A blog about tea might be considered to be a somewhat lowly exercise. Nice, yet irrelevant in the greater scheme of things. On the other hand, consider this: the Queen of England herself endorses tea. I expect the Queen to drink a fair amount of tea actually. Queen Elizabeth II, I happen to know, enjoys Twinings Tea – it almost says so on the packet.
Monday 5th of June was Queen’s Birthday in New Zealand – a public holiday. Each year among most Commonwealth nations there begins a kind of birthday-a-thon. The Queen’s birthday-a-thon. The celebration starts on April 21st in the Falkland Islands then it is Canada’s turn in May, with New Zealand, United Kingdom, Tuvalu, Australia, Gibraltar, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands as well as Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, (in the South Atlantic), keeping the date sometime in June. After all a Queen must be allowed more than one birthday. What would be the point of being Queen if she were allowed only the one birthday each year just like everyone else!
So what happens on Queen’s Birthday in New Zealand besides the usual traffic congestion caused by people all trying to get out of Wellington and Auckland at the same time? Not a lot – unless you happen to have an Honour awarded you.
On Queen’s Birthday qualifying members of the Commonwealth are awarded titles. These are recognised in an official capacity, reported proudly in local media and each recipient has their name printed on an honours list to be henceforth referred to as Lady Such and Such or Sir So and So. Today people are fairly cynical about it all I think – especially those who do not receive awards. Some citizens of the Commonwealth want the day to be changed to represent an event other than the birthday of a distant monarch. Bermuda, for instance, decided the day should be called Hero’s Day. New Zealander’s have not been able to agree on a replacement so for now we continue to celebrate Queen’s Birthday on the 1st Monday in June by giving ourselves a public holiday.
This year, coinciding with Queen’s Birthday, New Zealand is hosting The Lion’s rugby tour, along with their traditionally noisy entourage – or army as they are called – the Lion’s supporters. British ex-pats in New Zealand, like Territorials, paint their faces in red, white and blue to swell the forces. This year our media have commented on how quiet the Lion’s fans are. (So far.) According to one Lion’s supporter their meek attitude is largely due to the high price of beer in New Zealand and jet-lag. “I’m not buying it”, one journalist said. (It was really a matter of trying to cheer the Lion’s supporters up after they learned of certain events back home.) We love how United Kingdom’s supporters sing during rugby and soccer matches. New Zealand fans tend to shout staccato instructions at the referee.
Anyhow, with our attention focused on the United Kingdom and what with Queen’s Birthday, I wondered: what would I say to Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II over a cup of tea?
First I would say “Hello Ma’am.” Then “Isn’t it a lovely day?”
The Queen would likely say “Yes, indeed, we do think the day splendid.”
The butler interrupts. “More tea?”
“Who do you think will win?”, the Queen then enquires.
(Gulp) “Where there is tea there is hope Ma’am”, my delicate reply.
Then I would place comment directly upon the subject of the tea. “What a delicious cup of tea your Royal Highness serves here at Buckingham Palace, Ma’am. So reviving. Is it Twinings?”