The New Elizabethans

It’s been a funny old sort of long weekend. You can’t go anywhere without being accosted by Union Jack bunting – whether it’s cheap plastic or posh Cath Kidston, bunting is being hung out as never before.  I’m a fan of bunting, don’t get me wrong. I love all things retro and vintage and bunting has nostalgia threaded through it. (Though we haven’t had any up at home as the Union Flag is banned. Another story.)

The telly  and newspapers have been full of stats about Queen Elizabeth II who has been on the throne for sixty years, the second longest-serving monarch (only Queen Victoria to beat at 63 years). She has seen 12 British Prime Ministers (Tony Blair was the first PM to be born during her reign in 1953), 14 New Zealand  Prime Ministers, 12 Australian Prime Ministers and 11 Canadian Prime Ministers. 12 US Presidents, 6 Popes and 6 Archbishops of Canterbury. She has been on 261 overseas visits including visiting Australia 18 times, Canada 22 times, Jamaica 6 times and NZ 10 times. She was the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland (last year) and the first  to visit China (in 1986).

On a personal note, I have grown in admiration for her over the years since I first saw her in Bristol in 1977 during the Silver Jubilee celebrations. During the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on Sunday, Sea Containers House unveiled a giant photo of the Silver Jubilee balcony appearance which brought the memories to the surface: A hot day. Waiting on the Downs above the River Avon, the Suspension Bridge in the background. Waiting and waiting for a glimpse of her Majesty to drive past in an open car. My lovely grandparents looking after my brother and I, excited as we were. Her dark hair, her wave, her smile. A picnic with tomato sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs. An ice lolly. Tired legs…

Back in Teignmouth, we went to a street party. Despite the heat, I was dressed in a red, white and blue tank top knitted by my mum from a Woman’s Realm pattern. The highlight for me was winning the bonnet competition (see The Generation Game for a fictionalised version of events). And looking at that photograph now, of the pre-Diana Royal family back in the day, you can only wonder at how that family has changed over the years. As every family has changed. As mine has changed. The  jubilee offers a chance to wonder at the journey we have been on as a nation over the last 60 years. And the journey each of us has been on with our own families, through the ups and the downs and the highs and lows. The break-ups, the make-ups. The successes, the failures. The passing of the old and the arrivals of the new. The sun and the rain.

We don’t know the obstacles ahead of us but, when we come up against them, we keep going. We keep going because of the love we have for those around us that we call our family. Whether we see them everyday, every month, every year. Or whether we just carry them in our hearts.

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