Current Events, Special Days and Historic Anniversaries Brought to Life by Teddy Bears, Pandas and Other Cuddly Creatures
Monthly Archives: June 2014

ARMED FORCES DAY

by Elspeth

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Today is Armed Forces Day and, this year, the official celebrations are being held in the city of Stirling.  Hundreds of veterans, serving personnel and cadets joined Princess Anne and the Prime Minister for a day of military demonstrations and events which began with a huge parade of services personnel – young and old – marching from Stirling Castle to the events grounds nearby.  The highlight of the packed timetable of events was a display by the legendary Red Arrows.

In 2009, the government decided to designate a special day to mark the contribution our armed forces personnel make to this country.  The Armed Forces Day initiative is a chance for the nation to show its support for our service men and women, whether veterans or still serving, especially those who are currently risking their lives overseas.  That first year various events and parades took place all over the country and Ayr’s contribution was a parade from the Low Green to the Town Hall which is now an annual event. 

In October 2007, the Help for Heroes charity was launched with the aim of helping and supporting wounded service men and women.  With the backing of celebrities and ordinary members of the public, an astonishing £74,539,493 has been raised to date.  What’s different about this amazing charity, whose mascot is Hero the bear, is that every £1 donated goes directly to help those wounded in the line of duty, the running costs being covered by the sale of Help for Heroes merchandise. 

This year, the Bears in the Windows were proud to welcome a new bear to their midst – a Hero bear sporting a colourful rugby jersey – and they all enjoyed a grandstand view of Ayr’s Armed Forces Day parade, which actually took place last Saturday, as it proceeded up Dalbear Road past our house. 

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GOOD LUCK, ANDY!

by Elspeth

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WIMBLEDON – A PLACE OF HOPE AND GLORY

by Elspeth

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Today is the first day of Wimbledon and, although every major tennis championship venue has its own unique characteristics, most players agree that there is nothing that can quite match the magic that is the All-England Club during Wimbledon fortnight. 

Immaculate grass courts, exquisite flower beds, freshly minted Pimm’s, strawberries and cream, Union Jack painted faces on Murray Mount, former champion John McEnroe’s languid New York vowels delighting in our British foibles, the inevitable rain interruptions, now a thing of the past on Centre Court at least, and the great British eccentricity of queuing overnight for tickets, combined with a ruthless organisational efficiency, are what make Wimbledon unlike any other tennis championship in the world.

Wimbledon is a place of hope and glory where many live out their fantasies, but only a few fulfil their dreams.  After his devastating defeat by Federer in the 2012 final, last year, watched by 17.8 million people, Andy Murray triumphed over Novak Djokovic, ending the 77-year wait for a British Men’s Singles champion and, more importantly, fulfilling his dream! 

This afternoon, Andy began his defence of the title to a standing ovation from Centre Court and The Bears in the Windows and I know he can do it again this year!  


THE QUEEN’S BATON RELAY COMES TO DALBEAR ROAD!

by Elspeth

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On 14th October 2010, HRH Prince Edward declared the XIX Commonwealth Games closed and, in accordance with tradition, called on the sportsmen and women of the Commonwealth to assemble in Glasgow in four years time to celebrate the XX Commonwealth Games.  At the time, it all seemed a long way off but, as the opening ceremony is now only a few short weeks away, Prince Edward’s words will soon become a reality.

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Last Saturday, the Queen’s Commonwealth baton, the equivalent of the Olympic torch, arrived in Scotland and set off on a tour of the country starting off in Edinburgh where it travelled on a tram and was given a 21 gun salute – well, the salute was really to mark the Queen’s official birthday! 

The baton arrived in Ayr today and, naturally, I wanted to mark the historic occasion.  A rabbit had the honour of carrying it along Dalbear Road, appropriately festooned with flags of the participating countries, where he passed it on to one of The Bears in the Windows, proudly dressed in patriotic blue and white!

