Tag Archives: UK

A Royal Day in the crowd

London was a blanket of red, white and blue as millions of well wishers from all over flocked to London to catch a glimpse of the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Clutching the Union Jack flags, they came from all over the world and camped overnight for the royal wedding at areas near the Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square, Strand, Whitehall and The Mall.

In London, giant screens were installed at Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square so that people could watch the entire event courtesy the BBC.

Why did I go?

Being raised in India, I had no experience of monarchy until I came to the UK seven months ago. Being in London at the time of the royal wedding made it impossible for me to avoid the mania.

I have no connection with the royal family and my life does not revolve around them. I went like a crazy person to witness the wedding and absorb the atmosphere. I neither care about the royal family or nor am I a royalist.

I stood amidst the entire crowd who had come from different parts of the world to experience the wedding. The crowd did not deter me from going as I have experienced massive crowds in London on New Years Eve and at the pillow fight. For me it was more of an event and less of a marriage.

The key is to go early and reserve a good viewing spot if you are really crazy. Having reached the venue just an hour before the ceremony was scheduled to being, the best bet was Hyde Park. In a span of five hours I watched the entrance and church service at Hyde Park and the procession and the kiss at Trafalgar Square on big screens. The areas near Westminster and Buckingham Palace were later condoned off due to overcrowding.

The crowd

The mood was exciting and people were trying high and low to catch a glimpse of the newly wedded couple. The crowd came well prepared with tents and picnic baskets. People had dressed up for the occasion. Some wore wedding gowns; some wore attires resembling the union jack while others wore special William and Kate merchandise. The waving of the flag was a common sight.

At Hyde Park, the atmosphere was feel-good. There was a loud applause when members of the royal family entered the church. However, once the church service began, there was silence among the crowd. Many had purchased the wedding programme booklet and joined in the service by singing the hymns. The crowd cheered the couple when they uttered the words “I will”. Many Britons shed tears of joy. It was indeed an emotional moment for them.

Trafalgar Square witnessed a truly electrifying atmosphere. The crowd was livelier. There was a live band, contests for the best hats, the unveiling of the Boris tandem – a bicycle meant for two.

The crowd eagerly waited for the golden kiss – where the newly wedded couple would kiss on the balcony of the Buckingham Palace for six minutes. However, the crowds jeered them when they publicly kissed twice on the balcony while the rest of the royal family and the Middleton’s looked on.

The celebrations

London was truly the party capital with a large number of people organising royal wedding street parties and private parties in homes, backyards and terraces.

Royal wedding celebrations were held throughout the country from 1000 BST onwards. Only a selected few were invited to the church service and the reception. The rest of the country organised street parties with permission from the local council. Several pubs and clubs had royal wedding themed parties that continued through the wee hours of the morning. I managed to crash into four such parties in central London. At the end of the evening, the roads in London were ruined with empty alcohol bottles and cans thrown all over the place and many drunkards on the road.

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Why should I care about the Royal Wedding?

The United Kingdom has gone insane. The country has gone gaga over the royal wedding that will take place tomorrow in London.

Special royal wedding souvenirs are everywhere. People from all over the place have thronged the city to witness the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Transport for London (TFL) has issued a limited edition Oyster card to commemorate the marriage.

The wedding is less of a union between two people but a commercialised hyped up event that has attracted many tourists and gotten the Britons excited. The madness began ever since the couple announced their engagement in November 2010.

National holiday

April 29, 2011 has been declared as a national holiday in view of the royal wedding.

Having an extra holiday is great. The wedding falls a week after Easter. Thus, there are just three business days between April 22 and May 2. This could spell disaster for small businesses that are struggling to thrive in the poor economic condition.

The other important things

Storms in Alabama, protests in Syria and Libya; does the United Kingdom care? I think not.

Newspapers are filled with news of the wedding. News channels have gone overboard with the wedding broadcast. Very little news space is given to the important news happening around the world.

Being an Indian studying in London, in the heart of the madness, the British royal family means nothing to me. Therefore the royal wedding also means nothing to me. I don’t know Prince William and Kate Middleton, have never met them before and will probably never meet them ever.

What about the money?

The wedding is a massive expense. The royal family and the Middleton’s will be funding the wedding but security arrangements have fallen on the state treasury, which is actually public money. The debt-ridden city of London is facing spending cuts and people are getting laid off work. The royal family has immense personal wealth that they accumulated over the years through slavery, war and colonisation. It is thus unfair to have taxpayers foot the bill for the extravaganza.

On the bright side, they  have set up The Prince William & Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund so that well-wishers can donate gifts meant for the couple to charity.

With just a few hours left for all the hoopla to end. I hope the city gets back to normal and people get on with their lives as soon as possible.

I am surely going to witness all the madness tomorrow and be a part of this event. Congratulations Prince William and Kate Middleton. Wish you both a happy married life.

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My first experience of snowfall

Ever since I came to London to study, I wanted to see snow

I have lived in Mumbai all my life until I came to London two months ago. The coldest Mumbai can ever get is 20°C. I have been waiting for snowfall ever since I got here. However, everyone told me “it hardly snows here.”

