A wedding, a funeral, a referendum and a royal supermarket sweep – it’s good to be back!

6 05 2011

Arrived back in ‘the Shire’ at 23.00 on May 2nd, weary but exhilarated following a three-week East African Odyssey which took in parts of Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania & Zanzibar!

For those who are interested you will be able to find out more in a series of posts, to be published  shortly, once I’ve waded through and edited my journal notes and about 700 photographs!  

Meanwhile it’s all been happening: a wedding, a funeral, a referendum and a royal supermarket sweep!

Having studiously managed to avoid the Royal Wedding we did catch 15 minutes of edited highlights on a satellite news channel, while enjoying sun-downers on the terrace of the Africa Hotel in Stone town, Zanzibar.

Yes, I admit that Kate did look stunning, and nobody can lay on a spectacle of such pomp and circumstance quite like us Brits. It’s good we’re still world leaders at something!  Although I’m no great royalist, there was almost a stirring of pride! The fact that 2 billion people, world-wide, were captivated enough to tune in and watch the happy couple exchange their vows seems as good a reason as any to put the revolution on hold, at least for now!         

Whilst on the subject, a couple more observations. Am I missing something or is there an ancient royal protocol that prevents the Queen from smiling on these occasions? Then again, her nearest and dearest don’t have a great track record in the  matrimonial stakes and in terms of marital longevity there’s not been too much to smile about!

And what was it with Victoria, of ‘Beckingham Palace’, did she think she was going to a funeral? As for her hat, she needs to take a few tips from Princess Bea when it comes to headgear. Fergy’s invitation might have got lost in the post but her eldest daughter did her proud, all but stealing the show with her audacious ‘fascinater’ – an overnight internet sensation with its own dedicated Facebook page!    

On our arrival at LHR Terminal 5 we were greeted with a text from Gem, “Glad you’re back safely, Take it you heard about Bin Laden? I was worried about possible backlash…”

We had been totally oblivious as the day’s events had unfolded.

Ten years on from 9/11, it seems the Americans had finally got their man, the founder of al-Qa’ida and the world’s most wanted terrorist, shot dead (in his pyjamas) with a single bullet to the head and hurriedly buried at sea. The world still awaits the photographic evidence!

So the early May bank holiday had yielded two contrasting news stories that led the bulletins in every country in the world.  As Simon Kelner, of the ‘i’, succinctly put it in his Tuesday editorial, “a weekend that began with wedding bells ended with shots that rang around the world.”   

The wall to wall media analysis of a six-year operation that reached its climax with 48 minutes of  explosions and gunfire in a wealthy Pakistan suburb, a one hour drive from the capital Islamabad  and home to the country’s military college, rolls on, and with so many unanswered questions will no doubt continue to do so!

It was interesting to see, in the aftermath of these events, a tired, relieved (and no doubt elated at his sudden popularity renaissance ‘back home’) Barack Obama finding time to host Prince Charles in the Oval Office (following his speech, on farming, at Georgetown University) where they no doubt exchanged a few interesting anecdotes about the last few days. Oh to have been a fly on the wall!    

At least, in the British media, we have a brief respite from the Bin Laden fallout, following yesterday’s polling for English councils, Scottish and Welsh parliaments and the AV referendum. 

This morning’s breaking news, with more results still to come, is all about the Lib Dems’ comeuppance. They have clearly and deservedly taken a major hit for their broken election promises and the coalition government’s slash and burn policies.

The Tories having cleverly manipulated the Lib Dems, effectively using them as a shield against public discontent, seem to have got away relatively unscathed and will live to fight another day, particularly if they get their redrawn constituencies, following what is looking increasingly like a ‘No’ vote for electoral reform.

Labour, as expected, appear to have benefited largely at the expense of the Lib Dems apart from in Scotland where they have suffered hugely at the hands of Alex Salmond’s SNP who look like coming very close to holding an overall majority at Holyrood, for the first time since devolution. Good luck to them with their bid for independence!  

At this stage, hypothetical projections are suggesting that if it had been a general election Ed Miliband would now be PM with Labour holding an overall majority of eight seats. This should offer some encouragement but if a snap election were held tomorrow it would still be a very tight call with an outright winner, unlikely.

I’m disappointed but not surprised at such apathy, around a 40% turn-out, for an issue as important as electoral reform. There is really only one party that can gain from maintaining the status quo and we all know who that is!

Given such a dismal showing, it will be interesting to see how long Cleggy’s lot will allow him to continue to propping up the coalition. Given a total loss of credibility and facing political obscurity, I guess he will hang on in there for as long as possible and withstand the inevitable calls for his head.   

There is probably only one real winner this morning, DC, who is no doubt breakfasting with that infuriating, cat that got the cream, smirk all over his face.

In the meantime it is good to see that a number of our beloved tabloids continuing to get their priorities right with their front page photo scoops of the Duchess of Cambridge walking down the aisle, again; this time doing the weekly shop at her local Anglesey Waitrose. I applaud their efforts to show, as newly wed royals, they will be living as ‘normal’ a life as possible, in North Wales, but next time Kate might be advised to try Asda or Lidl!                   

It’s good to be back!

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