Friday, May 21, 2010

God Bless the Queen.

Yay, it's Friday.  Friday of the May long weekend, to be exact...well, unless you live in Atlantic Canada, in which case I'm sorry to let you know that in every other province and territory across this fair land, Monday is a statutory holiday.  This means that, for most of us, today marks the beginning of a three-day weekend.

Now, because I hardly work (outside the home, that is!), and because I never work on Mondays or Fridays, one might wonder what benefit there might be to me to have a long weekend.  Well, I can say it in one word:  Geoff.  Matt and I do so love it when he has an extra day minus work.  This weekend, we're planning to head up to my folks' cottage and do the annual 'opening up' routines, so that we can enjoy a bunch of weekends there this summer.  We're looking forward to it...despite the hassle it can be to get packed up for a few days away: groceries; clothes; odds and ends that go along with the first trip out of the spring (towels, sheets, etc etc etc); and, the biggest thing to get ready every army's supply of crafts and paints, puzzles and games, and water and sand toys/equipment.

I don't know much about Victoria Day.  I mean, I know it's meant to celebrate the Queen who ruled England in the last half of the nineteenth century; I even remember that she died in 1901.  But until ten minutes ago when I looked it up on the internet, I had no idea that her birthday was first celebrated in 1845 by the province now known as Ontario.  God bless Ontario!  I also learned that many years later, in 1957, Victoria Day was permanently appointed as the Sovereign's birthday in Canada, completely ignoring the fact that the present Queen of England was not born on this weekend.  Hmmm, I guess Queen Elizabeth gets a few birthday cakes every year; she was actually born in April, plus she gets celebrated in Canada in May, and then again in the United States in June.  Man, that knowledge would be enough to make my six-year-old weep...just think of the gift-receiving potential if you had three birthdays every year.  I can hardly wait to tell Matthew about Victoria Day on Monday, and I'm guessing already what he's going to try to negotiate for himself.

What I have known about the Queen whose birthday we celebrate thus weekend is that her reign marked a period of time known as the Victorian era.  This period of time is actually near and dear to my heart, in that my first university degree was a bachelor of arts majoring in English literature.  I took several (many?) courses focused on Romantic, Victorian, and Edwardian literature.  I read much of the remarkable breadth and depth of literature produced during those years.  Though I've always been a reader, it was this literature that truly sparked and fanned the flames of my great love of the written word.  The living room that I am currently (slowly) transforming into a library in our home already boasts a few shelves dedicated to those beloved bits of literature that I kept.  After all, the Victorian era marked the great age of the English novel, in my view: realistic; thickly plotted; crowded with characters; full of drama, humour and plot storyline complications; and long.  Authors such as Dickens, Thackeray, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, Eliot, Hardy (oh, especially Hardy, whose entire collection of writings I own), Wilde, Kipling....these authors and so many others have been very important in my life...not to mention some of the poetry that came out of that time (Tennyson and Browning, to name two).

Other than the fact that I am eternally grateful for the modern fush-toilet and loose clothing, I perhaps should rightfully have been born into the Victorian or Edwardian era.  The Victorian era was such a time of social and economic transition after the Romantic era.  It was a time marked by moral purpose, idealism (somewhat faded after the romantics), as well as respectability and manners.  Really, aside from plumbing and straight-jacketing issues, what could have been better than being born in that time?  OK, now that's sounding remarkably idealistic...but see what I mean about belong there??  The truth is that I'm probably more than a little too outspoken to have felt comfortable during that time period.  I'm not sure I could have been as restrained as some of my favourite heroines, who were such strong and stoic women, devoted to making change through elegance, determination and quiet character.  By contrast, I'm a bit more of a blunt object!  No comments, Geoff.

Well, I guess we can't really say "Long Live the Queen" in relation to Queen Victoria...we'd be over a hundred years too late for that cry of acclamation.  But surely, given that her reign provided us not only with some of the greatest literature ever written, but also the first long weekend of every summer for most Canadians, surely - surely - we could offer a modicum of gratitude.

So, raise your glass with me and follow my lead:  Three Cheers for Queen Victoria...hip hip horray...hip hip horray...hip hip horray!  And, to all but our friends in NB, NS, PEI, Nfld and Labrador, a very happy long weekend!

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