LONDON, July 20, 2013 – As the royal baby watch continues throughout the British Isles, especially in London, there are other things on the minds of many Brits.
At Buckingham Palace the media has been keeping a minute by minute vigil from a designated area in St. James Park. Meanwhile, other well-wishers and curiosity seekers are staking whatever claim they can like squatters hoping to be on hand when history takes place.
It is a paparazzi obsession to be the first with the news. Will it be a boy? Is it girl? What kind of fascinator did Kate wearing during the delivery?
Other members of the throng are visitors from around the world who just want to be able to say they were there when it happened. But there is more to do while waiting for the royal birth. You can still catch the Changing of the Guard which is part of the reason the media is encamped barefoot in the park so as not to disappoint tourists who came to witness one of Britain’s most popular traditions.
Kate-watch has taken its toll. London is mired in a heat wave.
Temperatures are in the mid-80s on some days without a cloud in sight. Hotels are not air conditioned and radio stations are constantly warning people not to stay outside too long and to drink plenty of water.
Survival, not royal births, is the story of the day for most people.
Cyclists ride by with gallon jugs of water strapped to their bikes. The typically fair-skinned residents of the U.K. are dealing with the heat as best they can, but it has taken much of their attention away from the Royal Family.
Already the “telly” is reporting more than 650 heat related deaths. Sunscreen is one of the most popular items in drug stores and pharmacies. Perhaps even more surprising are the reports of record numbers of children and infants flooding hospitals for treatment from severe sunburn.
There is also a bicycle race finishing in Paris on Sunday, and unless something dramatic happens, like Lance Armstrong making a surprise appearance, a Brit is going to win the Tour de France.
Combine that with the Open golf tournament and a major cricket showdown between England and Australia an there are plenty of distractions to divert attention from a new member of the Royal Regime.
Even so, when the news breaks along with the water, all eyes will focus on the future monarch-to-be. Kate Middleton will most assuredly fill the void that has existed since Diana’s untimely death and, in her own way, she will be a magnificent replacement.
Though Brits appreciate their royal heritage and understand its links with history, they are too close to the situation to realize how much the rest of the world pays attention. Perhaps no more than in the United States where our common ties are strong and powerful, yet where royalty remains a fascination because it has never been part of our identity.
Ask any cab driver if there is any news yet and most will grouse about the taxes they have to pay for an anachronistic tradition or tell you that getting around town is even more miserable than usual. Taxi drivers are a great source of information, and a good way to judge the mood of the country, but don’t expect them to become giddy with joy when you ask them about the new arrival.
Most Londoners are taking it all in stride. This is nothing new to them. There was the wedding of Charles and Diana, then Diana’s funeral, Kate and Will’s marriage, the jubilee for Elizabeth, and now this.
The media has been breathlessly lingering in the park for days waiting for the news, but like all stories of this magnitude, the moment it breaks, bells will peal, Big Ben will chime and everyone will instantaneously know the new king or queen has come into the world.
For now cab drivers will seek new routes in the city, Hotel employees will speak when spoken to. Londoners will fight the heat. And Parliament will undoubtedly claim the birth to be a victory for continuition of the Crown.
For all the pomp and ceremony, the stiff-upper-lip aspect of British culture will continue. Consequently you can get an opinion about all the fuss from just about anyone as the eyes of the world are focused on the grand palace just down the river and road from Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square.
Life comes full cycle. It’s all part of the show, though secretly, deep down inside you know that most Brits enjoy the worldwide attention.
Meanwhile, all the media can do is watch, and wait. Babies have a tendency to set the pace at times like this.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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