I was almost 7 when my Dad woke me up for school one morning and, as he drew open the curtains, uttered the words: “we’re at war”.
Later, I recall sitting cross-legged on the classroom floor – beige carpet – staring up at our teacher as she explained to us where the Falklands were. I don’t recall anything else about why Britain was at war. It felt so distant, so unreal.
My daughters may reflect back, when they are older, on eating toast this morning with me as we discussed the life of Queen Elizabeth II.
Nowhere close to being an oracle on the history of the monarchy, nor someone who has ever felt at ease with the lavish pomp and ceremony aspect of the Royal Family, I have ingrained respect for the role the Queen has played over so many years in helping define my culture.
And when I say “over so many years” this lady’s first Prime Minister was born in 1874, and her most recent, 1975.
I wonder, now, and in the years to come, how significantly the role of the monarchy will change in the UK?
It feels, intuitively, like a good idea to examine how and why this one family should continue to play a part in society, over the next 70 years. I think that would be welcomed by many, and could prove to be a healthy exercise.
We live in a world where just a handful of powerful people can make decisions that directly impact the rest of us. It strikes me, too, that many of these people are men, and most of them aren’t representative of the rest of us. But, hey, isn’t that last point always going to be the case?
Assuming this form of inequity won’t change any time soon, and that King Charles III will require some time yet before anything too radical is tabled which might challenge his own power and decision-making abilities, what sits with me this morning, sparked by the Queen’s passing, is a deep sense of regard for those others committed in their pursuit of service and of the common good.
I have written here of my dear Aunt Myra, and the sacrifices she made in her life to support her community and various charitable causes.
My own parents have kept tireless vigil over their neighbours and friends for as long as I can recall. From actual counseling and comforting those going through hard times, to coordinating a pooled driving service in their village for people no longer able to drive themselves, through to ensuring the church flowers are suitably buffed each week, that community events run smoothly, and much more beyond that.
When he is not giving up his time Chairing a Board of School Governors, my brother’s professional commitment at Solent University for over 20 years now, to his fellow sportsmen and women, is unprecedented – endless chauffeuring of teams to matches up and down the country, dedicated mentoring of Paralympian athletes, as well as the odd Buck Palace invite in his role as ambassador of the Wooden Spoon charity.
My list could continue. Friends I know who volunteer for local causes, acquaintances I’ve heard tell their own stories about the difference made to them by the generosity of others.
If, at times, the pandemic helped shine light on the importance of giving service to one another, I think it probably also helped many people realise that showing up for others doesn’t always need to be a one-way street, either. What drives one person to give to another can often result in a win-win outcome.
That need to give, that desire to make a positive connection, somehow, and for many people, is exactly what they require in their lives to give them the type of responsibility and purpose that they need themselves.
In a reasonably unrelated segue, and to finish, here is Stephen Fry (not always in the favour of Palace folk, given some of his misdemeanors on their turf) with 60 seconds on the Queen and the art of decency.