Preoccupied with pirates and ports most of the week, I didn’t notice right away the copious amounts of festive silver bunting the staff had begun wrapping around the normally naked brown columns near the entrance and foyer at “the Pink”. Who was foolish enough to get
married (period), let alone on a weekday? I had asked this of the duty manager – named Peter – who looked at me as if to say, what rock are you living under?
That may not have been the sort of question you ask even half-jokingly at Nairobi’s Muthaiga Country Club, an institution that is arguably considered as British as British Royalty.
Early Friday morning, wedding experienced-staff inserted fresh cream and pink roses – the “Queen’s roses” – into green Styrofoam bricks, and scented the hallways all the way up to the West Wing’s second floor. Child-like painted cut-outs of two Buckingham Palace guards in red uniform and black electric-shoe brush helmets stood sentry on either side of the door.
While out doing errands, I had asked a few twenty-something white Kenyans whether they’d be watching the wedding. Nah. They sounded as if they’d rather be at the dentist than sit through such a formality. Lunch-time traffic delivered me to the club at 1:30. When I arrived an empty vintage Rolls Royce sat parked by the entrance. I slipped in between the curtains and sat in reverence in the darkened tea room among royal loyal friends, some who lived nearby on Embassy and, others, upcountry acquaintances, who braved perilous and pot-holed highways to gather in front of one of the club’s two flat-screen tv’s. I had missed the exchanging of vows.
I didn’t know that Presidents weren’t invited to royal weddings. Not just for obvious security reasons, but because they don’t represent the British Commonwealth. Only the Ambassadors of nations can attend. And the Beckhams.
Was it my imagination or were Kate and William’s faces twitching and chests heaving so conspicuously (and who can blame their nerves) that it looked as though at any moment they might burst out laughing. The only Royal soul who seemed impervious to the pomp and circumstance was the Queen. She’s been to a few royal weddings. It wasn’t until after ceremony when en route in carriage to Buckingham Palace that the sun broke out and soon after she did so with a wide and approving smile.
I hope and pray that this royal marriage turns out far better than the last. Kate seems wholesome, sensible yet gentle – not at all the sad, fragile, and wounded soul her would-have-been mum-in-law so famously was. She doesn’t strike me as a Sloane ranger, at least not in public.
This time around Elton John wasn’t singing “Candle in the Wind”; he sat in the pews like most of us do at weddings – pretending to know the words to the Bible Hymns.
Had I known there was a ball after the wedding, I’d have remembered to bring my sequined sarong from the coast. Next time, definitely. Instead, a Danish friend, a surgeon, who I hadn’t seen in awhile, had just flown in and we celebrated her birthday over supper at “the Pink”.
I fell asleep late to the pulsing disco beat of Abba’s Dancing Queen – memories of Muriel’s Wedding – playing below at the ball.
Categories: Conflict In Context - Field Notes