Saturday, 22 October 2011

I did but see her passing by

With Queen Elizabeth II currently visiting Australia, I was reminded of when I did see her passing by.

I was a Canberra school girl and it was the early 1970's so it may have been a visit connected to the Silver Jubilee.  I was a student at Canberra Church of England Girls' Grammar School and as the Queen was the head of the church, it was a pretty big deal.   The Queen would travel down Northborne Avenue - right past our school!- and we would all be out there in the blazing sun to wave to her ( at her?).  We were issued with a plastic flag on a stick and given very strict instructions (all the instructions were always strict) about how to behave.  And most likely how not to behave.  I was always in trouble because of misinterpretation of the rules.

We filed out to the side of the freeway and stood for what seemed like hours in the sun.  Then the word came that she was coming.  We waved our little plastic flags like maniacs.  I think I may have seen her sitting in the backseat of the car.  Was she wearing a lemon hat?  And then she was gone.  And we all filed back to school.  I think I was thrilled.  I don't really remember.  I know I was sunburnt.

The next time I was caught up in royal fever was when Diana and Charles were engaged and then married.  I don't know why, but I kept a scrapbook.  I loved her hair.  I loved the story of the girl who met a prince.  I loved that she was a dancer.  I was a teenage girl.  These things seem important.

At boarding school we were allowed to watch the wedding on television in the common room.  There was much gasping over the frock and then deep concern at the fact that she'd vowed to a man called "Philip Charles Arthur George".  Would it matter?  Were they really married?  Would they have to do the whole thing again?  Would she have to call him Phil from now on?  The speculation kept us going for hours.

I will confess to watching this year's royal festival, the Will and Kate wedding, with friends.  I enjoyed the pomp and sense of occasion, rather than for any sense of them being in line to be our head of state.  And I knew all the hymns and anthems.  Musical education in an Anglican school and a lifetime of being a chorister sears these things into your brain.  I can still recite the entire Anglican communion service without reference to any books even though I haven't been to church for some time.

So the Queen will be here in Melbourne next week.  Even if I could find my little plastic flag, I don't think I'd be going anywhere to wave it. Although from a crowd observation point of view, it could be fun.

I long for the day that Australia will grow up and claim nationhood for ourselves and give the opportunity for any of its own citizens to one day be head of state, rather than being enslaved to a monarchy that prefers men over women and is in another country a long way away.

In the meantime, here's to Mother England.

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