Long Live the King!

Britain’s King Charles III, center, and other members of the royal family hold a vigil at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II at St Giles’ Cathedral, 

It’s now Sunday September 11th, 2022. Kia ora!

It’s a nice day today (again). It’s not raining, although there’ve been some showers; it’s been sunny and quite warm, in the main.

I assume the statement “God save the King” is in the subjunctive (“Would that God might/may save the King” rather than imperative – you don’t give God orders to do something). I must say King Charles does look striking in that kilt and sporran (I don’t think I’ve seen that tartan before), those red socks, topped with the jacket and shirt and tie.

This morning I went back to church, physically. I haven’t been for weeks: I’ve been zooming into the service. I was in luck today: the organist was playing, there was communion, and several people spoke to me. The sermon was about the parables of the lost coin, or the lost sheep from Luke 15: 1-10 (later on we have the parable of the Prodigal Son).  Afterwards there was a beautiful organ solo.

Then I went shopping at the supermarket nearby. JD was due to pick me up. He rang while I was at the checkout – looking for bags, cards, no I’m not collecting the Little Garden collectables; he rang repeatedly, and I couldn’t answer the phone because I was busy with the lovely checkout operator! And there were people behind me in the queue! I had bought more things than usual, since we hadn’t been shopping on Saturday like we usually do. I composed a text for JD, to tell him I was coming, but I didn’t actually send it – sometimes the send button takes several goes to actually work.  JD was in the carpark. He was worried that something had happened to me.

We got home and had coffee together before JD had to go out. We watched some videos on television of the Ukrainian conflict. Ukrainian troops have tricked the Russians, and liberated some territory that had been taken by the Russians.  We saw some film of liberated Ukrainians: they are very thin indeed; they’re not in good shape physically, but they’re so happy to be rescued.

I am switching between watching videos about the Royal Family, about the Ukraine conflict, and the historian Tom Holland speaking about Christianity, and its place in Western Civilisation; and about how Christ’s death – and that the death of the cross – has such significance for us all; while crucifixion was the worst death the Romans could inflict, yet the mighty Roman Empire fell, and Christianity still reigns. Part of the Queen’s role as Head of the Anglican Church was Defender of the Faith. Charles, as Prince, used to be rather lukewarm about this, but it seems he has reiterated his commitment to the Christian faith in his first speech as King.

In a lot of the tributes talk about Queen Elizabeth rejoining the Duke of Edinburgh, who died just over a year ago; this belief is not part of my tradition; I wonder just where it comes from. We’re told that in the resurrection, there’s neither male nor female; we are told that the Lord will wipe the tears from every eye; I find that a very comforting thought.

The media show the new Prince and Princess of Wales with the Sussexes acknowledging the crowds at Windsor Castle. There seems to be no booing, but as expected the Cambridges are amazingly wonderful, while Prince Harry  manages to look dishevelled and uncomfortable, and Meghan fiddles with her hair. I wonder who put them up to this?  The new King Charles perhaps. What a moment.  The Sussexes walk hand in hand, needless to say; the Cambridges don’t. They’re far more mature. I did note that Meghan was wearing black hose (tights). 

I have to apologise to the London Review of Books. In honour of Queen Elizabeth’s death, they have emailed me “The Uncommon Reader” by Alan Bennett, first published in 2007. I think I remember it’s being published as a small hardback volume; I did not read it myself, although I may have given it away as a present. I enjoyed reading this beautiful story. Bennett is a very good writer, I enjoy anything by him. I can read this story, but the LRB won’t let me read anything more. Rory Stewart and Alistair Campbell, hosts of The Rest is Politics podcast, remain silent. Surely the news of the Queen’s death is political.

It’s now Monday September 12th.

I went to the exercise class in Ngaio again.  Today it was drizzly and overcast, but not nearly as cold as last week. The trains weren’t running, again. JD gave me a lift, thankfully. The class wasn’t as crowded as it was last week.  There were different people there, too – and some of them knew me! Oh dear.  One’s past follows one around. I enjoyed the class, although I did find it tiring.

Afterwards I took a leisurely walk to the bus stop for train replacements, and caught the bus to Johnsonville. Then JD picked me up, thankfully, although the buses weren’t cancelled today. Thankfully, too, my new Listener arrived today.

The covid 19 numbers are still down, with 1149 new cases, 225 in hospital, and 6 virus related deaths. There are 3 people in Intensive Care.

