can suddenly take on importance for you as an ex-pat. As an Italian linguist and someone who knows and loves the culture of my adopted country, I didn't expect to suffer from this condition: but, as my research bears out, the more you do know and love the adopted country, paradoxically, the more you are likely to suffer to some degree; it's as if, at times, your very perceptiveness works against you.

So today I, the Republican par excellence, found myself feeling strange because it's Lizzie Windsor's birthday and very few people here know about it or give a damn! - and, indeed, why should they?

This morning I talked to the nice old gentleman who always greets dog Simone and me on our walks and for some reason I found myself telling him that the Queen - I did add "of England" as he looked a bit puzzled - is 80 today - and, whilst he didn't exactly shrug his shoulders, I could see that he was wondering why it should matter.

And why, indeed, should it matter to me, of all people? It was one of those times when you can feel a bit isolated, that's all, because if I had been in the UK on this day I would have been arguing about the occasion with everybody on the bus and being my iconoclastic self.

It's a very British thing, this "collective memory" that the Queen represents: it's hard to explain to others. It's just that, whether you are a monarchist or not, you do remember her being "there", at every important national event.

And for me, the monarch's ageing is a reminder of my own: I was 3 when she was crowned and I thought it was like the Presidency of the USA - I thought anybody could get to be the Queen [or the "Preen", as I called her, as I couldn't pronounce "Queen"] . Then my Dad explained that I would have to marry Charlie to be Queen, and that certainly didn't appeal! Then, as I grew up, the whole absurdity of the monarchy as an institution struck me.

Nowadays, whilst I am quite happy to wish Her Majesty a happy birthday, I cannot understand these "fans" of her gracious self who send / give her cards and flowers! [And I couldn't understand those who did the same for her mother, either.] Why don't they go to their nearest care-home and do something [ in Her Majesty's name, if they must!] for those who are really in need?!

Incidentally, every Italian I have spoken to today thinks that "gli inglesi" are a little mad. [Being Welsh, I can happily dissociate myself from this, of course!]

Not a word about any of it in "Corriere della Sera" today - at least, not in the edition I read at lunchtime for, hypocrite that I am, I strolled along to my favourite bar to read the paper and drink to HM!

Incidentally, she is referred to as "Queen Elizabeth", not "the Queen" on BBC World and "la regina Elisabetta" in the Italian press. I note that the event is covered in "Corriere" online today [22nd April].

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