The ex expat
Kate Birch, our new columnist based in the UK, reminisces about royal baby fever.
Remember that scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary – the one where Bridget lies limp on the sofa, surrounded by empty food cartons, staring at the TV, with fears of dying alone and being found three weeks later half-eaten by wild dogs? Well, that was me three weeks back while on royal baby watch.
Camped out in front of my computer, glued to the video feed from outside Kate’s hospital, boxed in by Chinese food containers and left home alone by a husband who could no longer stomach the future monarch - meditating monotony, I was afraid to get up in case I missed anything. I’d been struck down by royal baby fever.
It began to reach ferocious fever pitch (for aristocratic amateurs, that’s 20 times the degree of pitch reached at their royal wedding) at the 60-year anniversary celebration of the Queen’s coronation held at Buckingham Palace on July 12. While I was in attendance, Kate and Wills were notably absent, sending the chattering classes into speculative overdrive.
The build-up was on and the countdown to contractions began. For 10 long days, the Lindo Wing (nicknamed the Limbo Wing after weeks of waiting) at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington became a campsite for camera crews and a hotspot for tourists, retirees and the unemployed.
The rest of us logged on to one of the many live feeds, vigilantly watching… well, not a lot really. The baby-watch boredom was sporadically broken, first by the entrance of Union Jack Man (a 78-year-old royalist wrapped in a British flag, who spent the next 10 days on a bench outside the hospital), then by a heavily pregnant Kate Middleton impersonator who fooled everyone (well, the Americans anyway).
Yes, as well as hourly updates and a dedicated downloadable Royal Baby
Watch app, the media dished out a deluge of speculative stories (will Kate be a helicopter or free-range mum?), dug up hundreds of tenuous royal connections (an interview with the creator of the future child’s stroller rug, anyone?) and offered a detailed running commentary and analysis on every monarch’s movement (why is William playing polo in Gloucestershire when Kate’s about to drop?)
By the time Kate officially went into labour on July 22, the news channels were having king-sized kittens, with speculation spiralling out of control: will she or won’t she… Have an epidural? Be a screamer? Eat her own placenta?
As Kate’s labour pains intensified, so the royal reflections became more ridiculous. And by the time the TV breakfast shows woke the nation, all thoughts of reasonable behaviour had been abandoned.
The previous morning, impatient presenters had been stressing out over
As Kate’s labour pains intensified, so the royal reflections became more ridiculous
the state of Kate’s delayed dilation, urging the duchess to climb stairs and eat curry and pineapple – anything to induce labour – now they were guesstimating the current state of mind of Prince William: attentive (dishing out ice cubes to his wife); chilled (sipping soda ordered from hospital menu); self-obsessed (updating his Facebook page with delivery drivel).
Astrologers, who quite frankly should have seen it coming, were dragged out of bed to ruminate on the royal baby’s star sign (Leo vs Cancer), while hypothetical happenings (what will arise if Kate lets loose a string of expletives mid-delivery…?) were examined and cross-examined, according to royal protocol, public opinion and current parenting trends.
Even on the streets of Surrey (a county just outside London in which I live), I felt the excitement of expectation. It would be an understatement to say speculation was rife, with anyone and everyone forecasting the heir’s hair colour, height and star sign (favourite was a 3.2kg brunette princess Alexandra).
And while the arrival of a 3.8kg baby boy later that day put an end to some speculation, even more (would Kate leave hospital hiding her mummy tummy in Spanx?) followed.
But we listened and lapped it up, our aristocratic appetites seemingly insatiable. And so it continues… rolling coverage of the baby’s first wave and wink, and conjecture on his first brand of booties, first school and girlfriend.
But while we’re all busy ‘ooing’ and ‘aahhing’ over photos of Prince George, British businesses are even busier, milking the future monarch, with Reuters reporting mid-July royal baby fever figures of almost Dh1.4 billion due to increased tourism and souvenir sales.
St James’s Hotel offers a Royal Baby Shower package (Dh475); the Cinnamon Club in London does a Dh250 Royal Labour of Love Menu; and Mothercare rushed out its HappyLand Royal Baby play set (Dh45). From potty chairs shaped like thrones, to royal baby sick bags for expectant mothers, monarchy merchandise has gone mad.
Women worldwide who’d waited to name their newborns were relieved they could finally follow suit (how many George and Georginas will there be around now?) after all the anticipation to see what Kate did next.
As for what this Kate does next; I pick myself up, dust myself off and start to feel, well, human again. And as I return to my own little prince, I feel the fever starting to fade away. For now…
Overworked, overwhelmed and over there... long-term Dubai expat Kate Birch misses
her maid, struggles with small talk and is desperate for someone
to pack her shopping