I'm not one for pomp and circumstance. Guidebooks I've consulted while visiting destinations from Monte Carlo to Hanoi have all called the local changing of the guard a "must-see."
So I go see, and find myself wondering just what exactly impressed the guidebook writer. I can understand the pride a parent would feel to watch his child among a group of 5-year-olds who can march and move in unison, but grown men? I don't get it.
Well, having now attended the naming ceremony for the Queen Mary 2, I get it. At least, some of it.
The hallmark of pomp and circumstance -- that everything takes longer than you would expect -- was certainly a part of the experience.
It was very important that everyone be seated before Queen Elizabeth II entered the hall, so that we could all stand when she arrived. We were given 30 minutes to walk the 100 yards or so from the ship to our seats, where we listened to The Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, Portsmouth, under the direction of a man whose name has four suffixes that look as random as Scrabble tiles (BA MMUS LRAM RM).
It was during the "display" of the band's Corps of Drums that I began to change my mind about grown men moving in coordinated fashion. It wasn't exactly a scene out of "Stomp," but there was a visual quality to their drumming, an entertaining precision, that got my attention.
The 13th song was "Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1," which seemed to indicate something momentous was about to take place and, sure enough, we were asked to "Please be upstanding" for the entrance of the queen and Prince Phillip.
I found myself craning my neck to get a good view -- the queen, recovering from surgery and slightly bent over a cane, was almost obscured by some very fancy hats.
After she was seated, I finally began to understand the true benefit of hanging out with the queen: Things may move slowly, but ultimately you get to see the finest musicians and singers in Britain make their best efforts to entertain her. The program was superlative.
My favorite moment, however, came later, just after the queen formally named the ship. The QM2's captain, Ronald Warwick, thanked her and, turning to the audience, asked the crowd to join him in "Three cheers for the queen." Americans hip-hip-hoorayed as enthusiastically as Brits hip-hip-hurrahed.
The ship arrives today in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., having completed her maiden voyage. If you're one of those in the area who have been invited to see her arrive, as you watch her come in, try to imagine the one part of the naming ceremony that actually took place on the ship: The queen's personal piper, recently retired, stood stock still in a heavy wind, his kilt ruffling but his manner steady, and played for her from the bow.
And if you're a big fan of pomp and circumstance, and inspired by such things -- well, I understand the position hasn't been filled yet.