The Queen and I

I had originally scheduled to tell you all what happened at Manchester Pride on the Bank Holiday Weekend. This will now be published next week instead. I felt prompted to write this as my tribute and celebration of the life of HM Queen Elizabeth II the longest reigning monarch this country has ever had. RIP your majesty.

 

It was with deep sadness that I learned of the death of HM The Queen on Thursday 8 Sep 2022. I learned the news from a friend. I paid him a visit that day to pick up an errand he had collected for me.  He said I’m just watching a program about The Queen.  as I don’t watch the news on TV or read newspapers. I looked a bit nonplussed. The Queen who died today. Of all the things I thought I would hear from him. I would have never have guessed in a million years it would be that. It gave me an odd shiver and a feeling of what I suppose you would say shock. I made my way back to my car and just sat there for a while trying to take it in. No idea how long I sat there. Time did one of those bendy twisty moments. I regained my composure and went back to mine. Where I opened my favourite malt and raised a glass to her memory. 

I poured another and sat down. Allowing the warmth of the drink to glow softly in my chest radiating out and around my body.  It pulled my mind through time and space to the majestic area of our country known as The Highlands. Its huge acreage which is almost haunting and ethereal with a blanket of deep purple heather swaying hypnotically in the swirling winds that will eventually rise up and greet the granite giants of the The Cairngorm mountains and will in a short time deliver its cargo of water into the lochs and streams of this National Park we have the blessing of being close enough to just jump in a car and drive to within a few hours. To me it has always been a magical place. Where the hopes, dreams and indeed blood of my ancestors remain in the soil of this wilderness. Seperated long ago from their bodies their essence remains. Enriching, healing and nourishing the soil. It is abundant in flora and fauna of so many species. It is easy to understand why this was a favourite place for HM Queen Elizabeth II to escape to during her extraordinary reign. 

It is the evening of Saturday 10 Sep and I believe that HM is still in Balmoral. However all the arrangements, codenamed London Bridge would have been initialised within hours of her passing. 

When HM King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla attend a service of prayer and reflection at St Giles Cathedral in my hometown of Edinburgh on Monday 12 September there will be some stuff with the new monarch and the First Minister and of the course the Parliament before a ceremonial procession will form on the forecourt of Holyrood Palace and taken to the Cathedral. The coffin heavily guarded no doubt will lay in state for people to come and pay their respects. 

Tuesday 13 September the coffin will go to Edinburgh Airport where a Royal Air Force aircraft and accompanied by The Princess Royal will end up in Buckingham Palace. As I understand it. The coffin won’t be flown to Northern Ireland but The King and Queen Consort will and there will be further services of remembrance for HM in St Annes Cathedral and they will then return to London. 

On Wednesday get ready for a day of British Pomp and reverend ceremonial procession on a gun carriage. Where you will have to wear sunglasses even if its cloudy from the reflections of the ordnance, weapons, uniforms, helmets and horse brasses to name a few will of course be dazzling and look like glass. Fuelled by personal and professional pride and desire to show their utmost respect in their own unique way. They will stop at Canterbury Cathedral and take the coffin to her final place of lying in state will begin. The citizens of our country should they choose will have a few days to pay their respects and farewell. There will be constitutional matters for The King and Queen Consort during that time. 

It will be Monday 19 September which will be a day of National Mourning has been declared. A televised service in Westminster Abbey will be conducted. It will include a moment of two minutes silence where there will always the one or ten people who will no doubt take that moment to cough. Despite being as quiet as they are able it will carry. Just a curious personal observation of moments like this. 

The final leg will be from the Abbey to Windsor Castle where the coffin will be placed in the royal vault in St George’s chapel. Senior members of the royal family will have a private service.  Which I believe will be a time where some who have taken HM death harder than others will no doubt do that terribly British thing of almost falling apart for maybe a maximum of two minutes. Then wipe their tears and noses and fix their clothes and hair and take a deep breath knowing that things will never really be the same without her. 

There’s no way I can be sure of any of that but it is what I picture in my minds eye. 

Regardless of your views and opinions on constitutional matters. Let us not lose sight of the fact that she was also a wife, a mother, grandmother and indeed a great grandmother. All of which meant as much or indeed more than the weight and responsibility as our Queen. Which she had not been afforded the usual lifetime of preparation for like other Kings and Queens before her. She was only 25. 