Weather in London is highly unpredictable. One can experience all four seasons in one day. Over the past few weeks, I noticed that the grass outside my window and many vehicles had become frosty. I wasn’t sure if it was frost or snow, as I did not know the difference. I asked my cousin about the snow and he told me, “When it snows you will know it.”

I had been a part of many discussions about the likelihood of a snowfall anytime soon. I make it a point to check the weather forecast before leaving my house so that I am well equipped for sudden change in weather conditions.

My dream comes true
November 30 was a much-awaited day for me as the weather forecast predicted snowfall all day and it would be the first snowfall of the season in London.  Mumbai being a hot and humid city, experiencing snow in Mumbai is highly impossible. Witnessing a snowfall was a distant dream.

The snowfall was scheduled to begin at 0300 GMT. I was awake all night working on an assignment that was due for submission. At around 0245 GMT, my flatmate knocked on my door and told me that it has started snowing. I opened my window and what I saw next will etched in my memory forever.

My joy knew no bounds. I left me assignment aside, grabbed my coat and went out for a walk in the snow with my flatmate. The campus was a pretty sight. Everything had turned white. I was bursting with excitement to experience my first snowfall ever. i was jumping in the snow. And that’s when I realised that snow is slippery!!! The first thought was to have a snowball fight and make a snowman.

What’s next?

Today was just the first snowfall and the snow was not enough to have a snowball fight or make a big snowman. However, winter has just begun and I am expecting many more snowfalls this season.

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The Draconian Olympic Act

The Olympic symbol is one of the most recognisable symbols in the world. Is it so easy to use?

The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, restricts the use of words associated with the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in London.

These words include 2012, Twenty twelve, Two thousand and twelve in conjunction with medals, London, sponsors, summer, games, gold, silver and bronze in combination except by those who are official sponsors of the games.

Businesses who are not official sponsors of the Games cannot use any marks that could suggest the Olympics. These include words with “Olympi—” prefixes, the interlocking rings symbol and the Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius.”

The action taken

The act also allows the Games’ authorities to enter private residences and may use “reasonable force” to remove the infringing material whether commercial or non-commercial use.

The person guilty shall be fined an amount not exceeding £20,000

Used to combat ambush marketing

The draconian measures to protect the trademark are used to prevent ambush marketing. Ambush marketing enables brand owners who are not official sponsors of the Games to be associated with the Games.

During the 1996 Summer Olympics in USA, Nike bought billboard space around the venues and constructed a Nike Village near the athletes’ village. Nike went to the extent of distributing Nike flags, ‘ambushing’ Reebok, the official sponsor. Nike was immediately asked to take down their banners and the village but by then the damage was already done. Television audiences were asked to recall the names of official sponsors. 22% cited Nike while only 16% cited the official sponsors, Reebok.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, several countries were tuned into the Opening Ceremonies. Olympic gymnast Li Ning lit the torch. Li Ning owns a shoe company with the same name and is a direct rival of Adidas in China. Adias was an official Olympic sponsor. The irony though was that Li Ning was wearing Adidas clothing during the ceremony.

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Winter Wonderland opens at Hyde Park

It is mid-November and the festive season of Christmas has begun in Hyde Park in London.

Twenty acres of Hyde Park has been transformed into a fair and Christmas market called the Winter Wonderland. Entry is free but you have to pay for the games, rides, observation wheel, circus, ice-skating and food.

Winter Wonderland is open from November 19, 2010 to January 4, 2011 from 10 am to 10 pm.

Things to do

Winter Wonderland is an ideal outing for the whole family. The event has something to offer to all age groups. “This place is really good. The lights, decoration and Christmas carols being played has has gotten me into the Christmas spirit more than a month before Christmas,” says Jackie Smith, a visitor.

Families can enjoy shows in a heated big top or a cosy meal in restaurants. Small children can enjoy the carousel or the helter-skelter. Older children can enjoy the rollercoaster called the Euro Coaster, outdoor ice-skating, the giant observation wheel and other rides such as the Black Hole and Power Tower. Young children can visit Santa’s free grotto to meet Santa Claus and receive a gift.

One popular activity for people of all ages is ice-skating called the Lidl Magical Rink. “I want to go ice-skating but I have never done it before and I am just too scared,” says Sam Blake. The ice-skating rink is the largest open-air rink spread over 15,000 square feet created from 405,000 pints of frozen water. There are several ice guides to help those who have never used skates before.

For those who want a glimpse of London, the giant observation wheel is an excellent alternative to London Eye.

Food and Markets

Angel’s Christmas Market is at the entrance of Hyde Park. There are over a hundred stalls featuring arts and crafts, jewellery, wooden toys, decorations and more from around the world.

The German Christmas Market has a range of wooden huts offering continental food and sweets like roasted nuts, gingerbread hearts, crepes and confectionary.

The Bavarian Village is an impressive wooden structure that offers Bavarian Hog Roast, seasoned steaks and hearty German Bratwurst sausages. Accompanied by the German food are Bavarian chilled beer and warming ‘Glühwein‘ (German Mulled Wine).

The English style cafés and bars serve real ales, pies, fish and chips, hot cider and other gourmet.

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