If she were honest, Babs Shirley has been planning this day since she was a little girl. Her house is an explosion of patriotic colours, the Coronation chicken is in the fridge (the full red wine recipe of course) and there is a mountain of Union Jack cupcakes threatening to topple off her dining room table at any minute. Wearing a slightly-too-tight ‘I love WillKat’ strappy vest with one of the lucky couple plastered over each bosom and a tiara that she stole from her daughter’s dressing-up cupboard, she is jittering around her house in the Springs in a buzz of excitement while her husband (American) and children (Mid-Atlantic) watch on bemused. Babs is feeling exceptionally British today and really quite smug about it; there’s no other country that pulls off pomp and ceremony with such class and humility after all. With that proud thought in her mind, she flicks through the Royal Wedding playlist on her i-Pod and decides to kick start the event with Paul Potts’ booming rendition of ‘Rule Britannia’.
Some of her guests arrive later than expected having once again mistaken one of her neighbours’ houses for hers but Babs’ is unaware. Once the ceremony starts she sits two feet from the television with a stream of tears running down her face and a tissue pressed over her slightly gaping mouth. Her guests help themselves to ‘W&K’ sausage rolls, while Babs sighs and puts her hand on her chest every time she catches a glimpse of one of the royals. She appears to be in competition with Kay Burley in her search for cliché-ridden hyperboles and is quite choked at the thought of Diana watching from on high. It is only when one of her neighbours starts holding forth that Babs is silenced. Linda Smedley-Jones, an ex-contributor to Debrett’s by the sounds of it, spends most of the afternoon pointing out ‘friends’ in the congregation, expostulating at the sight of someone called Bunty from back home (‘How on EARTH did she get invited? MUST have been pony club!’) and tearing to shreds every outfit to enter the church. The lunch guests are lectured on why it’s ‘ghastly’ that David Beckham is wearing his OBE and why William isn’t in a suit and doesn’t wear a ring (very American don’t you know?) Babs only starts to smile again when another guest leans forward and whispers in her ear that Linda is ‘far more Carol than Camilla’.
Meanwhile, in the garden, a group of husbands sweat around the barbeque, where a loud man called Rob drones on about the ‘bunch of scroungers’ and their ‘stupid, jumped-up, posh wedding’. Andy, who is desperate to get inside and watch the ceremony, decides against explaining the royals’ tireless work for charity and their contribution to the UK tourist industry at the cost of a mere 70p a year to the taxpayer whilst pummelling Rob’s ignorant tax-dodging head on the ground, and instead chews grimly on a toothpick loaded with cheese and pineapple. Luckily for him, the arrival of the sister in that dress draws the men in from the garden like lambs, thus avoiding any violence.
By the end of the day, Babs’ is a soggy mess, dabbing her eyes with her imported Daily Mail souvenir dishcloth. She looks wistfully at the red, white and blue bunting (specially made in Satwa) fluttering in the air-conditioning and is struck with a brain-wave... Why it’s Independence Day in a month or two isn’t it? They will be used again!