Celebrating the queen’s WTF jubilee

Let’s start with basics: The queen in question is Elizabeth, and she’s been on the throne since 1066 or thereabouts. Surely that calls for a party, so here in Britain we’ve been handed a spare holiday, a dessert recipe so simple that can be prepared in two days by half a dozen trained snipers, and lots of encouragement to hold our own street parties, band concerts, and whatever else sets our suggestible little hearts a-racing. 

It’s not easy, if you live in Britain right now, to ignore all that, but I had planned to until I realized how gloriously parts of it could go wrong. 

Let’s start with Wincanton, in Somerset, which is holding the Wincanton Town Festival. That comes with a logo showing a be-jeweled crown on a purple background with, as Dorset Live puts it, “a diamond-encrusted WTF welded to the top.”

You know the acronym WTF: Wincanton Town Festival. 

If you want to attend a WTF Jubilee (even I will give that a capital letter) garden party, it’s on June 3 so you’ll have to either hurry or time travel, but I’m sure you’ll be welcome.

Nothing could be more British. Just try to keep a straight face.

*

English Heritage, which manages the Stonehenge site, is celebrating by projecting color images of the queen onto the stones. The effect is–

The word bizarre doesn’t begin to capture it. There stand these rough, prehistoric stones, in all their timeless majesty, and they’re being used as a screen to show photos of an old woman dressed in the colors of toy Easter chicks.

I’m not disparaging her for being an old woman, mind you. I’m not what you’d call young myself. But you won’t find me on an ancient monument dressed like an Easter chick.

But English Heritage is proud of their decision, and since nothing that happens really happens unless it’s on social media, they tweeted a photo, with the predictable results. And just to prove I don’t make this stuff up (who could?), here’s the tweet.

A few of my favorite comments are:

“Pointless, outdated, ancient monument to a bygone era. Projected onto Stonehenge.”

“Things Stonehenge and the Monarchy have in common? How the fuck did this get here?”

“Something ancient and now pointless that we keep under the guise of tourism, projected onto stone henge”

*

But we’re not done yet. Boris Johnson–he’s our prime minister when he finds time between parties–wants to celebrate by bringing back imperial measures. Or at least letting shops use them if they’re in the mood.

Oh, c’mon, you know what imperial measures are. Generations of schoolkids sacrificed (cumulatively speaking) months of their lives memorizing that a foot is 12 inches long, a yard is 3 feet, and a mile is 1760 yards. Also that a cup holds 10 ounces if you’re in Britain but 8 if you’re in the US, and that a quart holds 4 cups while a gallon hold 4 quarts. In either country, although the cups won’t be the same size, so why should anything that follows from them?

Mind you, those ounces that make up the cup aren’t the same ounces that go into a pound. They’re liquid ounces and a pound is a measure of weight, so it uses different ounces. Unless that pound is measuring money, which it does as a second job. It doesn’t use ounces for that at all–it drops them off at home when it stops in for a quick bite to eat.

In case all that business with 4 cups and 4 quarts made you think the number 4 is magical when you work with liquid measures, a pint holds two cups. You can’t rely on anything.

We won’t get into hogsheads and firkins and bushels and furlongs, but oh, we could, my friends, and we’d have such fun. Still, it would be irresponsible to move on without telling you that a hundredweight is made up of 112 pounds and a pennyweight is 12 grains.

So you can see why imperial measures are simpler, more logical, easier to understand, and all-around better than the metric system: They keep out the riff-raff and the numerically challenged.

But silly as it may seem, Johnson’s proposal’s done wonders for my stats. An old post on Britain’s halfhearted adoption of the metric system and on the old system(s) of measuring has attracted some ridiculous number of hits lately.

That’s ridiculous given the scale I work on. We’re talking about hundreds, not thousands. If you want to read about rods and furlongs and apple gallons and Cornish miles, it’s all there. And if you think the past was a simpler place, I recommend it.

*

What else happens dring the jubilee? Why, the queen’s jubilee-themed tree-planting program. This encourages people to plant a tree for the jubilee, which not only rhymes (if it hadn’t, what would they have come up with?) but is promoted as a way to reforest the country.

