Former President Ronald Reagan has finally arrived at the top.
Through the good graces of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth II, our former president is now an honorary "Sir," a knight of the royal "Order of Bath" - a prestigious title.Although Reagan was not required to bathe before the ceremony, early traditions indicate that a man receiving knighthood was required to bathe prior to the ceremony so as to have a clean body, along with a clean soul. Hence, the "Order of Bath."
While touring through Westminster Abbey in London this winter, I was told by our tour guide, Carolyn, that in the "good ole days" it almost took a royal order before any subject of the crown would bathe. In fact, Queen Elizabeth I was known to be exceptionally clean and, according to Carolyn, Elizabeth bathed only eight times a year.
A charming tradition, bathing, and I for one am glad that it caught on. However, there are other English customs and traditions that the colonies haven't grasped onto yet as far as I know.
For instance, the English have acquired the ability to hop on and off double decker buses while the vehicle is in motion. I believe this reflex has been inbred during the past two or three generations. I certainly didn't have the knack.
While shopping on London's famous Oxford Street, my sister, Martha, and I decided to catch a bus. The bus slowed to a roll and my Yankee mentality told me it was safe to get on. As I did, the bus picked up speed.
By the time my sister tried to get on the bus, it was going at a pretty good clip. She, being very sensible, let go. I, on the other hand, feeling we should not be separated, jumped. I must mention here that the London buses stop about every 20 feet and Martha naturally assumed I would just get off at the next stop. I didn't assume anything.
As I lay on the cold London cement, I remember two things happening; a police constable looked down at me and asked "are you all right?" I said "yes," he said "awright then," stepped over me and walked away. Then my sister began laughing when she realized I was fine and hadn't hit the big concrete planter that sat 4 inches from my face.
Customs and traditions are a very important part of the British lifestyle. People still feed the birds at St. Paul's Cathedral, eat fish and chips, ride horses on Rotten Row in Hyde Park and still refer to Mrs. Wallis Simpson as "that divorcee" who caused Edward VIII to abdicate the throne.
While riding through the city of Old London, I saw yet another tradition.
Every day of every month, of every year, for more than 300 years the horse guard has performed a "Changing of the Guard" ceremony. The problem is they aren't guarding anything. More than 300 years ago, the royal residence that the troops guarded burned down, all except the horse guard's quarters and horse stables. But ever faithful, they continue to guard the grounds in a constant, if fruitless, vigil.
Don't get the wrong idea. I loved London and all the parts of England I was in. Some of the most beautiful scenery and fascinating history in the world is found in Britain. The people are friendly and I certainly felt welcome. But some of their customs I just couldn't get used to.
The English are very proper people and expect assignments to be carried out in a proper fashion. For instance, new customs have been implemented at Heathrow Airport to guard against possible danger.
While preparing to embark on the plane home, our bags were hand-checked at least three times, which was fine. Then we were led to a large waiting room and were told we would be taken to buses that would take us to our plane.
Finally the call came and we boarded the buses, only to be taken no more than 50 feet across the tarmac to the plane. A very unnecessary ritual, but it was carried out in the customary manner.
I suspect we colonists have some strange customs of our own, but tonight as I slide down into my bathtub full of Mr. Bubble, I will be thinking about knights in shinning armor, Queen Elizabeth I, and how grateful I am that customs and traditions sometimes do change.