Friday, September 9, 2022

Where were you when ?

Life has a few ' Where were you when ?' days . Where were you when Kennedy was shot ? Where were you when Diana's death was announced ? Yesterday was one of those days. Angus was on the train from Waverley. Outside the evening express the weather was unforgiving. Heavy rain, banshee winds and pitch darkness. The Scots have a special word for weather like this - 'dreich'. An onomatopoeic masterpiece of a word that says it all. 

Somewhere just east of Kirkcaldy, where the tracks turn inland,  a young woman in her early twenties with wild orange and blue streaked hair, stood in the aisle and announced in a shocked voice 'The Queen has died '. People looked up from their phones and switched to the news feeds. I'd guesstimate that until then 90% of people on the train were immersed in their own world of text and music. 

There was a momentary murmur from half a dozen throats before silence fell across the carriage. The ticket inspector wipes tears from her eyes as do a few others. I'd expected there to be a divergence of views in this dissenting nation  but there weren't. One student on his way to a rugby match in Dundee turned to his friend across the way and said ' I'd better call my Mum. She'll be so upset '. No words could sum it up better - a family affair like the passing of a granny.  For most families the Queen has been a quiet presence for five generations. I'm sure there are families where that is stretched to six or seven. Like the Constitution she floated above the vulgarities of politics and politicians. A champion of public good against private reward. As with the Constitution there is much to be said for constancy. The remainder of the journey completed in silence bar the sound of the wind and the rain against the carriage windows.

Back at home we open a good ' Where were you when ?' bottle of wine and toast her memory. 'The Font' says words that haven't been heard for seventy years, 'God save the King'.  The end to one of those days when the country starts a new chapter.


Black ties, white shirts and grey suits tracked down in readiness for the days to come. Change already evident. The flags on all the university buildings quickly lowered to half mast. Only Union flags being flown. Bells muffled ( who would have thought of that and how do you do it ?) . They'll toll out 96 times later today. Messages of condolence posted on websites. Black borders around newspaper  front pages. Concerts cancelled, strikes called off. Rites of mourning from a distant time dusted down. Pledges of allegiance readied. Soon the late Queen will start a long slow journey south to Edinburgh. Towns along the route already preparing. This afternoon the medieval simplicity of the proclamation of the new King at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh - something John Knox would recognize . Sometime at the end of the week the casket will rest in Holyrood before being taken to St.Giles and then to London. There will be memorial services in towns and villages. As she died in Scotland bars in the golf clubs will be closed for a period of mourning. In readiness for ceremonies to come mayoral limousines and regalia will be polished until they sparkle. Then after a suitable period there will be celebrations for the new monarch. Routines and arcana that have been forgotten  will spring back into life. History blinks and moves on but there's an unspoken sense this morning that some great and invisible change is in the air. There's a sense of 'what happens now ?' vulnerability.

For Sophie a day of long walks along the shore beckons. Who knows there may be some sunshine ?


Perhaps the nicest and least pompous thing I've read - https://twitter.com/doctor_oxford/status/1567877435512815618 although this had real quality :https://twitter.com/EdwardGLuce/status/1567976520404336640/photo/1


And I'm quite impressed that they've got this up and running and the Book of Condolence ready to be signed by daybreak :https://news.st-andrews.ac.uk/archive/the-death-of-her-majesty-the-queen/


27 comments:

Fi from Four Paws and Whiskers said...

thank you Angus - I heard the news here in NZ in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep and checked Twitter - just glad I didn't have to teach today so I could weep silently at regular intervals all day - I did wonder how your trip to Edinburgh would be affected and the weather was certainly appropriate. I am glad Charles and Anne could make it there in time. We have lost an extraordinary monarch - how lucky to have had her for so long!

WFT Nobby said...

Thank you for posting that beautiful tweet. Where was I? Drying out in a pub in Keswick after a long and soggy walk along the shores of Ullswater with friends and dog. The pub was strangely empty when we left at around 9pm and later, checking my phone, I realised why. Will our generation ever get used to singing "God save our gracious King"?

Paule Caillou said...

de tout coeur avec vous, peuple anglais et ecossais,sa Majeste etait adoree ici aussi;DREICH en lorraine egalement amities paule caillou

Coppa's girl said...

Such distressing news.
Where was I? Just settling down to watch TV, around 8 p.m. (7 pm UK time) when a message appeared on the screen. I didn't need to guess what it meant, having followed the news of the Queen's failing health over the past few days.
We have lost a wonderful human being - not just our Queen.

Teena and Lala said...

Thank you for that tweet. I shall pass that on.

I'm really struggling to find the words today, feeling more emotional than is logical.

She is more subtly interwoven into my psyche than I think even realised.

I was so proud of her.

Linda said...

I heard the news from my Alliance Fran├žaise Glasgow online class group chat on WhatsApp. Several of the class are in France just now, where the news was announced marginally before the BBC. Macron's tribute was beautiful, as was Keir Starmer's. Still dreich today, and a feeling of being directionless as a nation. My young adult offspring feel the loss deeply.

Linda said...

PS - our family will next all be together later in October. It has been decided that we will get in some Dubonnet to toast the Queen's memory with gin Dubonnet, her favourite drink. It may well fell us, and thereby increase our respect for the Queen even further.

Poppy Q said...

Sad news to wake up to, here in New Zealand. I got to wave at her as a teenager in the 80s when she toured here. I was very miffed to have to wear my school uniform on a Saturday. Cheers to her - a job well done!!

