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Fit for a banquet?

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By Rosalba O’Brien

I’ll tell the truth. When I went to preview tonight’s royal banquet at Britain’s Buckingham Palace, being held as part of the pomp accompanying the state visit of the Mexican president Felipe Calderon, I expected to be writing something on the lines of ‘Credit crunch? What credit crunch?’ – not for the global aristocracy, diplomatic corps and oil company bosses in attendance.

The truth, however, is something rather more ordinary.

Sure, the banquet room is lavish enough, with its giant bouquets, golden tableware, classical carvings and gilded ceiling. It’s certainly a bit bigger than my living room, what with the military band on the mezzanine and all.

But it’s not really so different from a bit of a knees up at the Dog and Duck. The food – pan fried halibut, medallions of beef, beans and potatoes and charlotte made with Balmoral redcurrants – would not look out of place on a pub’s Sunday dinner menu, royal estate fruit not withstanding.
The chairs may have had a lick of gold paint but they look as hard and uncomfortable as any canteen seating; Prince Charles has a red velvet cushion on his seat for his bad back.
A familiar sound drowns out the rehearsing pipers. It’s one of the royal staff, giving the dining room a final whip round with the hoover before dinner.

Preview over, the press corps is hustled back down fluorescent-lit stairwells and out to a functionary ante-room with the same portraits of the royals you see in hospitals and police stations. Back to our lives – that suddenly don’t seem so ordinary.

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