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Why I'll Watch the Royal Wedding


In recent days, a conversation piece here on the West Coast, along with the Canucks, the election and the deplorably wet cold spring, is the question: "Are you going to get up and watch the Royal Wedding?"

Most of my friends and family respond: "Good God, No! 3 am? I'm not a monarchist. Are you?"

I'm not a monarchist. I care little about the Royal family, as attractive and rich as they are. To me, it is not a glamorous life. I think being one of them would be a sentence akin to life in prison with no chance of parole.

But I will watch the wedding. Maddy, my 17-year-old, and I have already decided we will set the alarm for 2 am,  bake fresh scones ( I will make the batter ahead) and eat them with strawberry jam, clotted cream and a good cup of tea, while no doubt remarking at the unfolding pageant - "Oh, look at that fascinator on Princess Beatrice's head!" or "Victoria Beckham is too skinny!"

For me, watching is not about the celebrities or the fashion ogling, although that is part of the fun, it is about sharing a collective "spot of time."

Poet William Wordsworth coined the term "spots of time" to denote those heightened moments of experience, when reflected upon later, bring trailing with them all sorts of other vivid memories. His poetry is full of descriptions of these spots, which resonate with readers 300 years hence.

Here is the exact stanza, from his poem The Prelude in which the term arises (Book XI, ls 258-278)


There are in our existence spots of time,

Which with distinct pre-eminence retain

A renovating Virtue, whence, ... our minds

Are nourished and invisibly repaired

A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,

That penetrates, enables us to mount,

When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.


Wordsworth experienced most of his "spots" in private contemplation while out in Nature and for me many of my spots of heightened present moment awareness come from intimate times with family and friends.

But some come from collective experiences that I witnessed on television, some disasters and tragedies, others of world celebrations and cultural catalysts. In recalling them, I can conjure a flood of details. The first for me was the assassination of  JFK, when I was 5. The next was the debut of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan a few months later. For the Beatles, I can remember being in my aunt Helen's basement, her floor tiles, the red wool dress I was wearing, the tomato aspic jelly mould we had at dinner ( yuck then,  yum now), my rambunctious somewhat scary cousin Billy. I can almost smell, hear and taste it all.

A whole list of TV events carry such shards of vivid memory — the space launches, and the first step on the moon, the Solidarity marches, 1982 Royal Wedding ( watched with girlfriends under a big duvet in one of my first apartments in Toronto with tea and scones), the Berlin Wall coming down, 9/11, the 2004 tsunami...

The events are like thumbtacks in the map of a life, that pin down a point in time, a date and place, to which we can go back with certainty about where and when and what we experienced. I have many other vivid memories of my life, but many float in a general mist of time, a feeling and fabric, but are not so anchored. 

So when Maddy and I make our tea and scones tonight and settle in to watch, it will be more about making our own memories together than it will be about Will and Kate. It is about us, not about them.

Perhaps years from now, when I am dead and gone, she will get pleasure from telling her grandchildren: "I watched the 2011 Royal wedding with my mother, under her big duvet. We made scones at 2 am. I can still taste the strawberry jam ..."

Or else we could sleep through it and have no memory at all.



Posted on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 12:45PM by Registered CommenterAnne | Comments2 Comments

Reader Comments (2)

You wrote exactly how I feel!
People (mostly guys) at work were giving me a hard time about it and said "Don't you have PVR?" my reply "It's not the same! I have to watch it live just like I did for Charles' and Diana's wedding!
April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Niles
Anne, I can think of very few circumstances where I would bake, let alone prepare scones from scratch at 11:00pm. Your column is absolutely inspiring. My daughter returned today from her first year away at university. We'll arise at 2:00am and eat tea and scones and watch the Royal Wedding...as per your instructions...and just because we can! Thank you for such a fine idea. I am very grateful to have a daughter to share this "spot of time".
April 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMargot Paris

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