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ROYAL HAT-SCOT!

by Elspeth

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Truly outlandish hats have long been associated with Royal Ascot, the practice dating back to the sartorially adventurous Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire, who created the three-foot hair tower, a style echoed at modern-day Ascot by the legendary Mrs. Gertrude Shilling, whose millinery masterpieces, created for her by her son David for more than thirty years, included a replica of the Eiffel Tower, a giraffe’s head and a Victorian poke bonnet the size of a small armchair.

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David Shilling himself is no retiring wallflower in the hat department and, three years ago, as a tribute to Royal Ascot’s 300th anniversary, he sported a traditional top hat decorated with two cocktail glasses, red white and blue balloons, a wad of bank notes and candles which spelt out Happy Birthday.  Last year, however, the milliner extraordinaire was evicted from the Royal Enclosure by the style police.  And his crime – he was wearing a hat decorated with flowers instead of the regulation topper!  It seems to me that he had a real case for sex discrimination as, amongst those who were allowed to remain inside the Royal Enclosure’s hallowed grounds were ladies wearing over-the-top creations including one which featured a fuchsia plant with dozens of blooms and another in the shape of an enormous silk rose, neither of which wouldn’t have looked out of place at Chelsea.

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Why a race meeting should encourage the British aristocracy and the rich and famous to dress so outrageously remains a mystery, but any sartorial excesses are tempered by the always-present Royal Family whose choice of pastel suits, modest headwear and sensible heels bring an aura of grown-up restraint to the proceedings. 

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However, even Her Majesty is not immune from people’s obsession with Ascot headwear and it’s become a tradition that bookmakers take bets on the colour of her hat.  Last year, on the Tuesday, they had made pink the 3-1 favourite but, when the Queen turned up wearing a peach outfit with matching hat, they decided to pay out on both peach and pink.  The following day, the passionate race-going monarch made further waves by wearing a mint green coat and a matching hat with pinkish-purple detailing.  As a result, dismayed bookies were forced to make a triple pay-out to punters who’d bet on Her Majesty wearing green, pink or purple!  Blue was the clear favourite for Ladies’ Day but, after a flurry of bets on grey and silver, betting was suspended by two major bookies.  As it turned out, they needn’t have worried as Her Majesty looked lovely in lilac!

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The Queen also made history last year when her horse Estimate claimed victory in the Gold Cup – the first time in the race’s 207 year history that it had been won by a reigning monarch.  The delight on Her Majesty’s face showed what a very special moment this was for her especially when her son, the Duke of York, presented his mother with the Gold Cup.

Competition for the most spectacular hat is fierce amongst The Bears in the Windows on Teddy Bears’ Day.  Hope you’ve enjoyed this selection of my favourites!    

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A SMASHING, POSITIVELY DASHING……….

by Elspeth

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I always associate Royal Ascot with the sensational monochrome costumes created by Cecil Beaton for the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady – the first West End show I saw as a child.  However, Beaton’s decision to go for black and white wasn’t just a touch of genius, but was actually inspired by 1910’s Black Ascot which took place soon after the death of King Edward VII.

Instead of cancelling the Royal meeting, it was decided it should go ahead but in full mourning which meant that race-goers had to exchange their proposed outfits for shades of obsidian, pitch and jet.  It seems that the Mayfair dressmakers worked overtime to make sure that the ladies looked a million dollars (or perhaps a million guineas would be more appropriate), when they were photographed for the new-fangled illustrated magazines.  The late King would, apparently, have loved it and it certainly put black firmly on the fashion map.

As you look at this group of marvellous, monochrome bears, I wonder, if like me, you’re expecting one of them to shout out, “C’mon Dover! Move yer bloomin’ arse!”, just as Eliza did in My Fair Lady, smashing her genteel demeanor to smithereens and horrifying the lords and ladies gathered at Britain’s most prestigious horse race!  