It’s been busted for having sponsors with links to deforestation. But in other countries. Ones with more forest. And less power. So that’s okay. 

According to a campaign group, the program’s platinum sponsors include McDonald’s, with beef linked to the deforestation of the Amazon, and the bank NatWest, with links to deforestation in Uruguay. And so forth.

Everyone involved says they have no links to deforestation or are committed to doing better or have planted a tree at midnight in a neighbor’s yard and we should all go mind our own business, thank you very much, so we’ll move on.

*

Because that’s not all the queen’s doing. She’s giving Britain eight new cities

No, not like that. She doesn’t build them herself. What she does is wave her magic feather over someplace that already exists and declare that what used to be a town is now a city. This doesn’t make it any larger, although some research suggests that it may make it richer, since (and I’m quoting the BBC here, which doesn’t explain the mix of singular and plural but does give me someone to blame it on) “it put them on the international map as a place to do business.” Presumably, businesses ask Lord Google about a place, find out it’s a city, and get so excited they’d push little old ladies out of the way in their rush to do business there. Even little old ladies dressed like Easter chicks.

Listen, don’t ask me. I’m not the one making the argument. The survey seems to be based on a sample of one, the former town/now a city of Perth (it’s in Scotland), which for all we know grew richer for other reasons. But never mind, we can’t rule out the queen’s magic feather.

I should mention, in case you don’t already know this, that in Britain a town doesn’t become a city by democratic consensus–you know, by people noticing how big it is and calling it a city. It happens by decree and has precious little to do with size. The smallest British city has 1,600 residents. For all I know, the queen could make herself a city. Or make you one. You wouldn’t be any larger, and neither would she.

 

But speaking of democracy…

…jackdaws decide when to leave the roost in the most democratic possible way. Each bird literally has a voice. 

In the winter, jackdaws roost together overnight, and in the morning they take to the air in a mass. When a bird thinks it’s time to leave, it calls out, and each call is a vote. The noise level and the speed at which it increases both influence the flock’s decision to take off. 

As many as 40,000 of them can roost–and lift off–together. They don’t care if you call it a city or not.

 

Will everyone who isn’t Banksy please stand up?

We’re still talking politics here. William Gannon, a town councillor in Pembroke Dock, Wales, resigned in an attempt to squish a rumor that he’s the anonymous street artist Banksy. The rumor, he believes, was started by someone who wants his seat on the town council and, he said, it was “undermining my ability to do the work. . . . [People were] asking me to prove who I am not and that’s almost impossible to do.”

Gannon is an artist and does make street art, which his website describes as “Banksy-esque, not intentionally,” but that’s not the same thing as him being Banksy, and to prove that he’s handing out buttons saying “I am NOT Banksy.” He wears one himself, but then, as many people have pointed out, that’s exactly the sort of thing Banksy would do.

You can’t win this game.

 

And in unrelated clashes with the law…

…a pair of herring gulls have nested on a police car in Dorset and can’t be moved off because they’re members of a protected species. The car’s out of use until the chicks fledge. In the meantime, the adult birds are helping the police with their inquiries.

 

This one stayed out of court, but…

…the Star Inn at Vogue, which is in Vogue, Cornwall and known locally as the Vogue, was threatened with a lawsuit by the owners of Vogue magazine for using its name. The pub owners found that hilarious and wrote back to say the pub had been in place, under that name, for hundreds of years.

“I presume,” Mark Graham wrote, “that at the time when you chose the name Vogue in the capitalised version you didn’t seek permission from the villagers of the real Vogue. I also presume that Madonna did not seek your permission to use the word Vogue (again the capitalised version) for her 1990s song of the same name.”

The magazine wrote back with an apology, which is now framed and on display.