I remember reading something years later maybe a book or an article in a magazine where when asked about her feelings on the occasion. She candidly summed up in one word. Weight and went on to say a little more that of course there was the physical weight of the crown. That thing is not light as a feather. Have you seen the size of the jewels? But it was very soon replaced with a deeper and almost devine weight. The power of the rites and sacraments finding a place to root deep inside.

There has been much said about her and her reign. It has been my honour to have met HM The Queen on several occasions which I share with you my lovely followers and new readers. Thank you for your continuing support and enjoy these personal memories of The Queen and I. 

In what seems like a couple of lifetimes ago I was a member of HM Armed Forces. In The Royal Scots which I found out had a long history. Formed in 1633, they are the oldest infantry regiment in the British Army and have been nicknamed Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguard. Apparently a jibe from the French regiment to the Scots. I was a trumpet player in the military band and have performed in The Edinburgh Tattoo on four occasions. It was during the time of the first performance that I first had the honour of meeting her majesty.

One of the stories I tell people sometimes is how I introduce myself on dating apps. Gay dating apps are a minefield for me particularly as I often encounter rudeness, Most of the time I ignore the person. Occasionally I’ll say something equally rude. Sometimes I try to be the bigger person when I respond. and say something along the lines of ‘call me old fashioned but I at least like to know someone’s name and one interesting fact about them before even considering any other activities. So my name is Tom and I once danced with a princess.’ Over the years this approach and response has generally been accepted and led to a more open and honest conversation.

This was in reference to a Ceilidh held in The Assembly Rooms in George Street Edinburgh at which the military band had the honour of playing the music. The guest of honour was HRH Princess Anne. As the youngest serving member of the regiment at the time I was selected to dance with her royal highness.

‘I must say you are very light on your loafers young man. What say we take this at full speed?’

‘Certainly your majesty.’ An aide was called and within minutes we were flying around the dancefloor at a rate of knots that I have never quite been able to match. Her royal highness admitted when we stopped

‘that was one of the best times I’ve had in awhile. Thank you so much.’

I had secured a ticket for my mother to view a matinee performance in the royal box. Well, the box beside the royal box to be exact. I had been excused to accompany her. HM stopped by to say hello to the Duke and Duchess of Kent I believe. I was in uniform beside my mother which must’ve caught her attention as I looked like a child at the time.

‘Who might you be young man?’

‘Pvt 2132 Smith accompanying my mother for this performance mam.’

‘What a proud moment for you. Jolly good.’

My mother still reminds of that day. She had misgivings about me joining the Army and in that moment all of those disappeared and she said she couldn’t have been more proud.

Another memory was a few years later around Christmas. We had travelled to Balmoral and had played in the Courtyard to welcome her majesty and other members of the royal family. I remember being amused watching HRH Prince Charles and HRH Princess Diana taking turns to drag the toddling Prince Harry away from the window edge on an upper floor. Later that evening all the member of the band snuck through the woods at the rear of Balmoral in full uniform with instruments and music to surprise her majesty with a Christmas Carol Concert. There was snow on the ground and the lights and decorations on the tree near the french doors that opened onto the patio where we stood was quite magical.

It was whilst on parade at Holyrood Palace during the regiment’s sesquicentennial celebration. Each member of the regiment were presented with both their NI Service medals and a medal to commemorate the 350th anniversary. HM The Queen spoke to one of two member of the band.

‘You look awfully familiar Pvt.’

‘We’ve met before mam.’

‘You’re the young man my daughter referred to as being light on his loafers.’

‘Guilty mam.’

Princess Anne must’ve made mention of it to her mother and she had remembered. Or her memory had been prompted by an aide to make her comments personal as we stood with pride on that day as a few who fought terrorism as a serving member of the forces during that awful time.

The Royal Scots and the military band were amalgamated with other scottish regiments in 2006 when the Royal Regiment of Scotland was formed.

In my memoir I devote four chapters to me time in the Army as a lot happened during that period.

These memories are not included.

These have been memories that I have shared over the years and remain precious to me and will always be the way that I remember HM The Queen. Vibrant, smiling and good humoured. Rest in peace your majesty it was an honour to have been in your service.

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