You probably don't have a free moment this weekend: You're flying to the West Coast to greet the Queen and Prince Philip, dining aboard the royal yacht Britannia, donning white tie for the state dinner in San Francisco, then whirlybirding over to Palm Springs for still another royal gala.
What? Your invitations got lost in the mail? Well, keep a stiff upper lip. While the royals are soaking up California sunshine with a capital $, you can soak up English culture -- right here in town. To get into the proper mood, tape some wax paper on your windows. Now that you've got a proper English view, join us for a tour of Washington-on- Thames. Your guide and arbiter of what's proper is Major George Bridge, Member of the British Empire, here on a visit to a daughter who married a colonial. Major Bridge, who spent much of his life serving the Empire in such far- flung posts as Quetta and Rangoon, is a connoisseur of things English in such remote outposts as ours. Here are some local Things British bearing his stamp of approval. KIPPERS, NOT CORNFLAKES -- "Normally, my batwoman in the mess knocks me up with a cup of tea and later there's breakfast downstairs -- eggs, bacon, kedgeree, grilled kippers, kidneys, mushrooms," says Major Bridge. Even if you lack a batwoman to knock you up, the makings of a proper British breakfast are at hand. Kippers and finnan haddie -- the main ingredient of kedgeree -- are available at Cannon's Seafood in Georgetown and at the Southern Maryland Seafood Company in Eastern Market. If you can wait a while and don't want to fix it yourself, the Henley Park Hotel, opening March 21 in a restored Tudor-style apartment building at 10th and Massachusetts NW, promises "a decidedly British air," including an English breakfast. To eat it in proper style, book the Ambassador Suite the night before -- it's a copy, awash in chintz, of a bedroom in the newly redecorated British embassy. INSTANT VILLAGE -- Time was when rich Yanks were buying up castles and shipping them home. London Bridge ended up in Arizona. Now, despite the shrinking dollar, you can import an entire English village complete with thatched cottages, greengrocer and small church. It's called Whimsy-on-Why and, in line with today's shrinking expectations, it's a miniature, in porcelain. Individual pieces sell for $7.50 to $20 at the Folger Shakespeare Library shop. ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE -- But England's -- and the English-speaking world's -- prime playwright staged his plays in a theater called The Globe. Closest thing to it here is the Folger Theater, where you can soak up the Elizabethan setting as well as what's on stage. Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer" ends Sunday and John Dryden's "Marriage a la Mode" begins March 8. In the Great Hall adjacent to the theater there are poetry readings, concerts, an exact replica of The Globe and a splendid example of an Elizabethan strapwork plaster ceiling. WE GOTTA REGATTA -- It may not be Henley, but it's a royal good time. The Queen's Cup Regatta, in which canoes proceed at a stately pace from the Thompson Boat Center to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, is held around the third weekend in June to celebrate the Queen's Birthday. HRM's birthday is really in April, but June is a better time for regattas, garden parties and the like. For details, call 234-4602. WASHINGTON'S GREAT BENEFACTOR was an English -- well, illegitimate son. James Smithson was the acknowledged but natural son of the Duke of Northumberland. Under his mother's name, Macie, he matriculated at Oxford, then became a gentleman scientist. His gift to us colonials, a nation of illegitimates so to speak, became the Smithsonian Institution. He died in Genoa in 1829, but in 1904 his remains were transfered to a very dignified crypt just inside the front door of the Smithsonian Castle, where there's also a mini-museum detailing his life. STICKY WICKET -- Cricket in West Potomac Park is as much a part of the Washington summer as tourists and heat. While you're waiting for the games to start, brush up on the rules. Major Bridge explains the game: "You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's on the side that's in goes out, and when he's out, he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. When they're all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out. When both sides have been in and out, including the not outs, that's the end of the game." GONDOLAS AND ALL THAT -- Just like Charles and Sebastian in "Brideshead Revisted," every upper-class Englishman visits Venice sooner or later. You can see the same ethereal city in a series of paintings by J.M.W. Turner at the National Gallery of Art. The British collection is a quiet repository of pastoral scenes and aristocratic portraits. Popular paintings include John Constable's "Salisbury Cathedral" and Thomas Gainsborough's "Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan." HEADS DOWN! -- Rugby, a precursor of our own football, was first played at Rugby School in England. If you want to see this original version of football, you