 

And finally, leaving the UK behind

A year ago, a two-day promotion by a restaurant chain in Taiwan offered free sushi–on an all-you-can-eat basis–to anyone with the Chinese characters for salmon in their name, and also to the people they brought with them. That led 331 people to change their names. It doesn’t cost much, at least when compared to the price of a tableful of sushi. So the country suddenly acquired a bunch of people named things like Salmon Dream and Dancing Salmon. Some of them built a social media following on that basis. (There’s no explaining social media.) Others started small (and short-lived) businesses, charging people to go out for sushi with them. 

It was called Salmon chaos, and the government was not amused by the administrative cost of it all. 

Most people changed their names back as soon as the promotion ended, but a few got trapped, because the government only allows a person to change their name three times. Last I heard, the government was debating a change in the law, but in the meantime a few salmon were still trapped as salmon. 

50 thoughts on “Celebrating the queen’s WTF jubilee

  1. WTF? I think a Wintonian tongue is firmly stuck between the molars.
    Sorry, my mirthful tears have halted my reading somewhere around that henge…I’ll pop back later to see if things have settled down. WTF indeed…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You know the acronym‡ WTF: Wincanton Town Festival.

    I’m willing to bet that someone(s?) in Wincanton will be chuckling all the way to the festival, and patting themselves on the back for having pulled that one off. Brilliant!

    ‡ IMO that’s an initialism, not an acronym. Unfortunately TPTB at Wikipedia disagree with me (along with a great many others), even though the link they offer to ‘prove’ that their interpretation is correct quite clearly shows that they’ve cherry-picked the US-centric definition and sidelined the UK-centric one. But then, since we have a Pri’Minister who’s so bonkers that he can concoct ever-more ludicrous ways of distracting the public from realizing that he’s nuts and getting shot of him, who can blame them?

    There’s nowt so queer as folk.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I sincerely hope someone in Wincanton’s doing exactly what you said. The pain of not laughing about it too early is surely worth the reward of seeing that in public.

      I expect you’re right about what an acronym is and isn’t. Some faint warning light did come on in my brain, but it was faint and I ignored it. I was having too much fun. That’s the nice thing about having retired. I get to look at that sort of screw-up and thing, Nyeh, I was wrong. No big deal.

      As for our alleged prime minister and nowt being so queer as folk, that is at least appropriate for pride month–although he isn’t. He didn’t ask to join the club, but we wouldn’t have him if he did.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Hmm. Two characters, they said, and I’d assume they have to be in the right order. Otherwise I have no idea what they’d spell. But I’d love to see a list of all the salmon names people came up with: Raging Salmon? Salmon Confetti?

      Let’s stop me before I start taking that line of thought too seriously.

      Like

    • Oh, good. If you do I’ll offer to send a dishcloth and hope that makes up for it all. Or at least keeps your mind off lawsuits for long enough that you forget the offense.

      In that context, I shouldn’t say, “Glad I made you spill your tea”? should I?

      Like

  3. Oh, Ellen, even better than usual, if possible. And yes, I would always talk of hogsheads and firkins and those many scores of names for measurements. Here in US land we do use furlong and rod (chain and perch are pretty much forgotten). And then there are all the old words from the trades, from farming and building and sailing and pottery, and cooking and bookbinding and blacksmithing and everything working people have ever done. I enjoy your writing immensely. And humor. A love for words and an unassuming sense of humor that sometimes slides warmly over one’s brain and sometimes jumps out at one. (I use “one” as I think Elizabeth II hath.) I’d follow you anywhere. Well, except I was only in England once, long before you got there. So . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, if you ever get back this way (pandemic and the general insanity of the world allowing), let us know. We’d love to see you again. I should’ve really tossed the scruple into the conversation, because it’s much-forgotten (and very small) measure of I forget what, but a letter writer in one of the papers pointed out that re-introducing it to Downing Street wouldn’t be a bad idea. Damn, I thought. I wish I’d written that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “A pint’s a pound the world around.” My Mom (born in 1910) learned in school and taught me and I have used it for reference until now when you have fully confused me. And WTF is a tonne ?

    One of the major toilet paper manufacturers over here has ads touting how mnany trees they are planting to reforest the planet.

    Never mind Vogue…did Madonna contact the original Madonna for permission to use her name ?

    Hope all survive the Jubilee safely !

