I’m not much of a monarchist and my republican (small ‘r”) friend pours scorn on all notions that the royal family beats a president into – what? A cocked hat? A diamond-encrusted crown? She’s even reluctant to concede that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was a boon, doing a brilliant job – perhaps not faultless but brilliant nonetheless – for 70 years. And she got better as she aged, more sure-footed and publicly funnier – beat Bond and Paddington if you can. There’s a lot to be said for stability – and a sense of humour.
On Sunday, friends and I queued at Lichfield Cathedral to sign the Book of Condolence and become a minute part of history. The pages will be bound into a Staffordshire volume – or volumes – and “will be retained in the Staffordshire Archives as a record of Staffordshire’s collective respect for Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II”. I just wrote “Thank you” but made sure I included my maiden name and home town of Portstewart as well as my married name and current home town (sorry, city – it’s a cathedral thing) of Lichfield. Think I had in mind far-distant episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?” And the pen was fine, no ink flying everywhere, no excuses for my poor plebby signature; although at least it was more than an ‘X’ marking the spot.
After signing and ensuring that the young woman struggling to juggle a photo of the Queen, a wee Paddington and a lighted candle in her left hand as she attempted to take a photo with her phone in her right hand had not burned down the cathedral, we repaired for a coffee and a cuppa before the next ceremonial.
That was the proclamation of the accession of Charles III, with various local dignitaries, clergy and most importantly the town crier and quite a few citizens in attendance. There were introductions, including a misplaced mention of the late Queen when it was time for the King but that was inevitable after decades of nothing else; she’s engrained. Then the crier, at his most mellifluous and voluble, did his stuff, the assembled multitude sang “God Save The King”, gave three cheers and that was that.
It felt historic, not least because Lichfield is one of the earliest centres of Christian worship in the UK, dating from 700 AD. There have been a few lumps, bumps and destructions since then and the place was besieged three times in the Civil War. The cathedral is famous for its three spires, known locally, apparently, as the “Ladies of the Vale” and is pretty impressive, even though Matthew Engels and Simon Jenkins have called it second-rate (I think they might even have relegated it to third…). St Chad must be turning in his proverbial.
Given my recent experience of trains and their lack of reliability, there’s no way that I was going to be tempted to head to London (or Edinburgh) to join a queue and am content to be impressed by the endless pageantry on the telly. I have to confess it also persuaded me to renew my NOW tv sports subscription, just for a change of pace.
Friends are always asking me what I’ve been up to, how I’m passing my time and I shrug, not quite knowing how the days rattle past so quickly. There’s football; motorway exploring; golf; tai chi; singing; lunch with friends; bridge; blood doning; worrying about all the important things I should be doing and am not (insulating the attic, fixing the bifolds, the front door); cooking (well, cobbling together something to eat); shopping for veg; sending birthday cards or greetings…
I’m always writing lists, then forgetting to look at them or losing them, so to find a list that was completed, eventually, over a period of several days, possibly weeks, was a triumph. I cheered – and took a photo. It’s a better result than Spurs managed in Lisbon on Tuesday.
I see I have walking on my list of things to do and that’s in addition to tramping around the golf course, a very long way these days, thanks to HS2-enforced changes. Nice to know the government continues to waste billions on a white elephant that’s going, if not nowhere, then not very far. And I see La Truss is giving the thumbs up to fracking, putting goodness knows how many fingers up to the world’s eco warriors and advocates of gentler forms of renewable energy. Her conversations with Charles III should be interesting.
Dogs, I forgot to mention dogs but I’m being trained up by the dog walkers and every bag I own, every pocket of every garment, every receptacle is now stuffed with poo bags, mostly not very bio-degradable because they’re the cheapo rolls from Wilko but a vital bit of kit nonetheless; I even came to the rescue of a young woman with two dachshunds who was scrabbling frantically with a couple of tissues; goodness me was my halo glinting in the evening sunshine….
My latest house guest was Barney (no pic because he’s sensitive about his image rights and wouldn’t stay still enough to show his best side), whose owners were taking part in the Great North Run and he and I looked for them in vain on the telly. Turns out they started after the coverage finished but they completed the course in very respectable times and Barney and I were proud as punch. Well done Sophy and Liz.
A beautiful piece, Patricia.
Many thanks, Tom.