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EQUINE STARS AND GIGANTIC HATS!

by Elspeth

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A unique blend of equine stars, high fashion and gigantic hats is what makes Royal Ascot, which begins today, such a spectacular society event, one that is steeped in tradition and pageantry and is interwoven into the very fabric of British culture.  For many, this most British of social occasions, held each year during the third week of June, is simply about being seen, though racing pundits would argue that Royal Ascot has most definitely got something to do with horses!

It was in 1711 that Queen Anne first saw the potential for a racecourse at Ascot which, in those days, was called East Cote.  Whilst making her way across Crown lands from Windsor Castle to visit her kennels at Ascot, she came upon an area of open heath that looked, in her words, ‘ideal for horses to gallop at full stretch.’  Her whim quickly became fact and the first meeting took place on 11th August of that same year, the inaugural event being Her Majesty’s Plate, worth 100 guineas, open to any horse, mare or gelding over six years of age. 

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Each of the seven runners, all English hunters, had to carry a weight of 12 stones, rather different to the speedy thoroughbreds that race on the flat today.  Nor did the nature of the racing bear any resemblance to that of today, with that first race consisting of three separate heats, each four miles long – about the length of the Grand National.  Queen Anne’s gift to racing, the founding of Royal Ascot, is marked each year with the opening race being the Queen Anne Stakes.  Interestingly, though high fashion is synonymous with Royal Ascot, Queen Anne was the complete antithesis of a fashion icon – she was apparently so fat that she had to be buried in a square coffin! 

Queen Anne’s passion for horses and her interest in racing has been shared by every Royal Family since.  During George III’s reign Ascot grew in popularity and, in 1813, it was secured for all time as a racecourse by the Act of Enclosure.  George IV, the dandy of the Hanoverians, introduced the procession of open landau carriages to ferry himself and his guests from Windsor Castle. 

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No one was more passionate about racing than the late Queen Mother from whom our present Queen inherited her love of everything equine.  The sight of her open-topped, horse-drawn landau leading the Royal Procession down the racecourse is an eagerly awaited tradition of Royal Ascot.  However, though for many in the crowd, the focus is on the Queen, for her, the focus is always on the horses.  In fact, her racing manager believes that if she hadn’t been the Queen, she would have made a wonderful trainer as she has is so perceptive and has such an amazing affinity with horses.

Her Majesty’s passion for horses and flat racing long predates her accession to the throne as, apparently, the moment the young Princess Elizabeth touched a horse, she was hooked.  She has a particular fondness for Ascot as she used to ride it during Ascot week with her sister Princess Margaret before the punters arrived for the day’s racing so that she could check the going for herself.

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Despite way-out headwear being part of the Royal Ascot experience – you can read more about this tradition later in the week- there is a strict dress code for entry into the Royal Enclosure.  Ladies must wear formal day dresses with their shoulders covered, satins and sequins are frowned upon, ropes of family pearls are appropriate and low-heeled shoes a good idea.  A complete no-no are acrylic nails, halter necks, mini skirts, bare midriffs, off-the-shoulder dresses, visible zips, tattoos and piercings!  The form for men is that top hats, if worn, should be family heirlooms or of black antique silk from one particular shop in London, shirts should be pale, base colours, button down collars are discouraged, morning coats should be black and bespoke or pale grey and three-piece, though embroidered or comedic waistcoats should never be worn, and jewellery should be confined to a fob watch, family rings, cufflinks and tiepin!

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The Royal Box, the epicentre of the Ascot week, is remarkably small and holds only 50 people – those fortunate individuals who are Her Majesty’s house guests at Windsor Castle and lesser mortals invited for afternoon tea.  Served after the fourth race, tea is considered to be a high spot, although some have commented that the gold teaspoons look rather garish and the sandwiches usually have turned up corners even though they’ve been kept in the Queen’s favourite Tupperware boxes!  However, I have it on good authority that the iced coffee is very special! 