don't have to book a seat on the Concorde. The Washington Rugby Club kicks off (to use a Yank expression) its season March 5 at 1:30 in Kenilworth Park, here in the District, against White Plains. Spectators are always welcome, as are new players. To join up, call 821-7973. There's also a Northern Virginia Club (671-1162), a Northern Virginia Women's Club (765-3496)and a Washington Women's Club (234-0697), Club Sudamericano (671-1162) and the Washington Irish Club (524-8126). TRAFALGAR SQUARE WEST -- On a corner of London's Trafalgar Square sits the Church of St. Martin's-in-the- Fields, built in 1721 byya proteg,e of Sir Christopher Wren. This archetypal English church was widely imitated and our own version, All Souls' Church, was built in 1921 at 16th and Harvard streets NW. There are a few concessions to local circumstances: Native red brick has been substituted for some of the original limestone in the nave, and the Anglican lion and unicorn that hung over the original porch are missing -- perhaps because the church is Unitarian. A TYPICAL TIFFIN -- that's lunch to you -- may be enjoyed at the Piccadilly Restaurant, 5510 Connecticut Avenue NW. Start with a sherry or a pink gin ("The English don't drink whisky at noon, only at night," cautions Major Bridge). Then on to pickled herring, cock-a-leekie soup, shepherd's pie, steak-and-kidney pie, lamb kidneys, double mutton chops, beef bangers or fish and chips. For dessert, rush into gooseberry fool or stick with sensible old cheddar cheese and cream crackers. The atmosphere is heavy with hunting horns, hunt prints and suits of armor. For those who like to eat in, popular British dishes will be on view and for sale, now through March 6 at Someplace Special, Giant Food's Gourmet store at 1445 Chain Bridge Road in McLean. Cooking demonstrations, take- home treats and British food products are all featured in their "Great Tastes of Britain" food festival. (DIS)HARMONY IN BLUE AND GOLD -- It may be the most beautiful dining room in Washington, but it strained the Anglo-American alliance. It all began when James McNeill Whistler, who had left his mother home in America and was painting in England, did a portrait of the Greek consul's daughter in a Japanese-style robe. He signed his name too big and too close to the subject's head to suit her father, who refused to pay for the painting. A wealthy English busine and several drunken parties -- led to another, and when he returned the leather walls were blue and strewn with a gold peacock-feather motif, and the walnut shelves -- built to house Leyland's collection of blue-and-white Chinese porcelain -- were gilded. Leyland hit the ceiling -- also strewn with peacock feathers -- and refused to pay Whistler the promised 2,000 gold guineas. Instead, he paid him 1,000 in pounds sterling -- like a tradesman. Whistler got even by sneaking back and filling one wall with a proud peacock whose feathers are filled with gold coins. American railroad magnate Charles Freer bought the whole room at auction and had it moved first to his Michigan home, then to the Freer Gallery. For a Whistler retrospective in 1984, the museum hopes to fill the room with the original dining table and other furnishings. AN ENGLISH COUNTRY WEEKEND -- On weekends (accent on the second syllable), le tout London deserts for house parties at English country houses. British architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, who designed many of the great country houses of England, also designed the British embassy here on Massachusetts Avenue, which looks like an English country house in the city. Unfortunately, it's not open to visitors. But Washingtonians have their own version of an English country house -- Dumbarton Oaks. Wander through the acres of lawns and gardens, look up at the mansion and pretend you're a guest. There's a small charge to enter the gardens beginning in April, but now it's all free. Enter through the 31st and R NW gate any day except national holidays, from 2 to 5. IT'S TEA TIME -- Every afternoon from 3 to 4:30 in the Garden Terrace of the Four Seasons Hotel, there are finger sandwiches, scones with Devon cream and strawberry preserves, fruit tartlets and, of course, pots of tea: English Breakfast, Oolong, Queen Mary, Earl Grey, Orange Pekoe, Natural Herb or Darjeeling. "I remember the Planters Club in Darjeeling," reminisced Major Bridge over a pot of Darjeeling. "You could look out the windows at snow-capped Kachenjanga . . ." The Garden Terrace looks out on a power plant and a highway, but don't look out. Look around at the flowered chintz sofas, the flowered china teacups and the lush plants. Reminisce and remember not to call what you're having High Tea -- that's actually a light supper popular among the working classes. If you want to enjoy afternoon tea at home, you can buy scones at the Loch Lomond Bakery (2500 East University Boulevard in Hyattsville) and Devon Cream at the Capitol Hill Wine and Cheese Shop, 611 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Or pop into Someplace Special, 1445 Chain Bridge Road in McLean, on February 28, when