JEN­NIFER O’CON­NELL

In Meghan and Harry’s ‘ new Bri­tain’, some things never change

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE -

‘ What are you wear­ing to the royal wed­ding?”

“Jeans and run­ners prob­a­bly.” “I’m not telling peo­ple you’re wear­ing jeans and run­ners to the royal wed­ding,” she said. My mum is not a jeans and run­ners per­son, not even in the most jeans- ap­pro­pri­ate oc­ca­sions, which wed­dings, gen­er­ally, are not.

I’m not ac­tu­ally go­ing to the royal wed­ding, I said. I’ll be stand­ing on the street out­side. You do know that? I’m not go­ing to be in the church? Mum?

But she’d al­ready hung up. Judg­ing by the num­ber of texts and emails I got on the same sub­ject, I must have ac­ci­den­tally in­ferred to quite a few peo­ple that I was go­ing to the royal wed­ding, as op­posed to go­ing to Wind­sor when the royal wed­ding was on. It’s close, but not quite the same – like say­ing you’ve been to Mars, when what you re­ally mean is you are par­tial to the oc­ca­sional frozen fun- size Mars bar.

But far from be­ing the short straw, it turns out that go­ing to Wind­sor while the royal wed­ding is on is a vastly su­pe­rior form of en­ter­tain­ment to go­ing to Wind­sor chapel while the royal wed­ding is on.

Ac­tual wed­ding guests had to get up at the crack of dawn to al­low time to deal with un­ex­pected catas­tro­phes like fake tan streaks or de­odor­ant stains or – in Oprah’s case – the dis­cov­ery that the lovely beige out­fit she’d been plan­ning to wear ac­tu­ally, in the light of day, be­came in­con­tro­vert­ibly, cat­a­stroph­i­cally white. And then she had to face the em­bar­rass­ment of call­ing Stella McCart­ney to ask her if there was any­thing that could be done for it with a quick soak in Dy­lon. Luck­ily there was, and Oprah’s blush pink out­fit turned out nicely, but it must have been a terse ex­change all the same.

Self- in­vited wed­ding guests didn’t have to sit on hard benches in a chilly chapel suck­ing in their tum­mies for seven hours in case the TV camera alighted on them at just the wrong mo­ment, all for the priv­i­lege of watching every­thing on an in­fe­rior tele­vi­sion to the one they had at home.

In­stead, they spread them­selves out on the grass, un­furl­ing their gingham pic­nic blan­kets, and mag­ick­ing plas­tic jugs of Pimm’s and bot­tles of Pros­ecco up out of enor­mous pic­nic bas­kets. They drank to the di­verse new Bri­tain that had brought them all un­ex­pect­edly to­gether – the diehard roy­al­ists, the African Amer­i­cans, the Cana­di­ans, the cu­ri­ous Eu­ro­peans, the fans who loved Meghan for Suits or her fem­i­nism, and the Harry brigade, which seemed to con­sist mostly of older women whose eyes misted over every time they tried to talk about “those poor boys” walk­ing be­hind their mother’s cof­fin.

When the cer­e­mony ended, we got to see Meghan and Harry whizzing by in their car­riage, which – I bet – is more than most of the in­vited guests can say. I have a photo that captures the mo­ment I swear Meghan looked right over the heads of the crowd and di­rectly at me.

Thanks to my photo of Meghan, and the sou­venir Meghan and Harry tin of cho­co­late- chip bis­cuits I picked up in the air­port on the way home, there’s re­ally noth­ing to sug­gest to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions I wasn’t ac­tu­ally at the royal wed­ding.

I had just fin­ished shar­ing my mo­ment with Meghan when I over­heard an ex­traor­di­nar­ily posh English man called Paul, a Wind­sor lo­cal I guessed, say to friends that he and Claire were think­ing about buy­ing a bolt­hole in Oxford for young Ben, who’d be go­ing up there next year. They al­ready had a bolt­hole in Lon­don, right by Clar­idges. “Per­fect for one, but not big enough to ac­com­mo­date a mis­tress,” Paul said, chuck­ling, and ev­ery­one howled, ex­cept Claire, who smiled tightly.

And now they needed an­other in Oxford, clever Ben. But where in Oxford, he won­dered. Where were the – you know – de­cent neigh­bour­hoods? The sub­tle stress on “de­cent” meant ev­ery­one else knew what he meant, and there were em­bar­rassed tit­ters all around. He couldn’t say that any­more, not now, some­one said. Why can’t I say “de­cent”, Paul bel­lowed in mock af­front.

This is the new, mod­ern Bri­tain, didn’t he know, they said, throw­ing an arm in the gen­eral di­rec­tion of the crowd.

There was a si­lence and then Claire – per­haps to make up for Paul’s in­dis­cre­tion – threw a crumb to this new, mod­ern Bri­tain in which they were all of a sud­den adrift. That cel­list re­ally was rather good, wasn’t he, she said. From the same, slight stress on the word “that”, ev­ery­one knew the cel­list was not re­ally one of their own. I hadn’t seen the cel­list on the big screen, but I knew when I googled it later, that I would dis­cover he was black. ( His name is Sheku Kan­neh- Ma­son and yes, Claire, he re­ally is rather good.)

It was a lovely day, even if the spec­tre of a shiny and di­verse new Bri­tain wasn’t em­braced with quite the same de­gree of en­thu­si­asm by ev­ery­one. Any­way, have I men­tioned I was at the royal wed­ding?

Self- in­vited wed­ding guests didn’t have to sit on hard benches in a chilly chapel suck­ing in their tum­mies for seven hours

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