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This is the fourth time The Bears in the Windows have been ‘invited’ to Royal Ascot and, for the second year, there are two windows celebrating the race meeting which has established itself as a national institution and the ultimate stage for the best racehorses in the world.

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In one, I’ve recreated Sir Cecil Beaton’s stunning monochrome scene from My Fair Lady.  (More about that later in the week.)  Appropriately, all but one of my ‘lady’ race-going bears are pandas, all outlandishly attired in black and white.  In the other, ‘Queen’ is presenting the trophy to the winner of the Gold Cup, first run in 1807 and still the most important long distance horse race on the flat anywhere in the world.  The Gold Cup is, traditionally, the feature race of the third day of Royal Ascot, known as ‘Ladies’ Day’ or ‘Teddy Bears’ Day’, as The Bears in the Windows prefer to call it!  The champion jockey is ready to celebrate with a bottle of champagne, while his equine partner is enjoying some celebratory carrots as he watches the presentation just outside the Royal Enclosure.  On either side of Her Majesty, who’s dressed in a smart but restrained outfit with matching feather- trimmed straw hat, are two pairs of race-goers – the men, dapper in traditional morning dress, and the women, stylish in day dresses from the Grindlay label topped with flamboyant millinery creations Mrs. Shilling herself would have been proud to have worn!

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HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

by Elspeth

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Today is Father’s Day, celebrated on the third Sunday in June, a day when children of all ages show how much their fathers mean to them.

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The day’s origins can be traced back to 1909 when an American girl called Sonora Louise Smart Dodd came up with the idea of having a day dedicated to fathers.  After her mother died in childbirth, her own father, a veteran of the Civil War, had raised her and her five sisters on his own and so she wanted to show how much she appreciated what he had done for her though, sadly, he died before her dream was realised.

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On 19th June the following year, the people of her home town of Spokane in the state of Washington celebrated the very first Father’s Day. The popularity of a day set aside for spoiling your father received a boost when President Woodrow Wilson gave it his seal of approval, though it wasn’t until 1924 that President Calvin Coolidge declared it a yearly event in the United States.  It was about this time that we also began to celebrate Father’s Day in this country.

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Like so many other occasions, Father’s Day has become over-commercialised, with shops vying for the lucrative business of the nation’s children.  Statistics show that Father’s Day is the fifth most popular occasion for purchasing a greetings card – it’s estimated that a whopping 32 million will be sent by loving sons and daughters this year.  However, whether you’re the one buying the card or the one on the receiving end, you may not realise that the type of card chosen actually reveals a great deal about your relationship.

P1250094 - CopyFor example, receiving a traditional Father’s Day card, featuring a car or tools, means there’s a clear generation gap between you and your children.  While you secretly still see yourself as cool and cutting edge, they see you as the wearer of dodgy pullovers and corduroy trousers.  The good news is that they consider you to be ‘their rock’ and the important bringer of stability and order in their chaotic lives.  If you receive a ‘the greatest Dad in the world’ card, it means you’re clearly a sentimental old soul and will probably well up as you read the greeting.  However, beware as it also means your children know you’re a bit of a softie underneath all that ‘tough dad’ exterior and that they know just how to get their own way!   When it comes to deciding what to give your father, although the nation’s retailers try to persuade us that anything from a pair of slippers to the latest state-of-the art gadget makes the perfect gift, apparently, the most popular Father’s Day gift is a tie! 

Naturally, every year, the junior members of the Bears in the Windows family take the opportunity to show their fathers just how beary special they are and, in this year’s window, there are several proud father and child pairings, with ‘Super Daddy Panda’ the leading man!  As you can see, the bear cubs have bucked the trend and have given their lucky Daddy bears imaginative gifts like a model train and a bottle of malt whisky!

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THE QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY PARADE

by Elspeth

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Although The Queen was born on 21st April, today she celebrates her official birthday with the ceremonial Trooping the Colour or The Queen’s Birthday Parade as it’s also known. 