The 225 cases in hospital were in Northland (1), Waitematā (46), Counties Manukau (28), Auckland (36), Waikato (18), Bay of Plenty (3), Lakes (3), Hawke’s Bay (1), MidCentral (8), Whanganui (1), Taranaki (1), Tairawhiti (0), Wairarapa (6), Capital & Coast (13), Hutt Valley (10), Nelson Marlborough (4), Canterbury (37), West Coast (1), South Canterbury (1) and Southern (7).

The hospitals are still under enormous pressure, although the number of  Covid 19 infections is down. There are still many new cases flying into the country from overseas.

From midnight tonight, the government’s rules change. The traffic light system is to be abandoned; masks will only be required in health care and aged care situations; and household contacts of Covid 19 positive cases will no longer be required to isolate. Covid 19 positive cases are still required to isolate for 7 days.  So that’s that, I guess.

At my exercise class this morning we did quite a lot of touching – of the individual stretchy bands, the bean bag, and our chairs, but most people were wearing a mask, however.

Prime Minister Ardern has announced that there is to be a public holiday on September 26 to remember the Queen, and a memorial service will be held in St Paul’s Cathedral.

It’s now Tuesday September 13th.

I was going to meet one of my sons this morning, but he has a heavy cold, so I will be lazy and go for a walk instead. It’s not fine today, but it’s not raining at present; it’s cloudy, but not overcast.

I went for a walk to the local store. There is a very strong northerly wind, which almost blows me over, yet according to the nice lady at the checkout it was raining and overcast in Porirua. JD gets home and asks me if I got wet. Of course not, I reply, since it’s now sunny outside and I’m bemoaning the fact that the wind makes it unpleasant to sit out in the sunshine. Apparently there was a cloudburst, a very heavy shower of rain while he was on the motorway north. He couldn’t see where he was going, and had to slow down to 60 kph. You wouldn’t know it here.

While I was shopping, I bought the latest copy of the Economist that we get, obviously printed before HM the Queen passed away.  It has an obituary of Mikhail Gorbachev, who also died recently. Evidently he died in the same hospital where the head of Lukoil supposedly fell to his death out of a sixth-floor hospital window. He was not given a state funeral. I think Putin laid flowers at his coffin in the hospital; he was too busy to attend the funeral. It seems Gorbachev used brutality against Lithuania, when they tried to rebel; this was uncharacteristic of him. I have to say that I greatly admired him, whatever his faults.  The act of letting the Berlin Wall be torn down, and the subsequent reunification of East and West Germany, and independence of previously communist nations, was of tremendous significance, as was the end of apartheid in South Africa, and the coming to power of Nelson Mandela. By the way, did you know that the US “won” the Cold War?  You’ll hear Americans unashamedly claiming this.  I think perhaps humanity enjoyed some success there. Whatever has happened since, I think we’re all better off without the Berlin Wall.

I also read book reviews in the Economist, about the effects of climate change and its forcing of migration, and the desperate and challenging journey of migrants from Latin and South America to the United States.

I was a small child when Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, and I remember being taken to see her and her husband, Prince Philip, when they first came to New Zealand.  I also remember two subsequent visits – one, waiting in the then Millard Stand at the then Athletic Park while she was driven around the ground, waving; another when I escorted a group of college students to line the drive to the Mary Potter Hospice in Newtown, where she was driven by. I remember noticing how small she was, and how pale.

There seem to be a great many events of great significance, even in my lifetime. While I consider that my parents were quite obsessed with the Great Depression of the 1930’s and World War II that followed, they occurred during their formative years, and my parents and their families endured severe deprivation. 

Some of the big events in my life have been the erection of the Berlin Wall, the assassination of President Kennedy; the nuclear scare, the Cultural Revolution in China, the Wahine disaster in Wellington, the Vietnam War and the even more terrible conflict in Cambodia; Watergate; conflict in the Balkans; the two Iraq wars and the events of September 11 in the US; famine in Ethiopia; Chernobyl and Fukushima; and so on and so on. I’ve probably omitted many things. Along with these have been growing awareness of the challenges posed by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, and now the conflict in Ukraine.  Thankfully, my husband didn’t join the NZ Territorials (someone tipped him off that he’d be sent to Vietnam), and we didn’t have to send any of our sons to war (or persuade them not to go). One of one of my son’s friends joined the army, and did two tours of duty in Afghanistan.  He’s now back in New Zealand, married with two young children.

Along with all this, there has been a renaissance of all things Māori here. Te Reo is found in many hitherto unexpected places – in google searches, in newspapers, in place names, and in common usage. After all, where else but here is this language going to be nurtured?    I am going to have to know far more than my very basic Te Reo.

