Among the memories of those who lived through that dreadful April day so many years ago was the way the afternoon sunshine quickly descended into evening gloom. With darkness had come fog and a gentle mist that dampened the nation’s capital. A chill followed, an unwelcome surprise after the warmth of day. Then there was the moon. It appeared late on that Friday night, leaving the hours just after sunset dark and unusually dreary. It announced itself first in the silvered edges of clouds and then, unhurriedly, came fully, brightly into view. In the years after, more than one man swore that before the night was done, the moon had turned blood red. If true, it was a fitting banner over the events unfolding below.


In August of 1997, my Swiss roommate Romana and I dined al fresco under a pergola in an East Jerusalm hotel, a bower of grapes overhead as water babbled in a small fountain. It was a respite after four weeks of checkpoints: A suicide bomb had exploded in an open air market in July—the first in eighteen months, ending the restive but hopeful calm which captured the imagination of Israelis and Palestinians alike. The bomb ensured the full military closure of the Occupied Territories. It was also the definitive collapse of their nascent, tentative peace.

After two months living in the West Bank town of Birzeit, and one month of defying Israeli soldiers, cultural misunderstandings and witnessing true privation, we ate quietly.

We had shared these two months trying to sleep in our dingy room with bad electricity, mosquitoes, and packs of feral dogs outside our window who howled until dawn, when the Call to Prayer took over where the dogs left off.

We attended classes together on the empty Birzeit University campus, save for the fifty international students who remained there after Israel instated the complete military lockdown. Our Palestinian professors often traveled hours to and from the campus, finding ways around checkpoints, sneaking through farmers’ fields; or were hassled by teenage soldiers, who menaced and humiliated them from behind their Oakley sunglasses, machine guns at the ready and chips on their shoulders. All the Palestinian students were forced back to their home villages, postponing their education another month, two. Six.

We floated like ghosts through their dusty, abandoned campus.

Now we sat in East Jerusalem. The program was concluded. We were going home.

Our Palestinian friends could not leave. These were the terms of living in these few square miles of land: militant radicals wreaking havoc on their lives in an instant, calling down the wrath of the stronger, more well-equipped adversary. The stress of living under military shut-down was constant and non-negotiable.

A kitten sat at my feet, mewling.

I was going to see my own cat, in my own dingy apartment, which now seemed the epitome of Western excess with our second-hand furniture and motley set of chipped Ikea dishes. I absently pulled a piece of turkey from my sandwich and dropped it in the dust at my feet.

A pregnant cat leapt from a hiding spot and pounced on the kitten, hissing as she scarfed the meat. Then she climbed up my jeans, into my lap and onto the table while the kitten cried on the ground. She climbed onto my plate to steal the meat from my sandwich. I laughed, scraping the queen off of me, but she was hungry and I was an idiot. She scratched me with her claws, too desperate for the turkey to let me get between it and her unborn, hungry kittens.

The kitten mewled, the tender morsel of food so tantalizingly close and then stolen, while dining Palestinians politely turned away, noting the general foolishness of the Western tourist.

My roommate and I dropped shekels on the table and fled, laughing as we went, forced from the restaurant by hunger.

Here, even the cats were living under terms we didn’t understand.

As one of the few British writers at TNB I felt it was my duty to record the historic Royal Wedding for the site. It also helps that we have a Bank Holiday so we can all watch it, and that due to time difference I was able to sit through it without waking up at a ridiculously early time.

What I’ve done is record my observations as they popped into my head whilst watching the coverage on the BBC. Hopefully this will make you feel like you’re watching it with me… get out the good china and pour a hot cup of tea…

Woke up late— started watching just as Kate arrived. My first thoughts are: she looks very grown up, her eyebrows are quite thick, and she looks absolutely amazing. The phrase ‘lie back and think of England’ has never seemed more exciting…

 

A few clips of previous Royal Weddings. Kate is easily the most beautiful bride since the Queen married Phillip back in the 1950s. Incidentally the Queen has lent Kate a Cartier tiara from the 1930s…

 

Jesus, how long does it take to walk down an aisle? We could be done by now if they picked up the pace a bit…

 

The vows: William sounds like a posh actor whose name I can’t remember. This is the first time I’ve heard Kate speak— she’s terribly well spoken for a ‘commoner’…

 

Oh… is the ring going to fit?

 

Only just!

 

This is way better than when Charles and Camilla got married. Prince Harry is wearing more gold than Mr T and William looks like an ostentatious Thunderbird…

 

There are trees inside Westminster Abbey. Everyone is standing and facing the bride and groom. It looks almost exactly like the end of Star Wars.

 

A very young man is talking about good and evil. It sounds like a very posh pep talk…

 

There are far too many hymns. It feels like a Christmas service. I’m not actually sure if they’re married yet or not…

 

The Archbishop of London addressed William and Kate from a high vantage point and talks about setting the world on fire. This is questionable advice.

