It’s deeply unfashionable for a post-punker to be writing about the Queen. But I’m not in fashion.
Alt text: A black woollen winter coat is laid out on a spotted duvet cover. Pinned on one lapel is a round badge with a painting of a woman on it. Pinned on the other lapel is a medal with ribbon & a cross.
During our #WritingForWellbeing sessions, hosted by The Invisible Café, we’ve been encouraged to share our memories of the Queen & the Royal Family. Here are some of my recollections.
I inherited a Coronation Souvenir Tin
Alt text: A black & white photo of an old tin. Printed on the top of the tin is a logo of a crown & the following words: “Coronation Souvenir. H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. June 1953.” On the side of the tin are a Royal Couple (Queen Elizabeth the second & her husband Prince Phillip). She is dressed in a ballgown, wearing a diamond tiara & necklace. He is dressed in Military uniform complete with medals & a bow tie.
Objects & Stories (a poem – a draft was originally written for one of the 64 Million Artists’ #TheWeeklyChallenge)
Holding the Coronation Souvenir Tin
Brings memories flooding back of the green school notebook with your recollection of the Queen’s Coronation
Your writing neat, confident, in blue fountain pen
You made me a dress from multi-coloured tissues for the Silver Jubilee Fancy Dress Parade
And when my wobbly tooth fell out
Together we rifled through the blades of grass on all fours
Now I’m talking to your photo as I watch Sunday’s Platinum Pageant on the telly
I’m alone but feeling that that you’re close by as you always are for these grand occasions
Dressed to the ‘nines.’
Waiting for the Funeral Cortege
Alt text: A white man & woman pose for a selfie at the corner of a road. The woman has long curly hair & she is wearing round glasses & a black woollen coat. On one of the lapels is a round badge & on the other, a medal. The strap of her bag is showing. The man is wearing a flat cap, a leather jacket & a t-shirt from which his glasses hang. Behind them is a London Street with large, four-storey terraced houses & flats, railings, traffic lights, bollards & many parked cars.
On the day of the Queen’s Funeral, I felt it would be too upsetting to watch it on tv (I’ve never been good with death. The first funeral that I ever attended was my mum’s). Instead, Stephane (my boyfriend) & I went to the neighbourhood that I used to live in 20 years ago, Earl’s Court. We knew that the Cortege would pass along the A4 on its final journey to Windsor, so we took position at the corner of Earl’s Court Road and Cromwell Road just before 10am.
I hear the questioning voices all around me; “Why would you do that for someone you’ve never met? For someone who you don’t know. For someone who’s rich beyond most people’s means & who doesn’t give a s**t about you?”
The Queen & I
I thought the Queen was a nice lady. When I think of the Queen, I think of all the Jubilee parties & Royal Wedding parties that we had. When we got together with families, friends & our neighbours. Both sets of nans & grandads, my great-grandmothers, & my great aunts & uncles loved the Queen.
The Silver Jubilee was so exciting. At that time, I lived in a little cul-de-sac on an Essex estate & all the neighbours came together to organise a street party. I remember my dad & my neighbour Uncle Dave fixing Perspex sheets to wooden stakes with an industrial sized stapler. They wanted to protect the large tent they’d made “in case of inclement weather.” The other things I remember were the fancy dress parade & the infamous dress & hat that my mum spent weeks making, hand sewing all these multi-coloured tissues onto fabric, & then losing my tooth which we couldn’t find in the grass (but the Tooth Fairy still came).
I went to the ‘Longest Street Party in the World’ on Oxford Street for Charles & Di’s Wedding. That was great. Dad came with me. We met the cast of ‘Rentaghost’ who were really, really weird & very, very happy. Dad & I still laugh about it now because even as a small kid, it was obvious to me why! He said my little bemused face was a picture.
The sadness around the Queen dying was hard for me to process because many of my family members are no longer with me. They were so much fun. Any excuse for a party. I love partying. I get it from them.
I met the Queen nine years ago. She gave me my MBE at Buckingham Palace (for ‘Services to Music, Arts and Disabled People’). I was worried because I couldn’t stand so she could reach me to pin on the medal. The guard said not to worry as she would come to me. And sure enough, she jumped off the podium & there she was, so close.
The Queen looked like my nan, Nancy Wallace, so much so that one time when my dad & step-mum watching the news, my brother Pieter pointed at the telly & exclaimed, “Look, it’s Nanny Nancy getting off a plane!” He was about 3 at the time. It’s one of my favourite stories about him.
The Queen had a cold which I caught because we shook hands. She asked me to explain how I helped disabled people, so I gave her my best ‘pitch.’ I wasn’t nervous; she made me feel calm & I felt that she was genuinely interested in me.
I did all the ceremonial stuff right; all the correct addresses when greeting her & leaving her, including wheeling myself backwards & bowing to her at the end (on the DVD which my dad insisted that we got, you can see my sister creasing with laughter because she thinks that I’m going to wheel into someone because I’m not looking where I’m going. Ye of little faith). I stopped talking as soon the Queen’s hand came out to shake mine (the protocol is that when she stretches out her hand, that’s the sign for you to move on).
There were about 100 to 150 people receiving Honours that day. The stage managing of the ceremony was amazing & everything was done in time to the music. One of my friends describes it as being bounced along as you collect your award & make your way to the back of the room. It’s exactly that.
At the end, the Queen walked back up the central aisle, then she stopped & turned towards Stephane & I. Looking at us, she bowed. And then she went on her way.
She didn’t have to do that.