Her Majesty Queen Victoria doesn’t look like a terribly good time. she’s got that forbidding gaze, the beak of a nose, the turned-down mouth that makes it shocking that she ever had to say, “We are not amused” aloud.  surely a glance at her dour visage would’ve scared the living snot out of whomever was perpetrating the offense in question.

but on this holiday weekend, i must acknowledge the debt that generations upon generations of young colonials  here in Canada owe to Her Royal Highness, the grumpopotamus.

this is what’s colloquially known as the May Two-Four ’round these parts, a bizarre amalgamation of two seemingly opposed stereotypes of Canadian society.  yes, we meekly fetishize the British royal family, our nominal heads of state; we like to think they make us cultured, and some of us are even under the delusion that those twee little commemorative royal visit knick-knacks look  charming in our foyers and bathrooms.

we also enjoy drinking beer in the woods until we vomit.

the May Two-Four allows us to do both.

for us colonials, Queen Victoria is really the alpha and the omega of the British royal family. indubitably, there were all those fancy divine right of kings people before her, all those Henrys and a crazy George or two and a bunch of wars fought over some drafty castles. we know that. we read, thank you very much. but Victoria was the monarch of Empire, the one whose holy-shit-i-think-she’s-gonna-live-forever reign made it evident to us, with its Crystal Palace and its Jubilees and all the fancy schmancy stuff we didn’t have over here in ye olde provinces, just how truly lucky we were to be pimples on the bum of jolly England, ever the motherland.  Canada came into its own as a nation under Queen Victoria, and like any adolescent, we secretly long to be just like the fusty old battle-axe who spanked us soundly in our infancy before setting us loose on the world.

thus, despite the fact that England actually has a different queen at the moment, and one who’s giving Victoria a run for her money in the bum-warming-the-throne records, nobody actually knows Elizabeth the II’s birthday. (well, except me. but that’s because Oscar happens to share it…with the Queen and Iggy Pop, as a matter of fact. auspicious. yet schizophrenic.)

but everybody know’s Victoria’s birthdate. it’s Victoria Day, statuatory holiday. she’s been dead over a hundred years and we still drink like swine in her honour every May.

i suspect it started with with her PR folks. i didn’t know the Victorians had PR folks, but apparently they did. no tv jingles for them, nor Breaking News updates, just…children’s rhymes. Victoria’s PR posse were the first to recognize that if you get ’em young, you’ve got ’em for life. them and six generations of their hapless colonial offspring. and if you can give them something to threaten their parents with, all the better.

The 24th of May is the Queen’s Birthday
And if we don’t get a holiday
We’ll all run away!

thank you, Queen Victoria, for this very first example of an entire generation holding its breath until it turned blue. blackmail works swimmingly, wouldn’t you say?

of course, the children today do get a holiday. and they don’t exactly run away. they just go camping for the weekend. which is braver than it sounds, given that it’s barely above freezing in much of Canada this time of year. but they bring lots and lots of alcohol with which to warm themselves, the brave little royalists.

it’s been a long time since i properly celebrated May Two-Four. and those years i did, i don’t seem to remember. something about a drive-in party and and trying to look hawt in a down vest and the terrible error of smoking cigarillos and waking up with my tongue literally stuck to the roof of my mouth.

but this weekend, in honour of Her Imposing Majesty, Dave and i took a bottle of decent wine and two puffy winter coats out into the backyard, and sat outside like the intrepid Canadians we are, drinking for Victoria Day.  we discussed yardwork, as is probably fitting for the May Two-Four celebrations of the middle-aged, and also got a wee bit tipsy. we’re not usually so patriotic, but some things are just bred in the bone.

so just in case you live outside the borders of this fine land and wondered what in the heck we do up here this time of year…now you know. thus endeth your social studies lesson for the day. you may go.

long live the Queen.