Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl

My relationship with this woman goes back a long way. Back to around 1955 when I was enrolled at Cecil John Rhodes Junior School in Gwelo, a town about half way between Salisbury and Bulawayo. Every morning at assembly we had to stand at attention and sing God Save The Queen.

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen!

Even at the age of five I’m sure I found it absurd.

Then, when I was allowed to go to the local bughouse (I think it was called the Royal Theatre, or maybe the Empire, or some other nod to the Imperial masters), I was required to not only stand to attention as the anthem was being played, but I also had to watch Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II, sitting on a horse in front of Buckingham Palace presiding over Trooping of the Colour and taking the salute.

“Why does she sit on the horse sideways like that?” I asked my brother, who was five years older than me.

“If a lady sits with her legs wide open, it causes men to have unclean thoughts,” my brother told me.

I was only a little kid, and, as Jean Piaget has made it abundantly clear, there was no way I was going to grasp how something as abstract as a thought could be dirty. So I just had to take my boet’s word for it.

I soon grew to resent this ritual every time we went to the flicks, but there were a lot of ex-servicemen in the audience, still fired up with patriotic fervour after defeating the Nazis and saving the world from fascist domination, and it would have been extremely unwise not to conform. Unless you felt like a clip round the ear.

Then, in 1960, the Queen sent her mother out to open Kariba Dam, and I got my first and only glimpse of royalty in the flesh. The Queen Mother stopped off in Gwello for a few gins and in the process did a little walkabout at Selukwe traffic circle. I was part of a whole bunch of school kids required to stand on the pavement and wave Union Jacks and clap politely.

It was a disappointing experience because the old girl looked completely ordinary except for her hat, and after being presented with a huge bouquet of flowers she got back in the car and was whisked off to the nearest hotel for a right royal lunch. How undramatic! I had been hoping for something like the firing of canon, and maybe even a public flogging to inspire fear in the colonial subjects.

“But they’re just ordinary people,” I complained to my brother.

“Yes,” said my brother, scratching his balls thoughtfully. “They’ve also got to take a crap now and again, just like you and me.”

From then on my view of the royal family changed and I began to see them in a more sympathetic light. Especially the Queen. When she started picking up all that shit with her children and it became apparent that she was not only one of the most unopinionated, boring women on the planet, but was severely lacking in parenting skills as well, I saw that her life wasn’t the fairy tale bed of roses some people make it out to be.

And when those parsimonious Labour politicians decided to decommission the royal yacht Britannia, my heart bled for her. No more of those wonderful family cruises with a crew of 240 at her beck and call. That must have been hard to come to terms with.

Sixty years is a long time to have to reign over a nation, and it might not have been an entirely happy and glorious period in English history, but she seems to be coping pretty well, and in no hurry to step aside for her son and go into retirement.

Yes, all in all, Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl and her subjects love her a lot. She has shown them how it is possible for people of meagre intelligence and mediocre physical abilities to hold the very highest rank in British society. And how to disperse the gloomy clouds of austerity by throwing a party of unrivalled extravagance.

God save the Queen.

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