The Queen

Recorded by WSM Written, read and knit together by MAM
Waiting for the next Prime Minister photo by Jane Barlow

It has barely been three weeks since September 6th, when a rumpled Prime Minister Johnson arrived at the Balmoral Castle gates to hand in his card at 11 a.m. In quick succession, he was followed by the tight-skirted Truss. It was a long morning for our Queen, and for those watching with concern – seeing the Queen holding onto a stick with one hand while smiling and extending the other used and bruised hand, to Liz Truss. The Queen’s head looking large on her diminished frame, her nose pinched – straining for air – while no amount of lipstick covered the cyanosis of her lips. Tuesday was a brave day. Barely 48 hours later the Queen died as she had lived, in service to her nation. The heavens opened, pouring down their tears and we are still grieving.

Accompanied by The Princess Royal and her husband Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the Queen’s coffin slowly made its way south to London to lie in state at Westminster Hall where over two hundred and fifty thousand people from all walks of life filed past to pay their respects and say ‘Thank you Ma’am for your service’. Did she cover all the bases? One could, if one chose, fault her for some family issues, but not on duty to her country as she saw it; honoring and hosting state and national moments or those small engagements around the country. The late Queen Mary was paraphrased as saying ‘We are the Royal Family and we love Infrastructure.’ We all feel a little stronger and stand a little straighter, when someone else shows interest and gratitude for what we do.

Her Majesty The Queen opens Parliament 2017 wearing – a hat –

The Saturday after the Queen’s death I wove my way behind Piccadilly through the lines of police vans parked all around St. James’ Square, then down the stairs behind that Palace to enter The Mall that felt like the nave of a giant cathedral. There was a quietness in this crowd, many carrying flowers and leading children, that was to last for days all across the country. People walked along the pavements to Buckingham Palace, sometimes with a pause as King Charles III and the Queen Consort were driven in and out of those palaces, Buckingham and St. James’. They were back and forth all afternoon and one hoped that they got at least 15 minutes for a sit-down cup of tea. The Autumn skies tossed grey and white clouds over the park trees, but the rain stayed hidden behind them.

What does it mean for a young girl to take a vow to follow a life that was chosen for her rather than she chose? It happens in all walks of life, people are lucky if they get to live their dreams. It takes an effort and strong will to turn your given path into your chosen one. The Queen embraced her role until she could relish it and turn it to her desiring. 

There are fewer of us alive now who remember Queen Elizabeth’s coronation than who will remember her death and funeral. John Galsworthy wrote in the Forsythe Saga at the death of Queen Victoria. “We shan’t see the like of her again”. But now we have this Elizabeth was our Queen for 70 years. Even in death, the Queen managed something that the government could not – as the Transport Unions and the Royal Mail held off their strikes until next month. 

At the announcement of the Queen’s death, all the television stations began airing their programs that they had been building for this moment. Planning for the Queen’s funeral had begun when she turned 79. All the news Broadcasters wore black. Huw Edwards, the senior news anchor man at the BBC – and he a Welshman – allowed himself to show some emotion. Those who wished to see the films, the footage, forever repeated could do so. It was like a huge family album of our family, our Queen, for as she vowed to give her life, be it long or short, to our service, she did – and we claimed her and the family as our own, rejoicing in the good times and fussing at the bad. The television stations played ten full days of coverage, back and forth with all the joys and the horrors replayed over and over again, probing into a life lived in the spotlight of her public, her people. The new King’s state and public greetings and meetings were followed in flashy detail. The pageantry and processions built like gentle love-making to the climax as the coffin was carried from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. Giving his address from the pulpit of the Abbey – Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury – looked down across the nave at the congregation seated below. He spoke of our collective grief, the Queen’s abiding Christian faith, and service to duty, and then let out his zinger: “People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer.” 

The service over, it was on to Wellington Arch where the coffin was transferred to the royal Hearse then driven slowly on through Hyde Park to join the A 30 road to Windsor. Just as she had begun her journey from Balmoral through the countryside of Scotland now she returned to the farms and lanes of Berkshire.

The Queen’s Corgi Dogs return from Balmoral Castle

The flags at all the royal residences flew at half-mast until the day after the State Funeral when the official period of public mourning ended. The Royal family and some of us will continue as long as we need.

In our little London garden is a David Austin Queen Elizabeth rose – still blooming in autumn. My mother bought it after my father died when she had to start a new life in her new home. Now it is with us. The same rose was among the flowers on the Queen’s coffin – in remembrance of things past but not forgotten.

Queen Elizabeth Rose by David Austin.

This has been A Letter from A. Broad, written and read for you by Muriel Murch. 

Covid, Cummings and Crying with Clive

Recorded and knit together by WSM. Aired on KWMR.org

Tear it all up and start again, as every night gives a new twist and the morning brings another reality. Thus this letter too may arrive as if receiving the papers on board ship and reading three-month-old news.

A notebook behind my desk opens to a page, ‘Nobody Talks to the Cleaners.’ A friend returning from her hospital stay remarked how she always made a point of saying ‘Hello, how are you?’ to the lady who came to clean the ward. When cleaning and other auxiliary hospital needs were contracted out – separated from the National Health Service – little fissures had a place to enter a smooth team of personnel. This essay was still waiting to be written, when Clive Myrie beat me to it and I am grateful.

