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The Return of the Return of the Native On:2013-11-12 19:00:00

I've just come back from England, where we went to celebrate my mother's 90th birthday.

So there we were sitting round her cake with its wimpy ‘9’ and ‘0’-shaped candles instead of a proper rollicking conflagration of 90 candle-shaped ones, just like pre-election supporters of a president, resident and non-lame-duck-ish, chanting “Four more years!” only we had upped it to “Ten more years!” Yes, we need ten more birthdays out of her so she can get the traditional hundredth birthday telegram from the Queen. That famous telegram’s one of those things you grow up with in England (well at least you grew up with in the 1950’s): a telegram from the Queen on your hundredth birthday: something to look forward to for your whole life.

In passing I wonder does the Queen still even send telegrams1? Maybe she just tweets? Something like: “#Hundred @RichardsMum happy hundredth bday from Brenda and all at Buck Hs.”? Seems likely, in ten years if not right now.
Since I, of course, can’t leave anything alone, even in passing, I looked it up. Wikipedia says “the Queen sends greetings (formerly as a telegram) on the 100th birthday and on every birthday starting with the 105th.” without denying or confirming the tweet theory, but then… then, (O! horror!) the actual Royal Web Site (the Queen apparently has her own web site, and I wonder if she updates it herself, and if she knows php? Or JavaScript? And has she switched the HTML5 yet?)… Anyway her site completely destroyed all the romance and joy in the thing, by telling me that she (Yeah! Sure! I bet “she” personally) just sends a card through the mail and that “The Queen's congratulatory messages consist of a card containing a personalised message.” And it adds that “an application should preferably be made by a relative or friend in advance of the special day”, in other words if you want one you’d better ask for the damn thing and do it in good time! Huh! Hardly worth living to a hundred for!!
And anyway, regardless of putative poopy behaviour towards my Mum ten years hence, I should of course immediately disabuse you of any notion that I support the current royal family in any way. As far as I'm concerned they’re a load of bloody foreigners, and their ancestors have been ever since the most recent King that I personally recognise: the blessed St Eadmund, Last King of East Anglia2, and sometime Patron Saint of England, who was viciously martyred on the orders of Ivar the Spineless Git by the Great Heathen Army in 869.

Oh yes! And I refuse to call the Great Heathen Army a load of ‘Vikings’ because that will immediately put an erroneous picture in your mind of guys with horned helmets à la Hagar the Horrible. And as everyone knows, horned helmets weren't invented until 1876, by Professor Carl Emil Doepler, for a production of a Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen. Before that, for a hundred years or so, the guys who went fara í víking  were imagined to wear equally spurious, but rather more elegant, wings on their helmets. Of course in reality you want things like swords and axes to bounce off your helmet and not be channeled by some useless excrescence into aiming directly for your shoulders—I mean you need your shoulders, especially when wielding your own sword or axe. And anyway the term ‘Viking’ is more of an occupational title than anything else.

Exactly like ‘Queen’.

And note this: Queens also don't wear horned helmets and Vikings most definitely don't send tweets, or telegrams, or even desperately requested cards with personalised messages, on anyone’s hundredth birthday: not even my poor Mum’s! And I think that pretty-well wraps things up for Vikings, Queens and my Mum.

Cheerio for now from
Richard Howland-Bolton


1   Do you think the Queen sent her mum, the Queen Mum, a telegram on her 100th birthday?

2   Historical note for history wonks and all you nerds out there: Eadmund might possibly have been briefly followed by an Oswald and an Æthelred II before that swine Guthrum usurped, but there ain’t much evidence apart from a few coins so we’ll just gloss over those poor sods.

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