Tag Archives: Florence + The Machine

That Day I Almost Met the Queen

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A few days ago we returned from a two-week vacation to England and Scotland with our two youngest children, Eve and William (who are 20 and 18 respectively).  We had many adventures, and as circumstances would have it, had brushes with Very Famous People while we were in London.

On our first full day in London, we woke up early and got to the Tower of London by 9am. We knew we’d have fewer crowds if we arrived early, and it would be easier to catch a tour with one of the witty Beefeaters who dress in brilliant red costumes and wear silly plumed hats.  We were having a fantastic time exploring this tower, and then that tower, and since it was our first day of vacation, we happily paused to read each and every didactic, soaking up all the great British history.  I’d put it in the top ten of all the places we visited, and I would highly recommend it.

Anyway.  We were having a grand time, but I began to feel annoyed with a family who had a very loud, obnoxious “private” tour guide.  It seemed they invaded our space each time we entered a new room.  The guide’s voice was shrill and self important, and finally, I glared at her, hoping she’d understand she was being too loud.  It was then I heard a very distinctive voice—the voice of Katie Couric, once known as America’s sweetheart of the morning shows.    It was Katie on vacation with her family!

Allow me to pause my story for a moment and state for the record that I am NOT a superficial person, however, I take great interest in current culture, including famous people. I’m intrigued at their stories, since they, too, were once lowly folks such as myself yet now have international fame and boatloads of money.  So when I meet a “star,” I get pretty excited.

And Katie Couric it certainly was.  She is tiny.  She wore no make up and was still cute as a button.  She was dressed very casually and had a cap on with a ponytail  under it.  Her daughters (in their early twenties) are taller and thin, and her husband just looks like a plain Joe. I could have followed them (and their rude guide) but instead I watched her using my peripheral vision while sneakily pretending to look at my phone.  I figure the woman deserves to have a hassle-free vacation with her family without a sort of/kind of fan following and staring at her.

So.  THAT VERY SAME DAY we missed my favorite band who just happened to be playing a concert in a park ONE MILE from where we walked that afternoon.  I leaked out a few tiny tears when I found out, and kept thinking that if we’d known, we could have lingered about and heard them outside the venue since it was just in a big park.  In the end I calmed myself by remembering we were not in London to see Bastille perform, and we had a perfect day seeing the sights we’d seen.

The very next day we spent the morning at the National Gallery, walked an hour to see one of my favorite artist’s (Yayoi Kusama) thrilling new exhibit at a small gallery on the edge of town, and after many tube stops, finally arrived at Westminster Abbey.  It was at the top of our list since the ridiculous coach tour we’d taken three summers ago had not included entry, yet we spent a teasing hour lolling about the lobby and gift shop.  We arrived  at the huge cathedral to find many people milling about outside the gates, but nobody going in. My family walked the entire periphery but I (per usual) cut to the chase by asking the uniformed man at the gate.  “Closed today for a special memorial service, mum.”  I looked around and sure enough, there were signs announcing the vigil marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.  The vigil remembers those lost in the battle, which claimed over one million lives and affected the lives of millions more at home during WWI. Those who took part on all sides of the Battle were represented, and the internet said all were welcome . . . but that was clearly complete HOGWASH because the uniformed men at the gate were keeping everyone out,  excepting the Very  Fancy People who were arriving in limos.  We had fun watching the swank guests arrive, and the next day found out the Queen (yes, THAT Queen) had arrived just minutes after we’d moved on to find a snack. A SNACK.  I missed seeing the Queen of England enter Westminster Abbey because we wanted a SNACK. (Kicks self in the arse.)

And yes, there’s more.  You remember I’m a fan of the band Florence + the Machine. You guessed it—she was playing Saturday afternoon at Hyde Park—which was only a half hour from where we were at the British Museum when I first heard the news.  After just missing Bastille, I was determined not to miss another opportunity and besides, Florence Welch is the coolest chick ever who happens to have the voice of an angel. I searched and found tickets were available but a) we had a full day planned, b) the tickets were expensive,  c) the concert was starting soon, and  d) the sky looked threatening.  Hip hip hooray for me that I did not insist upon seeing Florence because that afternoon, the rain came tumbling down sideways, drenching us from head to toe, the nasty wind inverting our umbrellas, ultimately causing us to board a bus to who-knows-where just to save ourselves from what seemed like an Emergency Situation.  Not the best day to be attending an expensive outdoor concert!

The final brush with greatness occurred days later in Edinburgh, at the East end of the Royal Mile.  It was our second day in this beautiful city, and William (Eagle Scout, Lover of Hiking) had requested we do a hike.  Lucky for us, there was a strange, yet accessible mountain called Arthur’s Seat which looked like what we in Arizona would call a butte.  Anyhoo, the bus system let us down and when we finally arrived to the little flat mountain, the weather was threatening, and because we had tickets to an underground ghost tour at 2pm, the hike was not doable.  William was disappointed, and because we didn’t have a Plan  B, we plunked down dejectedly at the edge of a fountain in front of the Scottish Parliament Building. It was our first low point of the trip, and we weren’t sure what to do.  The gates to Holyrood  Palace were right there, but we’d heard it was closed that week for some reason or other.

