Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 8, 2022

Red, white and blue

Everywhere I looked there were red, white and blue banners draped across building facades, and store fronts showcasing red, white and blue hats, dresses, flowers and cakes. But these patriotic displays weren't for the 4th of July. They had been put up in May to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

The big parades, displays of pageantry and plane flyovers occurred in London June 2-5, and we, along with millions of people around the world, watched many of those activities on the "telly" at our holiday home in the heart of North Wales.

But the celebrations of the queen's 70 years as monarch weren't limited to just people in London. While we were almost four hours by car from Buckingham Palace, the Brits around us were in a mood to celebrate and graciously accepted the participation of visitors from their former colonies.

We knew it was a big deal when we saw store displays advertising jubilee-related hats, tea-cup-and-saucer sets, dinnerware, banners, and "biscuits" - what we call cookies. The queen had developed a fondness for Pembroke Welsh Corgis when she was a child, and some enterprising marketing guru seized on the opportunity to make a buck by selling toy versions of the dogs.

Many aspects of the celebration were connected with Elizabeth Windsor becoming Queen Elizabeth II. Daughters Mariya and Katie and I had "coronation chicken" finger sandwiches at an afternoon tea, and husband Art, his daughter Karen, granddaughter Katrina and I also had some on an excursion to Anglesey. Coronation chicken was a dish created for the banquet in 1953 celebrating the crowning. It features chunks of steamed or grilled chicken mixed with a curried mayonnaise dressing.

Art had been wanting some rum-raisin ice cream while we were wandering one day in Llangollen, a Welsh village 16 miles northeast of our home-away-from-home. But when he saw Jubilee Pudding was an option, he said he just had to give it a whirl. It was described as "orange ice cream with a lemon curd ripple paired with a vanilla ice cream and amaretti crumb." He was well pleased with his choice.

When I was at our "posh" dinner with our girls and their spouses, I sampled a Jubilee Trifle - a layered gelatin-like creation with lemon curd, custard, hints of orange and lots of cream. The "pudding" - dessert - was selected from more than 5,000 entries in a national contest and was very tasty.

Music was also part of the festivities. Art, Karen, Katrina and I attended the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Concert in Chester Cathedral. We were in the fourth row, but those near the rear could watch on large-screen TVs. The displays also allowed us to watch the organists play the huge pipe organ. The gray stone of the sanctuary was bathed in purple light and the two colors provided a nice contrast to the choir members' brilliant red robes. The youngest singers were about 6 years old and weren't to be outdone by their elders. Compositions by George Frideric Handel, Ralph Vaughan Williams and others were the same pieces played during the coronation at Westminster Abbey in 1953.

On June 2, Art and I joined about 50 others at dusk in a field in Penybontfawr, a village of 400 situated three miles west of us. It was a cool evening with a light rain, but the weather didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits. People wore rain coats with their "Wellies" - tall rubber boots - and huddled under their umbrellas, drinking local ale. Youngsters danced around with sparklers, while local trumpeter Dougie Graham played "Majesty," a short piece commissioned for the Platinum Jubilee celebration in London.

When he finished, the "beacon" - bonfire - was lit on a Cyrniau Nod, a 2,000-foot mountain just to the northwest in the rugged Berwyn range. The dampness slowed the fire and someone nearby yelled, "More diesel fuel."

Once it was fully ablaze, those assembled sang, "God Save the Queen."

We saw another beacon on a distant hill as we traveled home that evening. There were some 3,000 across the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and U.K. Overseas Territories. Tributes were also lit in 54 Commonwealth capitals across five continents, from Tonga and Samoa in the South Pacific to Belize in the Caribbean. They allowed local communities to pay tribute to the monarch and be part of the official celebrations.

The Principal Platinum Jubilee Beacon was at London's Buckingham Palace and was lit remotely by the queen from Windsor Castle. It was in the form of a sculpture called the "Tree of Trees." It was exactly 70 feet tall, one foot for every year she has been on the throne.

"Plant a tree for the Jubilee" is the slogan of the Queen's Green Canopy. It is an organization created to encourage the planting of new trees - more than a million were planted across the U.K. this year - and to protect old ones. Prince Charles, the QGC's patron, earlier unveiled a nationwide network of 70 ancient woodlands and 70 ancient trees.

During ceremonies, Prince Charles said,

Trees and woodlands have a profound significance for us all - their steadfast and reassuring presence a reminder of our long serving Sovereign and her enduring dedication. Let us ensure that in her name we can now protect and strengthen this wonderful living Canopy for the next seventy years and, hopefully, way beyond. And, above all, let us ensure that future generations can celebrate and enjoy them.

We did our part by visiting the yews in nearby St. Melangell churchyard, seven miles to the west of our home base. Estimated to be at least 2,000 years old, some were among those honored by the QGC.

So while we former colonists may have missed the pomp and pageantry of the events in London, we certainly enjoyed joining the local festivities. It was a red, white and blue time of food, music, bonfires, ancient trees and fellowship. What more could anyone ask for?

Top (l-r): Coronation concert at Chester Cathedral. Note organist at upper center; friend Deb Skidmore next to an ancient St. Melangell yew during our 2018 visit; Gloria's Jubilee Trifle. Bottom (l-r): "Queen Elizabeth II" reigns over items for sale; Gloria, "Queen Elizabeth II," Mariya and wife Miriam. Note queen is in the window; Gloria and Art in the Penybontfawr field as the beacon was lit; letterbox decorated for the jubilee; (top) card with the description of Art's ice cream; (bottom) image from TV screen of London flyover.

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