It must have been 1954 or 55; the queen came to our town for a gala performance as part of a tour of the north west. Mum, Dad- carrying a stool for my grandmother to sit on while we waited- Grandma herself (visiting us at the time), my brother (3) and I (6), tramped over the fields of the half-built estate where we lived, to the main road. I guess I had no idea what to expect, but we waited, it grew dark, and a shiny black limo, lit up inside so the royal couple could be seen, drove by, to cheering and flag-waving crowds. And that was it. I have a memory of white fur, a tiara, and that is all- but even they could be influenced by the subsequent pictures of what a young queen should look like for an evening event.
‘Subsequent pictures’; the queen has been in the background for most of my life- her doings captured by the papers and the tv, part of the diet fed us by the news of the day.
But I once had an opportunity of a more steady gaze, via an invitation, with several hundred others, to a Royal Garden Party. As well as superior sandwiches and cakes, here was the chance to gawp at those members of the royal family who were on duty that day. And by chance, I happened to be nearer the queen than any of the others. A little figure, listening intently to what the chosen, who had been singled out to speak to her- and I was not one of those- had to say, before she moved on to someone else.
I guess for many of us, this parallels our life, our lifetime, with God; a brief glimpse of loveliness, maybe an opportunity for a steadier gaze, and the constant reminders throughout our lives of this figure who is always there. When my paths have crossed the queen’s (yeah, I know this sounds pretentious; forgive me), this has been by chance, once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime experiences. The invitation is always there, though, for us to glimpse, or steadily gaze at God. He need not always be in the background.