We began to notice crowds of well-dressed people walking toward the palace.  In fact, they looked so dressed up that we wondered if there was a wedding or a formal party.  After asking in a shop, we found at the Queen was visiting for one week and today was her big Garden Party!  As we shopped and lunched along the Royal Mile, I had fun watching all of the Fancy People in their finery, on their way to have tea with the Queen.  SO COOL.  Most women had a hat of some sort, even if it was only a “fascinator” which is a head band with some decorative stuff happening on the top of your head.  The following day, I met two people who had attended this party and they said it was to honor volunteers and also service men and women.  I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to curtsy for the Queen, then sip champagne and nibble sandwiches at a palace, but alas, that is not what we do here in America.

Tune in tomorrow for “The Many Sausages of the UK” when I’ll explain the mysterious Scottish dish of “neeps and tatties” and many other strange menu items seen on our trip to the UK.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

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Beautiful Florence

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Well I did it again: I completely missed National Badger Appreciation Day on October 6th. This is the 51st year in a row I’ve forgotten! You’d think by now I’d get it on my calendar. I hung my head in shame all afternoon, worrying about the poor badgers and hoping they received their deserved glory and recognition on this special day. I vowed to purchase a Kiss a Badger t-shirt to support their cause (badgerness) and marked this special event on my 2016 calendar so I can celebrate it properly next year.

I poked about on the interwebs and am sharing this MUST SEE, touching/heartfelt/ridiculous British video about Badgers. Only one minute into the video, I was doubled over with laughter (there’s a Chief Executive of the Badger Trust who watches badgers in the moonlight???) and wondering if the whole thing was a farcical take-off in the style of Monty Python or a real tribute to the noble badger. I’m still not sure. Please watch the entire clip or else you’ll miss the man describing his Badger experience while flanked by two sleeping black standard poodles and the elderly woman telling you to put away your IPAD so you can go out and look for badgers. Truly a gem of a film and one that makes me wish I lived in England. The only wildlife we have here at our Tempe home is hordes of pigeons who poop all over our yard and cars, plus the occasional roof rat.

Let’s forget about badgers for a moment, shall we? I must share with you the AMAZING, LIFE-CHANGING, SPIRITUAL, SOUL-LIFTING experience I had on Tuesday night when I attended a Florence + The Machine concert. I’d heard from a friend who saw this band at Coachella that they put on a great show, but I had no idea what I was in for. We listened to the opening band, which interestingly enough was Sean Lennon, the son of John and Yoko, then watched with great interest as they set up Florence’s stage with all of these many instruments and musicians: A humongous harp (8 feet tall and played by “Tom”), two keyboardists, three female back-up singers, two guitarists, two percussionists, and three horn players. (The sound at times is very rock ‘n roll, but at other times completely orchestral.)

So imagine you are with me, sitting in the 15th row, dead center. Florence walks on the stage. She is slim and tall (5’9″), waif-like and ethereal in a flowy white and rose satin pantsuit. Her red hair is not styled and hangs in gentle waves across her shoulders. Her face is beautiful and pure. Her feet are bare. I studied her image projected on huge screens on either side of the stage for the poor folks on the lawn, but could not detect any cosmetics at all.

None of that is very important. What’s important is her voice. She says hello in a gentle, British accent, but when the music begins and she begins to sing, you gasp! The voice you hear on the radio is NOTHING compared to hearing her live. The power, strength, and volume in her voice is like nothing you have ever heard before. I swear my hair blew back! Sometimes she sings very softly, but always in tune, so pure of tone, with such deep emotion. Somehow she makes you feel as if she is singing only to you and we all quickly fell under her spell, willing to follow on whatever musical adventure she would take us.

Each and every one of us were simply blown away. There were young people, middle aged, and old—all of us bound together as the music flowed over and around us, touching us deeply, joy showing unabashed on our faces. I got goosebumps, then I felt tears come to my eyes, then I laughed. She danced through the audience many times, touching her fans, caressing their faces as tears of joy flowed down their cheeks. This is not what I’d expected. I thought over all the concerts I’d been to (and there are many) and the only other that surprised me in this same way was when I saw Gary Lightbody back in 2012. I can only describe it as a feeling of complete awe of being so near to someone with such raw talent; a human being lacking in pretense and only wanting to share their gift.

I am thinking of all of these things, and then Florence begins to spin on stage. She is spinning and dancing and jumping on the stage. And you think to yourself, she reminds me of someone. But who? My friend and I looked at each other. Who does she remind us of, we asked each other—she is so familiar! Florence lifted me in a way I had not been lifted in a long time . . . and on the long drive home, my friend and I promised each other that we would do more spinning and jumping ourselves (but probably when nobody was looking). And as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep it came to me who she reminded me of: ME! Me as a young girl: pure, naive, sweet, simple . . . spinning in bare feet as I sang a joyful song.

Happy Friday to All,
Mary