Clive Myrie Somewhere.

Born to Jamaican parents Clive is a Lancashire lad. He graduated from The University of Sussex with a Law Degree at the age of twenty. But he chose to enter a BBC graduate program, thus beginning his journalist career. Traveling to over 80 countries, covering far too many war zones, he is now a regular news reporter for the BBC.

I always like to see Clive. Each news reporter has a different persona and how we respond to them may affect how we take in the news they are sharing. Even in his prime John Simmons was always too ‘old school’ for me. Jamaican born Sir Trevor McDonald barely hid his bite and made many folks sit up a bit straighter. Beloved, comfortable Welsh Huw Edwards has an aura of stability that sometimes also carries just the tiniest edge. And the women, well bless Emily Maitlis and her clarity last week. Though she was curbed she was not arrested. But I see compassion in Clive Myrie’s eyes. Scrolling through photographs I am held by one where he is standing with a guard at Guantanamo Bay prison with his fingers on his mouth. What was he thinking? What could he say?

Last week Myrie produced a special assignment closer to home. With permissions from patients, their families, and the staff, Myrie and his team spent a week in the Royal London Hospital of Whitechapel, recording the care, successes and sorrows of the hospital’s Covid virus wards. He sought out and talked with those beyond the front-line student nurses, religious leaders of all faiths, owners of funeral homes and morgues filled to overflowing with the dead of Asian and African communities hit the hardest by the virus, and the cleaners. “We clean to reduce the infection. If I don’t come the infection is going to spread more.”

In his report Myrie said ‘So many of the nurses and doctors and consultants as well as cleaners, the helping hands guiding us through this storm, are Black, Asian and Minority ethnic. Somewhere deep down, my heart skipped a little entering the Royal London’s Corona Wards. Because studies suggest that those from these communities are being affected by the virus disproportionately and almost twice as likely to die from the infection than those who are white.’

Meanwhile up the road in number 10 Downing Street ‘The Dominic Cummings incident’ is being fast swept under the not-so-magic carpet as the bitter pill of betrayal still lies un-swallowed in the mouths of many in this country. The goal of keeping the death rate at under 20,000 is long lost and the number of UK deaths will reach over 40,000 by the end of this week.

In America too those effected by the Corona Virus are disproportionally African-American and working class. Like England, security guards and workers on public transport are at the highest risk for severe infection and death.

The news from the United States brings tears of frustration, anger and deep sadness. For now – again – the senseless death – at police hands of George Floyd. I’m remembering Rodney King, I’m remembering and not calling to mind those who have been killed in the same way before and since that time. Watching the US police forces I think back to when the old ‘cop cars’ were replaced by military SUV’s returning from Iraq. Weapons came with them, bigger and more powerful guns, man-toys. Esquire writer Charles Pierce reminds us “that since 9-11, the federal government has equipped local police with $4.3 billion in military gear and prepared them for an all-out war on terrorists.” And some useful combat techniques. Jim Cessford, who has spent 47 years in law enforcement, says ‘knee to neck’ is not a tactic. “Neck restraints are totally unacceptable and they’re not an approved policy by police.” But on Twitter, the Palestinian Solidarity working group wrote: “US cops train in Israel with Israeli troops on duty in Palestine. The police violence happening in Minneapolis is straight out of the IDF playbook.”

There is anger, tears and despair aplenty among the images across the all the news media formats. There are scenes of peaceful protesters, rioters, more looters, now that the American unemployment rate is 14.7%, alongside groups cleaning up and feeding their communities. New York police wearing ‘I can breathe’ face masks, countered by other New York Police and politicians and even National Guards kneeling with, and reaching out to, protesters. Thus is the divide of the United States of America made visible to the world.

George the Poet, on Newsnight explaining a little about Racisism in the UK

Last weekend in capital cities throughout Europe groups gathered in peaceful protest of this ‘fresh’ killing. In London, marchers gathered in Trafalgar Square and the US fortress Embassy in Wandsworth. Though Social Distancing was out the window, most of the young marchers wore masks. There were only 23 arrests and the London coppers, without a mask between them, clutching only their water bottles in the heat, walked calmly side by side, with the marchers. George the Poet came to Newsnight and spoke in a gentlemanly manner trying to explain to Emily Maitlis the chilling similarities of black men and women killed by Police tactics in the UK and the U.S.

When Martin Luther King was assassinated, The King Assassination Riots, known as The Holy Week Uprising took place in 125 cities across America. America is again bubbling like a cauldron brewed and spread from the swamps of its underbelly. If the ‘Me too Movement’ which Maitlis referred to, was able to bring down Harvey Wienstien is it too much to ask that ‘Black Lives Matter’ maybe the Trump card America needs today.

So I return, retreat maybe, to James Baldwin, watching again his 1965 debate with William Buckley at Cambridge University.
“Has the American Dream been achieved at the expense of the American Negro?”
One could now add, “Among others.”
At night I reach for Baldwin’s ‘Collected Essays’, seeking clarity but not comfort.
In the background Nina Simone is banging on the piano and singing
Mississippi Goddamn – over and over again.

This has been a Letter from A. Broad.
Written and read for you by Muriel Murch.