Updated: Sep 17
Coffee Conversations is a segment that talks about things usually overheard in quieter moments; like when talking to a friend in a coffee shop. The subjects are loose, opinionated, and poorly researched. I promise nothing and will deliver less.
I’ve really been getting into Earl Grey recently, since they had a big box of it by the kettle at work. Drunk through the whole lot by myself at this point. Why buy so much tea if you don’t drink it? Shouldn’t complain though; saves me the money on buying my own.
Did you know I turned 27 today? 9th September keeps coming earlier and with less importance. The first event of my new year was stepping on something soft and wriggling in the bathroom that ran away when I lifted my foot up. The next thing I heard was the Queen had died. No connection implied.
My grandad had a crush on her all his life. He was still playing in the street when she was crowned Queen. He died a good few years before her too. She was Queen when the British Empire was still a world power. It still unbelievable that it only ended a few decades ago, the handover of Hong Kong being the formal end, when I was 2. Now, I’ve been working there for almost half a year, and I can still see signs of the legacy in road signs, kilt-clad pipe bands, and Victoria Park, though there probably won’t be any 21-gun salutes here I wager. Could be wrong though.
I could, if I wanted to, decide I was a citizen of the British Empire with two years to spare. But the Queen had been there practically from its height to its fall. Can you imagine that? So much history witnessed by one woman. I don’t even know how to feel about the whole thing, quite honestly. I’m a UK citizen, so surely, I should be in mourning, or celebrating a new King, or something along those lines. The thing is, she’s always kind of been there, so there’s never really been a need for me to worry about the monarchy. So maybe I’m just new to this whole hereditary monarchy thing. I don’t know what I’m meant to feel, so I’m not feeling much at all.
The rest of the world is though, or at least they’re performing their roles better than me. Even Putin sent his condolences, which was a surprise. Nice to see him take time out of his war of aggression to console the family of one dead person, but it’s a shame he couldn’t have done that for the thousands of Ukrainian families – or better yet, not have killed their family members in the first place. And yet Elizabeth II was born only eight years after the end of the Russian Empire, which Putin seems excited to recreate.
It makes me wonder how much history I might witness in my life. What will I have seen if I reach the age of 96? Will I have the wherewithal to remember half of it, or will it be a memory of a memory trapped in a bag of crumbling bones? Wait, that’s a bit too morbid for this kind of conversation. The point is, it’s hard to imagine seeing all of that in one lifetime. Maybe that’s what I’ve ended up mourning the most: the loss of memory? Of experience? Relationships with famous or otherwise important people is always odd because it’s parasocial: unless you know them personally, you can form a whole opinion of them without them ever knowing you exist. You can be mad, or happy, or obsessed. You can know everything about them down to what they have in their handbag (“a mirror, lipstick, mint lozenges, and reading glasses” according to Reader’s Digest), even though they’re the Queen! Imagine being that intimately acquainted with Queen Victoria or William the Conqueror without them ever hearing or seeing you.
I saw the Queen once, only once. I was taking the bins out at Ascot, when several black cars drove past. I didn’t take any notice of them until someone behind me said ‘the Queen’s in there!” I caught a glimpse of silver hair muted by the tinted windows, and that was it. Back to pushing the bins and washing up in the kitchens. What a legacy we two have. I assume that’s still more than most people. On the other hand, I leave the country in the same year she dies, so now thousands of other people will get to see her closer than I ever will; she’ll just be a little less lively.
Makes you wonder what might happen next to the whole monarchy thing. I always sort of thought that after Elizabeth died, any appetite for a monarchy would disappear. She was the brand, and now the rebranding just isn't as appealing to most people from what I gather. Harry wanted out. Andrew was outed. Charles finally gets his turn, but he’s got the Diana albatross around his neck. What’s popular about the monarchy anymore? The Queen was such a staple that it’s hard to imagine what that institution will even look like without her. And yet, I'm still not sure if I care. I’m in a weird limbo of feeling. Should I mourn her? Which part? Why? It’s not obvious, like with my grandad. He definitely would have mourned her.
Everyone else is performing for it, though, as I said. World leaders and celebrities all sharing how much she meant to them, how nice she was when they met, what a loss it is. It’s hard to tell how much of it is real and how much is obligation. Or maybe I’m just too cynical. But cynicism doesn’t mix well with death. Makes you sound unfeeling, or cold. I don’t think I’m a cold person, especially once I make another tea. This one’s nearly finished now. Funny coincidence Early Grey was also the Queen’s favourite.