9th August 1998
The new look
Britain's most beloved grandmum, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mum celebrated her 98th birthday last week, a picture of the grace she has embodied throughout her life.
Elizabeth Bowes Lyon was born on August 4, 1990, the ninth child of Lord and Lady Glamis, She was just a child when she met Prince Albert, but the young Royal set his heart on marrying her when she blossomed into a strikingly vivacious beauty. Elizabeth it was reported, had her doubts about marrying into Royalty fearing the constraints it would place upon her. "You'll be lucky if she accepts," the King had told his son. But Bertie was determined and in April 1923, Elizabeth married her prince, becoming the Duchess of York and bringing warmth and sparkle to her somewhat reserved partner.
Their first child born in April 1926 was also named Elizabeth, followed by another daughter Margaret in 1930 and the couple led an idyllic life at the Royal Lodge, Windsor. But the pressures of state were soon to intrude. When Albert's brother Edward decided to abdicate rather than give up his love American divorcee Wallis Simpson, the couple was catapulted into the throne. Albert chose to be called King George the VI and Elizabeth thus became Queen in May 1937.
It was in the war days that Elizabeth's contribution was most evident. In those dark days, when German planes continued to bomb London, the King and Queen refused to leave the Palace and their courageous example was a shining beacon to the people. When a bomb descended on one wing of the Palace and wrecked the Chapel, Queen Elizabeth said, "It makes me feel that I can look East End in the face."
King George died in February 1952 and though heartbroken, Elizabeth remained a tower of strength to her daughter Princess Elizabeth as she ascended the throne to become Queen Elizabeth the II.
Over the years, she has remained in the public eye, never failing to attend state occasions when her health permits. And though the Royal Family's fortunes have floundered, her popularity has never waned.
Survival guide to Sri Lanka for Aliens
I am an essentially lazy person. I have come to this conclusion partly because my mother keeps telling me this, and partly because I realise that I like things to be familiar and predictable. I don't know if that makes me a boring person, but I find that at least it makes my life a whole lot less complicated. That's why I love living in Sri Lanka. We are all essentially a bunch of lazy people stuck on an island in the middle of the Ocean.
Even history supports this. All the people who ended up in this country stumbled on it by accident, were too lazy to bother going back to where they came from and hung around. Vijaya, Lorenzo De Almeida, all these guys who figure so prominently in our history were probably very lazy people. But even though it's easy for most of us to be comfortable in this country, have you ever thought about how confusing it would be to a total stranger? Most of us have lived here all our lives, and take some very strange things in our stride because we're used to it. But imagine if you were an alien (you don't get much stranger than that) and landed in say, Panchikawatte...
Now you must understand that this is no greenhorn alien (Green yes, as can be expected of many standard variety of alien." but hornless.) He's the genuine article. He's done his homework and has learnt all he can about Earth by monitoring our radio waves from space. One day, deciding to head to Earth, he encounters a difficult entry into the atmosphere and is forced to land in Panchikawatte. Now you must admit that such an individual (If anyone) might find this land a trifle strange. So doing my bit to sponsor tourism in this country, I've decided to put my vast knowledge to good use and compile a simple guidebook. So here's a sneak preview of "Kenny's Survival guide to Sri Lanka for Aliens."
# First and foremost dear Alien, never park any sort of vehicle in Panchikawatte. But if it's too late, and you find that vital parts of your space ship are already missing, don't panic. You are in the best place in the universe to buy any sort of spare parts you need. Who knows, if you're lucky and some other alien hasn't beaten you to it, you might still be able to buy back the genuine parts. But if you are not in time, then you will be told that the parts you are looking for can be fabricated for cheap. Since you have no choice and need to get back home, agree. You will be told to come back in a week.
# Now of course, you're stuck here for a week at least. Since your spaceship is kaput, you need to figure out some way to get about. Sri Lankans aren't as friendly as you might have heard so don't expect any free lifts to come your way. You'll have to bus it. Now this is one of the most dangerous and frightening experiences you'd probably ever have. Do not. I repeat DO NOT, get into a crowded bus. You will either be squashed to death, fall off the foot board and be squashed to death, or end up under someone's armpit and wish you had been squashed to death. Wait for an empty bus. This might take a few hours to a miracle.
Once in the bus, the best seat is the one next to the driver. It is an excellent vantage point for a tourist like you. If the driver of the bus you're travelling in suddenly starts talking to you, don't be alarmed - just smile. You see, bus drivers find this sudden compulsion to plead their case. Be it about the irresponsibility of the bystander he just "grazed" or about the recklessness of the driver that he just cut off, bus drivers have this need to talk.
# Another thing you might encounter during your stay here is the locals' strange attachment to stuff. The people in this country don't like throwing anything away. They hang on to each and every thing they come across. A particular attachment is formed to an item if it is paid for. As a result don't be surprised to see collections of paper cups or plastic beer cups from cricket matches, or large hauls of plastic bottles in just about any home in the country. Just look at it as our way of recycling.
This is just a preview of the many tips that you can get if you're an alien (or feel like one) in this country. These tips and many more are included in my book "Kenny's Survival guide to Sri Lanka for Aliens."
If you are interested in getting your own copy, please send your name, address and a valid credit card number to this address. kenny@something orother.com
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