And now coming back to the event that still dominates in Great Britain, and to a lesser extent, here – the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II. I admit I have been luxuriating in some of the Youtube videos of all the formalities. The pageantry is quite wonderful, and I do enjoy it, as I did during the recent jubilee. What wonderful spectacle! What wonderful precision, and training. One can only admire such an amazing display. John Crace in the Guardian newspaper summed it up rather nicely:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/sep/12/new-king-comes-to-westminster

There’s a lot of criticism of the costs involved in such ceremony and pageantry, and, to be honest, I have visited Cambridge University (yes, two of my sons were there, one a Junior Research Fellow at Kings’ College, Cambridge, the other a fellow at Christ’s College for a year); I attended a Midsummer Feast, a very special occasion. While I was prepared for the toast to HM (and nobody drinks first), I was unprepared for standing for the second Grace. Silly me! JD and I did our best to behave ourselves and not cause embarrassment. But while beautiful and gracious, these were really museum pieces, and did not feel like the “real” world outside of delayed or cancelled trains and clanking buses, or queues at the post office. The Brits are so obedient and well-behaved, on the whole, that I have a sense of “both and” rather than  “either or”.

There’s no doubt that the Royal Family has enormous private wealth, with many estates and lovely (if somewhat cold and draughty) homes. The Queen also had an extraordinary collection of paintings, to say nothing of the jewellery – she always was seen wearing pearls, and a brooch, if not a tiara, earrings and a bracelet. She was also known for being rather parsimonious, and not wishing to waste money. Still, I’d venture the British taxpayer gets more bang for their buck than the American one.  In the US all politicians get offices and staff, often security; the President gets a some might say ridiculous motorcade, and the secret service not only protect the serving president and his family, but past presidents too. So the US government must spend a great deal of money on its so-called democratic government. I think the British Royal Family is good value for money, on the whole, despite media baron Rupert Murdoch’s attempts to take them down. And imagine being under such examination – everything you wear, every piece of jewellery, is carefully noted, photographed and analysed; every time you go out the door, you have to be prepared to be scrutinised.  I remember thinking this about Charles and Diana’s then relationship; when I was having children, I certainly wouldn’t have born examination for all of the time.

It also strikes me as extremely ironic that King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 in order to marry an American divorcée; I know there was lots of history behind that move, but that’s the story we’re been fed; King (formerly Prince) Charles married the woman, another divorcée, with whom he’d been having an affair, before and after the death of his wife, the then Princess (Diana) of Wales, the mother of his two sons, Princes William and Harry, and mother of the heir to the throne. .  Meanwhile, Harry has married (been allowed to marry?) Meghan, another American divorcée, and just look how that has turned out. Whatever your feelings about the Sussexes (and yes, feelings, we’ve got ‘em!), it’s not a good idea to be critical of your, or your husband’s family.  What a lot of questions their two children will have as they grow up. 

Speaking as a parent, and having faced questions from my own children, I would say the following: while there are some things I’d do differently if I had my time again, I was always busy, and always tired, and aware of obligations to people like my parents-in-law and the older generation. I think I always did my best, and tried to meet the needs of the child who needed me most at the time. I don’t think anyone was ever hungry, and they were always looked after. They all learned to play the piano – and many other instruments, besides. They had the right sports gear. They had new musical instruments as they needed them. While their childhoods could have been better, they certainly could have been a lot worse. I remember the fifth commandment, to honour your father and mother, “that you may be long-lived on the earth” – the first commandment with a promise. Sometimes I wonder just how well I have passed that one on!

In China another city, Xinjiang, has been locked down as well as Chengdu, where they have an indefinite lockdown, and they’ve just had a big earthquake. In most places there’d be an outcry if civilians couldn’t get food, or help; in China, that’s another matter. They’ve had flooding, too. It’s reported that tens of millions of people in at least 30 regions have been ordered to stay at home under partial or full lockdowns. On Monday China recorded 949 new Covid cases across the entire country.

In Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have taken back a considerable amount of territory held by the Russians, with in some cases Russian soldiers running for their lives, and leaving lots of ammunition behind. While this is very significant, Putin is retaliating by continuing to fire on cities and taking out electricity. The Ukrainian soldiers liberated from Russian control look relieved, and starved; the Russians certainly didn’t provide a welcoming committee. Everyone is nervous as to what Putin may do next. He’s never actually lost a war. It’s said that 80,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded.  It’s certainly not going Russia’s way.

The Covid 19 numbers continue their downward trend here, with 1,941 new cases, and 241 people in hospital, with 3 in Intensive Care. There’ve now been 1,962 deaths from Covid 19; that’s an average of 4 deaths each day, which is a lot less than it was. There were 78 new cases at the border today.

That’s it for today.  I’m aware that some of these topics will be very controversial. It’s nice for me to have a forum to air some of my views. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

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