It was the Queen’s birthday yesterday but she wasn’t in the party mood. Instead she announced, ‘Today is traditionally a day of celebration. This year, however, it is very difficult to escape a very sombre national mood.’
The past couple of months have seen some harrowing incidents in the United Kingdom and it does feel like I am living on an island that has been battered and bruised. This is though a country that is used to ‘pulling through’. It has a history of digging deep into its stoical pockets. As the Queen also said in her message, ‘United in our sadness, we are equally determined, without fear or favour, to support all those rebuilding lives so horribly affected by injury and loss.’
Many of my friends have moved out of London. Seeking space, quiet and a quality of life that can be purchased at a quarter of the price, certainly compared to what those of us still living in a shoe box with a single figure postcode pay. I go through phases when I wonder if I would be better off in the suburbs. But, for the moment, the arrow on the scales that balance the commute v central London living, swings in favour of my inner city life.
Yesterday, as I sat on the tube on my way to an appointment at my opticians. I was surrounded by the multi-cultural background of London’s inhabitants. Next to me an Asian teenage boy was deftly flipping a Rubik’s cube, opposite me a middle aged Frenchman virtually played his piano, turning the pages on a music score cradled in his lap. Two girls giggled, one with pink hair, one with blonde, as they discussed what they would buy on Oxford Street. An elderly Middle Eastern man in front of me smiled and leaned on his walking stick. In one carriage we spanned several decades in age, along with a wide diversity in gender, faith and cultural background but that is how London should be. Londoners have their own identity, do their own thing, and for the most part are happy to live their lives next to each other. For an introvert like me it is the perfect environment. A non-judgemental community where I get to co-exist alongside others, but without having to meet the expectations of life’s unspoken agenda. An agenda which some of my peers choose to match their achievements against.
After the opticians I walked home, trying not to fall over as I tested out my new multi-focal lenses. Before I knew where I was I had stumbled into the end of the parade for the Queen’s birthday celebrations and there was Queenie, bobbing along Pall Mall in her open-top carriage with Prince Philip beside her. Admittedly between my blurred vision and the crowd I only glimpsed her hat and a brief regal wave but it felt special.
The sun shone, the sky was blue and I was surrounded by people speaking fifty different languages, from fifty different backgrounds but for all our differences, we had one thing in common – a smile on our faces. After everything that has gone on in the past few months, I needed that. Just a little reminder that the brighter side of humanity lives on.