The tradition of the monarch having two birthdays began for practical reasons when Edward VII, who was born on 9th November, decided to mark his birthday publically in either May or June when fine weather was more likely.  As the birthdays of subsequent monarchs fell at convenient times of the year, there was no need for them to celebrate twice, but the tradition was revived by the Queen’s father, George VI, who was born on 14th December, with June being chosen as the most auspicious month.

Did you know that, like Her Majesty, Paddington Bear also has two birthdays? The reason why the mischievous, marmalade-munching bear from Peru celebrates twice is because he wasn’t sure how old he was when the Browns found him in Paddington Station and so they decided he should celebrate his birthday on 25th June and again on 25th December.

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While the Queen usually spends her actual birthday away from the public eye, her official birthday is celebrated in style with Trooping the Colour, a military ceremony dating back to the early eighteenth century when the colours (flags) of the battalion were carried (or trooped) down the ranks so that they could be seen and recognised by the soldiers.  Since 1748, this parade has also marked the Sovereign’s official birthday and, from the reign of Edward VII onwards, the Sovereign has taken the salute in person.

Nowadays, Trooping the Colour is carried out by fully trained and operational troops from the Household Division (Foot Guards and Household Cavalry) on Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall, watched by members of the Royal Family, invited guests and members of the public.  The Queen has attended her Birthday Parade every year of her reign, apart from 1955 when the event was cancelled because of a national rail strike.  As a keen horsewoman, Her Majesty rode to Horse Guards Parade until 1986 when she made her last mounted appearance on her beloved horse, Burmese.  Since then, she has, I suspect rather reluctantly, travelled in a phaeton because, aged 88, she still rides regularly in private.  

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During the ceremony Her Majesty is greeted by a royal salute and carries out an inspection of the troops – this year, it’s the turn of the Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards .  However, for her, this isn’t simply another ceremonial duty she has to perform as the Queen actually has a vast knowledge of the attributes of her guardsmen, apparently singling out ‘steadiness’ as a highly prized quality.  After the massed bands have performed a musical troop, the escorted Regimental Colour is carried down the ranks.  The Queen then rides in a carriage back to Buckingham Palace at the head of her Guards where she joins other members of the Royal Family on the balcony for a fly-past by the RAF.

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If you’re not lucky enough to get tickets for The Queen’s Birthday Parade, there are two other opportunities to witness one of London’s most spectacular traditions.  The first dress rehearsal, The Major General’s Review, takes place in Horse Guards Parade two weeks before the main event and a second, The Colonel’s Review, one week before.

Last year’s ceremony was marred because Prince Philip was in hospital.  His presence must have been sorely missed by the Queen who has had her husband by her side every year for the last sixty years, apart from on two occasions when he was on official visits overseas.  It fell to the Duke of Kent, cousin of both Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, to escort the Queen but, as soon as the proceedings were over, Her Majesty visited Prince Philip in hospital.  Although he celebrated his 93rd birthday earlier in the week, the Duke of Edinburgh is as busy as ever and is expected to be in Horse Guards today.  

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Four years ago, The Bears in the Windows decided to have their own Trooping the Colour, a tradition they enjoyed so much that they’ve held one every year since.  This year, the Queen bear, is taking the royal salute, flanked by an ursine Duke of Edinburgh, smartly dress in his guard’s uniform complete with bearskin, and a soldier from the Bearhold Cavalry, whose mount looks as if it’s about to collapse under his weight!  You may also have spotted a riderless horse, a retired veteran of Trooping the Colour, who’s now happy just to sit back and watch the spectacular event instead of having to worry that he might have four left hooves!  Each year, The Bears in the Windows keep hoping that they’ll be in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for making humans smile but, once again, they were disappointed!  

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 TROOPING THE COLOUR 2014


THANK YOU

by Elspeth

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