 

Oh, it’s a metaphor…

 

They’ve exchanged rings so they must be married, surely…

 

Was slightly disappointed no-one had a reason they couldn’t be married…

 

Is the Queen asleep?! She’s definitely asleep! In fairness she’s hosting the reception and there won’t be a time for a nap between now and then…

 

The Archbishop has started talking about starting a family… that’s got to be a bit awkward for Wills and Kate in front of al those people…

 

I’m sure he was expecting more of a response to that ‘Amen’… tough crowd…

 

Interesting selection of guests. William has invited David Beckham and Elton John whilst Kate has invited the Indian couple who run the Spar in her village…

 

A Holy man keeps begging for mercy… ah, the Lord’s Prayer. This is getting a bit sombre…

 

No response for the ‘amen’ again…

 

This is the first time I’ve heard Jerusalem outside of a sporting event. I fucking love Jerusalem.

 

Best. Fanfare. Ever… followed by an epic sweeping shot of Westminster Abbey as everyone launches into the National Anthem… This is fantastic!

God Save the Queen… It’s got be kind of weird for Kate Middleton… it’s her wedding day and everyone is singing a song about her (grand)mother-in-law…

 

They’re definitely married now. They’re going off to sign the register… it’s illegal to film it so everyone is just going to sing hymns until the come back…

 

Getting a montage of previous Royal wedding certificates… and they’re back!

 

There’s a wedding theme. It sounds very John Williams. Everything about this is awesome.

 

Prince Harry is terrible at walking slowly. He’s almost skulking…

 

The William and Kate— no, sorry, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge— step out to the sound of wedding bells. Lovely.

 

A carriage awaits— it’s from 1902 and I think it was the one the Queen used at her wedding…

 

A whole convoy of carriages going down the Mall… it’s like a slow motion chariot race…

 

They’re approaching the finish line… I think William and Kate might just win it…

 

They arrive to the sound of the National Anthem… it seems no-one knows what happens next…

 

The National Anthem plays again… Good lord, Princess Beatrice is wearing a giant pretzel for a hat!

 

 

Apparently it’s a whole hour before the traditional presentation of the bride and groom on the balcony… at least the Queen can sit down for a bit…

 

Now it’s just an hour of talking to people in the crowds… kids… Mexicans… Americans… Aussies… South Africans… but mostly people in plastic hats…

 

We have studio coverage. The historian Simon Schama is acting as a pundit. He liked the trees and the gothic vaulting…

 

Apparently there are five rooms in Buckingham Palace that can be opened up into one super-room. I wish I was rich…

 

There’s an announcement for anyone wanting to watch the snooker. Ding is playing Trump. Seriously.

 

The analysts are talking about the future of the monarchy whilst dancing around the phrase ‘she’s got to die eventually.’

 

An American girl has given one of the presenters her straw hat and is teaching him how to courtsey. This is lovely, they’re really enjoying this— no-one does this stuff better than us… Probably because we have the monopoly on gilded carriages…

 

There’s coverage from Kate Middleton’s home village of Bucklebury. There are about ten people there who didn’t get invited and they’re all incredibly fat.

 

There’s a sixty year old man wearing Kanye-esque shades!

 

Performance artists and incredibly camp Spaniards!

 

This wedding has everything!

 

The crowds marching on the Mall are pretty intimidating… they’re just flowing like water…

 

The place is packed like the front few rows of a Bon Jovi gig… I’m getting kind of bored now… Oh! Someone just peaked out of a window. Is it Princess Catherine?

 

No.

 

There’s going to be an RAF flyover in a minute. It doesn’t get any more British than this…

 

It was Harry at the window apparently…

 

The camera is now just fixed on the window and the shadowy figures behind the net curtains…

 

 

Here they come!

 

The Prince and Princess are on the balcony and waving. This is brilliant, the crowd love it!

 

The Queen looks sooo bored. There are some kids dressed like toy soldiers.

 

We’re still waiting for the traditional kiss…

 

There it is! It’s more of a peck on the cheek, but this is Britain after all… the crowd cheer regardless…

 

The BBC have a presenter in the Lancaster Bomber leading the flyover. There are all kinds of technical difficulties and the presenter looks like he’s about to throw up…

 

There’s a second kiss! A second cheer! The planes fly over right on time… magnificent…

 

A second wave of more modern fighter jets in tribute to Prince William who is a pilot himself…

 

They head back inside, but there might be an encore…

 

No, that’s it. It’s all over!

 

Y’know what? I think these kids are going to be alright…

The Jerusalem File

 

A late Southern writer used to lecture his students to “never compete with the camera.” Discuss.

The relationship between film and fiction is a complex one. If you happen to be a fiction writer, sooner or later, civilians will ask you when you are going to pen a screenplay (which is a little like asking a painter when he or she plans to take up sculpture). Still, the common engine of novels and movies is the simple act of storytelling, and the best examples are a cross-pollination of the two.