Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

So Much for Buckingham ~ by Edward Petherbridge.



On Tuesday the 7th of July the heaviest downpours since records began in 1865 swamped the south of England, including the first Royal Garden Party of the year at Buckingham Palace.  One of the guests was Edward Petherbridge, who felt moved to record the event in verse for us.  (We may need to have a quick whip round to bail him out in due course …).



Oo :~~~


So Much for Buckingham.

Royal Garden Party, 7th July ‘09.


Lollipop ladies and ex-district nurses
Trying on hats and rehearsing their curtseys
Captains of industry right at the helm
Of this leaky old hulk which is known as The Realm

Your morning suit suits you, but Darling make haste
My dress needs an inch let out here at the waist
This tie’s made of silk, I’m assured it’s top grade
What possessed you to buy one in such a louche shade?

For God’s sake let’s leave, we just couldn’t be later
Oh wear your old hat not your new fascinator
That needed a dry clean and not just a press
You might meet The Queen and you can’t look a mess.

Coiffed, preened and painted, the Palace approached
The Queen’s hospitality has to be broached
First is the sight of the railings and gates
Umbrellas, the queue and the first of the waits

Long to rain over us, just half an hour
Is the time that it takes us to weather the shower
We dry in the ante-rooms, mute and in line
At last we emerge and the day has turned fine

Mayors in regalia, linked to Mayoresses
The pathos of paunches and chains and best dresses
Clerics in purple, in black and in grey
All sober in sunshine, but some must be gay

Straight-faced the couples roam over the grass
Looking askance as the other guests pass
No one to talk to – a fête without joy
Civilians, soldiers, we’re mere hoi polloi

No one to greet, introduce us – adrift
At the heart of this Royal event there’s a rift
Over a fence there’s a smart inner sanctum
Protected from pond life, anonymous plankton

There, there is banter and networking, bent
Upon issues of State – the exclusive tent
Where the couture is haute and you don’t have to queue
For your cucumber sandwich, because you are you.

We, we are pliant, we line up, we wait
For our tea and our cakes; combined saucer and plate
We notice a vicar whose plate’s so piled up
That the saucer part’s crammed too and won’t take the cup

We try not to judge, we don’t sermonize
It’s a party let’s face it, let’s all gormandize
My cucumber sandwich is tea soaked I fear
Oh what a long walk, there’s a plastic seat here

And at last someone smiles, shakes hands, says hello
In Royal admiration he tells us, ‘I know,
Just under that big spreading chestnut tree,
That song was once sung by The Royal Family

It was captured on film when the Queen was a child’
By gossamer greys we are being beguiled
Superimposed on the present’s lush green
They flash on the inward eye’s cinema screen

But grey lies in wait for us, did we but know
Marshals its forces above this Royal show
Above the small figure in ultramarine
Who chats with the chosen; HM The Queen

Corralled blood stock Royal, surrounded six deep,
Craning our necks in case she might speak
Over the fence in a walkabout mode
To sample vox pop, but the heavens unload

The just and the unjust all helter-skelter
Make for the tea tents in search of some shelter
It’s all very well for the corps diplomatic
For us the provision is sparse and erratic
The tea party’s mad – no room – no room
The tea tent is crammed in the gathering gloom
Lightning, thunder, hailstones like peas
We share our umbrella – it’s not going to ease …
The Lord Chamberlain, well he can’t censor this
Sans any blessing, The Lord’s said ‘dismiss’
Now this is not funny – it’s more than a nuisance
Some dresses acquire revealing translucence
However we cower, wherever we huddle
It ends: not with God Save the Queen but a puddle.


Oo :~~~


© Edward Petherbridge.  2009.

(The photograph of the official Garden Party invitation is courtesy of twentyquestions on Flickr and is reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.)

9 comments on “So Much for Buckingham ~ by Edward Petherbridge.

  1. annebrooke
    July 19, 2009

    Oh, fabulous! An occasion to remember indeed.



  2. WendyFried
    July 19, 2009

    Really enjoyed that! I read about it in the papers and had to smile. Terrific poem. Thank you, Mr P!

  3. gordon21
    July 20, 2009

    Bravissimo! That was wonderful! Thank you very much Mr Petherbridge for providing it and Vulpes Libres for carrying it!

  4. Moira
    July 20, 2009

    I just laughed myself silly when I read this. Partly schadenfreude, of course … but also partly because it’s just so beautifully observed … and very human.

  5. Christine
    July 20, 2009

    I very much enjoyed the poem!

    “Now this is not funny – it’s more than a nuisance
    Some dresses acquire revealing translucence”

    – truly a laugh out loud couplet.

    Don’t think I would have enjoyed the garden party, as described, with or without the rain. Though the storm appears to have had a levelling effect.

  6. petherbridge
    July 20, 2009

    Well there were three levels; my daughter and I were on the lowest level, under a tree with an inadequate umbrella – she got a hail stone down her bosom and couldn’t of course even save it as a memento; next up were the lucky ones like sardines in the tea tent. The top level was the Diplomatic and the Royal tea tents where as far as one could see over the considerable distance and in bad visibility, everything seemed very civilized and all were ‘safely gathered in’ as the hymn goes. E.P.

  7. Marian Q
    July 20, 2009

    You have a unique way with words Mr P.

  8. Phyllis L H
    August 28, 2009

    Edward, What a marvelous poem! I feel like I was there although I was safe at home in Massachusetts. We all wonder how the other half lives. You have surely captured the essence of the event for us common folk. And you know, I don’t mind having missed it one bit. Phyllis

  9. TB
    September 18, 2010

    Brilliant poem!

    My Father and my Boss, both from separate organisations, attended this event. One was sheltering under a tree with a childish dislike for rain and the other in a tent…

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This entry was posted on July 19, 2009 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .



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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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