    Liked by 1 person

    • A pint of what weighs a pound? And since the US and old British pints are different sizes…

      Listen, I apologize for arguing with your mother, but we’re getting into deep water here. Lord Google led me to this: “The Imperial pint contains 20 British fluid oz equal to 28.413 ml each. The American pint, by contrast, contains 16 US fluid oz equal to 29.574 ml each. This makes the US fluid ounce 4% larger than the Imperial one. The Imperial pint is approximately 20% larger than the US pint.” That’s from what looks like a home brewing site and it has too many numbers for me to take away anything more than the knowledge that they can’t both weigh the same amount, no matter what you put in them, lead or feathers or orange juice.

      A tonne is a British ton. But because of all those extra letters, it weighs more: “In the US and Canada, a ton is equal to 20 hundredweight, which means it weighs 2000 pounds, or 907.185 kilograms. In the UK, confusingly, there are 112 pounds to the hundredweight, and therefore 2240 pounds (1016.047 kg) to the ton.”

      You can see why we should all go back to imperial measures.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A tonne, rather than just a “British ton”, is a metric unit of 1,000 kg. it only came in with metrication, and is now of course part of the global scientific standard of SI (System International) units. Engineers in the ’70s used to call it a “tunny” to distinguish it from the imperial ton…maybe still do.

        Sorry, I went all techy for a moment there. Let’s get back to the BS (British Silliness)… https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-61692278

        Liked by 2 people

        • That’s okay, we can be perfectly silly and still get it right, and I really should’ve checked. It’s always the things we think we know that bite us. Consider me bitten.

          Thanks.

          Like

    • Who could make that up? At least, who could make it up when sober? I’m glad I was able to get the photo to appear, since it clearly made a difference. My tech skills are less than impressive.

      Sorry about your wine.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Ellen,

    Thank you for an excellent post. The main qualification for being a city is having a cathedral and NOT having sided with an elected Parliament in the Civil war (the second one in the 1600s, not the third one in America) :-)

    Swindon has been forgiven, but Northampton still has not. Parliamentarians are still pretty safe living in the east of England as far north as the Humber. Huntingdon being the safest bet of all as the home of Oliver Cromwell. :-)

    Yours sincerely,
    Salmon Pink.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, pink fishly one. That’s a magnificent name you’ve got there. Want some sushi? You can have my share too. I hate sushi.

      I did some research a while back for a post on what makes a British city a city–not that I can find the damn post now, but it’s in here somewhere–and found (thank you, House of Commons) that it’s not necessarily about having a cathedral. Or, they add, a university. They discreetly don’t mention any civil wars–the relevant ones or the irrelevant one. You’re the first person who’s dropped that thought in my ear, and it’s so completely out-of-date and silly that it convinces me. Completely.

      Here’s the House of Commons Library link: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/what-makes-a-city/

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Radio 4’s More or Less did a fabulous (and hilarious) piece on imperial weights & measures – well worth a listen on catch up if you haven’t already. As for the rest of the government shenanigans on that front, I’m almost running out of words. However, it’s good to see the great British public haven’t run out of boos to greet him at St Pauls.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That was a cheerful sound, wasn’t it? I’m so sorry I missed Radio 4 on imperial measures–I expect it would’ve turned me into a hazardous driver (I usually listen when I’m driving). I never do seem to catch up with the catch-ups, no matter how good my intentions are, so I suspect that one’s down the drain as far as me hearing it is concerned, which is a pity but there’s no point in kidding myself.

      Liked by 1 person

    • There’s always room at WTF. Even though the in-person event’s ended, WTF goes on forever. And ever. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. (Damn, that’s hard to spell. I don’t have a lot of call for it in my line of work.) Halle-e-lujah.

      You’re right about the Peeps, now that you mention them. Why didn’t I think of that?

      I’ve been gone too long, that’s why. Also, I’ve always really hated marshmallow-y things or all descriptions, although I did once enjoy a Peep a co-worker had impaled on the bathroom ceiling, but that wasn’t enjoyment in the culinary sense.

      Like

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