Angela Clode, Twinings Tea "Ambassadress, " will be brewing tea from 10 to 4 while offering instruction on how to set a traditional tea table. HUMOUR -- Celebrate the royal visit by telling some English jokes. Question: What comes steaming out of Cowes in the winter? Answer: The Queen's yacht. If your friends don't laugh, you can be sure they've never been invited aboard the Britannia. GO BACK TO THE 14TH CENTURY and see a typical English Gothic cathedral of that era in the making. The National Cathedral is being built in the traditional way -- with bosses, cross-vaults and flying buttresses -- and sometimes you can peek at a stone-carver creating a gargoyle. Take a tour, then wander around the 57-acre Cathedral Close, the closest thing we've got to the playing fields of Eton. On March 6 at 4, the Cathedral Choral Society will sing English composer Henry Purcell's "Ode to St. Cecilia," accompanie greenhouse, open Monday to Saturday, 8:30 to 4:30 and Sunday, 9:30 to 4:30. AN ENGLISH CHILDHOOD always included toy soldiers. You can review elite corps of tin soldiers in an exhibit at the National Geographic Society's Explorer's Hall. If you must have your own to play with, you can buy English-made metal soldiers (alas, with plastic faces and weapons) at John Davy Toys, a branch of an English toy store, 301 Cameron Street, Alexandria. DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE -- Like a down-at-the-heels duchess, she rents out for parties and, though she has a strangely inappropriate Yank name -- the Spirit of '76 -- she's a genuine double-decker bus retired from service on the streets of London. For charter information, call 529-2575. B, B AND C -- Among the greats whose statues grace the squares, triangles and streets of Washington are jurist Sir William Blackstone (Third Street and Constitution Avenue NW), orator Edmund Burke (Massachusetts Avenue and 11th Street NW) and Winston Churchill, hailing a taxi, on the British embassy grounds. RUB A CLASS BRASS at the London Brass-Rubbing Center in the basement of Washington Cathedral. In the Middle Ages, knights, ladies, kings and merchants had their portraits hammered in brass and displayed in the churches they supported. These worthies still are benefiting those churches, since the churches get a cut of the fee you pay -- from $1 up -- to rub a facsimile of the original brass. The center is open daily 9 to 5; instruction and materials are included in the rubbing fee. ANGLOPHILES UNITE! -- "We are an organization of Anglophiles," says Dirk Zylstra, executive director of the local branch of the English-Speaking Union. "We very much like English traditions." Among the traditions are an annual garden party at the British embassy and a croquet tournament on the Ellipse. For membership information, call 234-4602. OXFORD STREET WEST -- Several London-based stores have brought their goodies to Washington, among them: Laura Ashley, Liberty of London and Conran's. Not surprisingly, all of the above are in Georgetown, where Brits feel at home because it was built before that Frenchman started designing the rest of Washington in the Parisian mode with sweeping boulevards. STOCKBROKER TUDOR is the English term for 20th-century houses with mod cons and 16th-century half-timbered facades. A local example is Foxhall Village, built in the late 1920s and still going strong near the intersection of Foxhall and Reservoir roads. Note especially the twisted ceramic chimney pots. An outstanding commercial example of the Tudor genre is the Lewis & Thomas Saltz men's clothing store at 1409 G Street NW. YE OLDE ROAST BEEFE -- When Dr. Samuel Johnson's Scottish sidekick, James Boswell, wanted to indulge in some typically English pastimes, he first watched some bear-baiting and then ate roast beef. There's no bear- baiting allowed in Washington, but there are lots of places to eat roast beef. On the outside, The Barley Mow looks like a typical bomb-shelter-style Southwest waterfront building. But on the inside, it's a bit of "merrie olde England" with dark wood paneling, antique furnishings, leaded glass, chintz wallpaper, pewter service plates and waitresses laced into period costumes. The roast beef comes with Yorkshire pudding and there are almost as many tourists as at London's famed Simpson's-in-the-Strand. It's at 700 Water Street SW. TOUGH DARTS -- This is definitely not an English expression, cautions Major Bridge. But darts are a typical pub game. You can shoot darts at The Lord Telford Pub, a dark, friendly hole-in-the-wa daylatake place here most Wednesday evenings at 8. Fridays and Saturdays at 8, the tournament action shifts to the Jolly Archer, 4024 South 28th Street, Arlington. FOREVER ENGLAND -- Field Marshal Sir John Dill served the Empire in India, Palestine, Jordan and France, and when the United States entered World War II, he came to Washington to liaise with our military brass. Shortly before he died in 1944, he let it be known that he'd like to be buried in Arlington Cemetery and, by special act of Congress, he was. He rests beneath an equestrian statue near the entrance to the Kennedy grave sites..