London Diary: Of Queen, Prez and pedigree

London will have its mayoral election on May 5.

Update: 2016-05-01 19:57 GMT
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (2nd L) and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (L) greet US President Barack Obama. (AFP)

What a fortnight it has been. The long awaited 90th birthday arrived and the newspapers, TV and social media were full of the marvellous lady who puts people 20 years younger than her to shame by bustling around. At a party of fellow 90-year-olds, they had the cake specially baked by Nadiya Hussain, the young woman of Bangladeshi origin who was the winner of the Great British Bake-Off 2015. US President Barack Obama arrived with wife Michelle in tow (it is impossible to keep up with the clothes these “fashion icons” wear, so I won’t even go there!) Then Mr Obama had a lunch with the Queen and an informal evening dinner with Kate and Will.

George was all ready for bed, in his monogrammed pyjamas but he got to ride the rocking horse the Obamas had given him. And the adults stood around and watched the feat. The excitement of having the President delay your bedtime can’t have been all bad. Prince Harry was the extra man at the dinner. But the Obamas have helped him launch a 40-second video via Twitter advertising the Invictus Games — the Olympics for disabled soldiers, which Harry has been promoting. The Queen also gets into the act in this video. Anything for a good cause!

And then onto Brexit. Mr Obama was also there helping out his friend David Cameron in the Battle of Britain 21st century style. He weighed into the Great Debate about whether Britain is in or out of Europe. He wanted Britain to stay in. People who advocate Brexit say that once the UK is out of the European Union, it will be free to negotiate free trade agreements with the US and others. Mr Obama poured cold water over this idea and told them that out of the EU and on its own, Britain would be at the back of the queue of countries wanting an agreement with the US.

This was the cue for Boris Johnson, the mop haired mayor of London to wade in. He is all for Brexit. He said Mr Obama was anti-British because he was half Kenyan and hated Churchill whose statue he had removed from the Oval Office. Not so said Mr Obama. He had installed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr without whose struggle a black man would never have made it to the White House. What was more he had moved Churchill’s bust to another place where he saw it every day even on weekends on his way to watch basketball on TV. As Mr Johnson himself was born in America and his ancestors migrated from Turkey, why was he worried about Mr Obama’s pedigree? Phew!

London will have its mayoral election on May 5. For the first time ever we have a Muslim candidate from the Labour Party. Sadiq Khan’s father arrived from Pakistan and worked hard as a bus driver. Mr Khan became a lawyer and later a member of Parliament and the first Muslim to attend the Cabinet. Zac Goldsmith the Conservative candidate belongs to a family of millionaires. His sister Jemima was married to Imran Khan. As a wag put it, the bus driver’s son is pitted against someone who has never had to ride a bus!

Lifestyle choices are changing. People, at least some of them, are being enticed by high value luxury goods. You can order a pizza which will cost you £30. You can have a hair dryer for £299 and sleep under a duvet of duck’s feathers hand-picked from Iceland for a mere £10,000. There are a small number of trainers made with a mix of most exotic animal skins — elephant, crocodile, alligator, ostrich, python, stingray, boa and calf skin available for £20,000. Armed with all those luxuries, you can even find love if you join an exclusive dating club online for just £25,000... Is anyone counting pennies anymore?

But as luxuries find abundant takers, the high street shops are shrinking. People are buying clothes and furniture, and even jewellery online. BHS, a high street department store, which has been a fixture for nearly a hundred years, has just gone bankrupt. It has changed hands many times. Sir Philip Green who is the glamorous owner of many such shops, and has fashion models crowd his many yachts, is one person who can give Vijay Mallya a run for his money in the glamour stakes. He had bought the store a while ago and then sold it for £1 only. It now turns out he and others have been asset stripping, leaving 11,000 workers with a precarious pension fund in deficit and no job prospects. Hope that’s not the style of the season, now.

The good news is that Indian wine is touching a new high. Marks & Spencer now feature Indian wines on their shelves. Sula’s “Jewel of Nashik” seems to be moving off the shelf quite swiftly. Apparently if you are eating the British national dish chicken tikka masala, the “Jewel of Nashik” will make it go down smoothly.



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