Science & Tech 13 July 2007 Royals and dope smoking etiquette Advice on meeting the queen, meeting foreigners and meeting your past... Print HTML Dear Marina I am a young Arab male who has recently moved here from Iran to study, and I cannot tell if the UK is progressive and open-minded due to all the talk on multiculturalism, or if they are prejudiced and nationalistic and afraid of change. Does Britain welcome me earnestly or begrudgingly? Omid, London At a guess I’d say you are not at all welcome. However hard you study, however useful your skills base, the fact is, you’re not from round these parts, are you? As a guest in a country where people from neighbouring villages treat each other with deep suspicion you’re up against it I’m afraid. The Prime Minister’s from Scotland and that’s pushing it for many south of the border. But Iran? Blimey – they eat babies don’t they? Once we start bombing your people it should become clearer to you. No doubt you’ll be rounded up with your fellow Iranians for incarceration leaving you in little doubt as to the true multiculturalism of this once great empire! Multiculturalism by the way, refers to the fact that Britain is an island populated by people from all over the place. There is nothing inherent in the reference that suggests we actively enjoy each other’s company. But hey, the Brits are a complex bunch. They will happily berate the fact that foreigners over running the place while queuing for a takeaway chicken madras without feeling the slightest bit ironic. No wonder you’re confused: so are we! Dear Marina I’ve been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. As a republican I am loath to curtsey or address a fellow human being as “Your Majesty”. What should I do if presented to the Queen. Liz, Lewes. PS: Would it be disrespectful to smoke a spliff in the grounds. I myself faced a similar dilemma just this week. Pulled from a crowd of 8,000 guests to meet the monarch was a surprise and to be honest I’d not given it as much thought as you have. So I had to think on my feet. Last time I met royalty I stood in line next to Norman Baker MP as Camilla approached. “Are you intending to curtsey?” he enquired. “What do you think?” I replied. We both made do with a nod of the head. So as the Queen approached myself and my friend whispered in agreement: “We won’t curtsey, we won’t.” Whatever the Lord Chamberlain recommends – a quick jerk of the knee, as it happens - they can’t MAKE you cowtow. As it happens the curtsey bit takes care of itself. She’s so tiny one has to stoop in order to shake hands and that kind of passes as a curtsey if you’re quick about it. I was much more concerned at the state of my hands. I’d just snaffled a cutting from her herbaceous borders and the royal dirt was clinging to my fingernails. But you can’t keep them behind your back when the regal glove is coming at you. Said dirt transferred and I can only assume a footman was later dispatched to remove them to the royal laundry basket. She was surprisingly good company – we had a lively conversation covering gardening – she’s given it up but was most impressed with my muscles (from digging) - finding strength to go out and meet people when what you really desire is a duvet day and the need for her generation to get involved with the revolution. Expect the Queen to launch her own brand of community action against climate change soon. And we didn’t use Your Majesty or Ma’am (to rhyme with spam) once. Oops! In short, while the minions that surround her seem to seriously believe we are not all equal, the Queen is well up for getting down with the people. I feel she drew great strength from our meeting. At least now she knows that while her government does nothing, her people care about the unsustainability of current lifestyle choices and some of us are actively trying to do something about it. As for toking, I did notice a discreet sign just inside the grand entrance stating that it is against the law to smoke at Buckingham Palace. But it’s a big garden and if you skin up behind your hat, you will, like countless others before you probably get away with it. Indeed a quick toke might get you relaxed enough to enjoy dispensing with formalities. The revolution, is, after all, ON. And should you get an attack of the munchies, I recommend the Victoria sponge. It certainly worked for me. Dear Marina, Are you on Facebook and why do you think it's so popular? I'm finding it irritating everyone going on about it the whole time. Don't you think it's a bit sad, are we all living in the past or just plain nosey? Thanks Orlando Jones Birmingham I recently tried to join Facebook and attempted to fill in details about the festival I’m organizing for September. That’s Out of the Ordinary (www.outoftheordinaryfestival.com) a community event designed to help us to engage with the landscape and do something about climate change. It’s going to be fun. I’m especially delighted with the response from the black community who don’t generally tend to get involved with such events, unless they’re onstage drumming, as a rule. A multicultural festival indeed. The preparations are going well – but we do need to sell more tickets to balance the budget – hence me trying to use Facebook. But I couldn’t work it out. I know Ming Campbell is very trendy and loves his Facebook, having more friends than any other political leader. But me, I just can’t keep up with this newfangled communications tool. Perhaps that’s why he’s leader and I’m a disenchanted town councillor. As I have no idea really what Facebook is all about I can’t say what motivates users. Perhaps it signals the isolation in which individuals find themselves living in this ironically titled age of communication. Do please send a carrier pigeon if you work it out first. › Don't mention Alastair Campbell Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children. Why not e-mail your problems to email@example.com? Subscribe More Related articles Theresa May means what she says, which is why there will be no early general election A new German law wants to force mothers to reveal their child’s biological father Can emojis win elections?