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
I was reading online news around midday when the message of 'medical oversight and the queen is comfortable' set the alarm bells going... but even with that preparation, there was still a level of shock at the news in the evening. Angus is right; the royal family is not, as a unit, particularly widely loved in Scotland - but Elizabeth R stood head and shoulders above (despite her diminutive stature). I am shedding tears along with so many others. YAM xx

Virginia said...

What a lovely tweet, thank you for that. Elizabeth R was such an inspirational figure, dedicated, realistic (she had to be, coping with the messes her various offspring created) and dutiful. When so many people only stick at a job when it’s paying well and cushy, she was truly extraordinary. I read of her death when I woke this morning, but I’d said to my husband when we watched her with Liz Truss that she was clearly fading fast.

Rest In Peace.

Jean said...

"Like the Constitution she floated above the vulgarities of politics and politicians. A champion of public good against private reward."
That is so very true. She lived a life of honour and compassion, rare qualities these days.
Where was I? Grappling with the paperwork following my father's death two months ago. A very sad year for us.

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

I was finishing my lunch hour at work when I heard the news of the Queens passing. Then came the stories of rainbows appearing at Balmoral, and Buckingham Palace. This could certainly be or was a sign of a life force way beyond any of our understanding. The Queen was a role model of dignity, service, and strength. May she rest in peace.

EAS said...

I was relocating a log rack, its brick base, and logs when my husband appeared outside, gave me a hug, then informed me of the Queen’s death. Although American, I am unbelievably sad and feel as though I have just lost my great aunt.

Travel said...

A calm and constant presence, she was Queen all of my life, with deep family connections. I was in a Zoom department directors meeting when I read the news, I had to cover my camera.

marci said...

I was in a meeting when my daughter texted me and said 'are you okay?" I responded 'in a meeting, why', she said 'the Queen has died. I wanted to make sure you were okay'. No I was not. Nor are so many others.

The world has shifted.

elginknitter said...

Canada mourns with the rest of the Commonwealth and indeed, the world. Mr. Trudeau summed it up beautifully when he said, "I will miss her so."

I was once privileged to meet the Queen in person during the 2002 Jubilee and it was a day I will never forget. Each person to whom she spoke was her sole focus of attention for those few minutes. Truly a personal highlight for me.

Susan said...

I got a phone call from a French journalist from our local newspaper. He wanted to know if I was in front of my television and I said, no, I'm at work! He then said he wanted to talk to Brits about their reaction to the news about the Queen and I said that I had British citizenship but wasn't born and bred in the UK. I was a bit boggled that he thought my opinion on the subject had any value at all!

Jake of Florida said...

We've lost a remarkable human being. Her presence over so many decades a kind of constant protection from the indignities lesser mortals inflict daily. As you say, "floating above." I had been watching our cable news all morning fearing the worst...and then those devastating four words. A sad sad day for the world.

10NISNE1 said...

The doctor story shows what a truly kind and empathic soul Queen Elizabeth was. Very sad day for mankind.

Bailey Bob Southern Dog said...

Going about my usual day, I had just gone to a blog, Duchess Kate. It was there I learned of dear Queen Elizabeth II’s passing. In tears I turned on the TV. Today on that same blog is a tender drawing by Eleanor Tomlinson that I feel is so true. The Queen was an inspiration to the world. I will greatly miss her.

Kippy said...

I saw the news about the doctors being concerned and family rushing to be at her side while on my way to an appointment. Knew that wasn’t good news. When I got back home CNN had just announced the Queen’s passing. Though I’m in America, her passing does indeed feel like the passing of a beloved relative. She was indeed a calm and constant presence, not just to her family and subjects, but to the world.

Anonymous said...

I’m an American but The Queen has always been a fixture in the background of my life, my ENTIRE life, with her hats, handbag on her arm and perennial sensible shoes. I am rather inexplicably devastated by her passing. I’ve always loved her but until now I did not realize the extent of my feelings. I am so glad she had the Jubilee this summer that proved to her how dearly she was loved - the Paddington Bear tea will forever remain in my heart. Yes, God save the King and I wish him well. Condolences to all who loved her. I believe all will be well, Angus. ❤️
Liz in Oregon

The Bougalou Bear said...

At work, when the news flashed at the bottom of my computer screen.

I had the honour of attending the state dinner held in Toronto in 2010 and being presented to HM and Prince Philips on what was to be their last state visit to Canada.
As a dual citizen of France and Canada, she was, in President Macron’s words, both my queen and The Queen.

Thank you Ma'am, and Godspeed.


PS: Linda, we did mix some gin Dubonnet with friends last night; it is indeed potent! And, Angus and madame The Font, we did toast " The King" It may take some time, and perhaps a few more gin Dubonnets, before it naturally rolls of the tongue.

Lizzie said...

I had just returned from shopping at the farmer's market. Another American...but my forefathers and mothers were English and Scots. I have always admired the Queen's dedication and steadfastness, her fairness and ability to connect. While some "leaders" here are have been uncivil, I am particularly going to miss the Queen's lifelong example of the way one should interact with others. I, too, am more moved by this loss than I thought I would be but I an glad to be feeling these feelings.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I was on Luskentyre Beach. Seemed somehow fitting.
In London now, where things seem strange without her.
x

Fay said...

Thank you Angus.
Reading this brought tears.
I saw from California, they were concerned and then the sad news.

Sbuckley said...

The Queen was an extraordinary woman, who gave consistency in a world where nothing stays the same for long.

I believe it was her example in leadership that made it possible for women to be elected Prime Minister in England, well in advance of where we are in the US.

Her death was like a small earthquake that shook the world as we have known it for 70 years.