‘How was jolly old England?’ Camp asked me after I sat down, happily surveying the unchanging moving picture of the harbour, the comings and goings of boaters and people and the noisy gulls. It feels good to be home again and have a pint with Camp who looks a bit like Einstein in his dotage. I think he needs a haircut but I better not say anything because he prides himself not to give a hoot about his appearance. ‘Did you like London?’
‘Yes, I did. We walked for miles around the old city, along the Thames and past all the iconic buildings and landmarks. Lucky for us, we were there just days before the Queen died, so we still had unrestricted access to all the gigantic stone monstrosities: castles, cathedrals, bridges and towers. I was most impressed with the Modern Tate gallery which is in a huge old former power station.’
‘Did you go to Stonehenge?’
The queen is dead. Long live the king. That about sums up this week in England. I happened to be in London at an Indian restaurant when the news of the Queen’s passing flashed on my phone. But life goes on. It’s been a trying week for the British. New prime minister, their Queen dying and a new King who has been waiting in the wings all his life. Flags are lowered in mourning, then raised in celebration during the proclamation, then lowered again. Churches and Cathedrals only open for mourners which is fine with me. I’m not a big fan of those massive monuments to celestial hubris, although their architecture and sheer size is impressive, considering they were built 800 to a thousand years ago with no machinery but thousands of labourers.
You would have thought that Charles would get some grief-time for his mom but no; there are procedures and protocols to be observed. The theater of royalty, preferably with as much pageantry and absurdity as possible. Brits like their history to come as costume drama.’ as John Crace from the Guardian dryly observed. Does anybody really want to see Charles’ face on a coin or a pound note or even on the Canadian currency? Hard to imagine.
The new king is more than just a pretty face. He actually made a landmark speech on saving the environment in 1970, just 21 years old, in Cardiff. He also founded Duchy Originals, a natural food company in 1990, at the time thought to be a folly but today it’s the most popular organic food brand in England. Together with the fortune of his estimated royal inheritance of over 20 billion, King Charles III is instantly one of the richest men on earth.
Once in a while my good friend Campbell or Camp as everyone knows him goes off on a soliloquy or monologue, usually classified as a diatribe. Since this is not a discussion with differing points of view but a sermon aimed at a choir of one – me – I find it easiest to listen and look out the window at the water, the gulls and boats and let him get it off his chest. It went something like this:
At an anniversary celebration a couple of weeks ago, one of the guests asked of the long-married couple what it takes to make a marriage last. The usual banter and jokes were offered like ‘make love not war’, ‘too busy to think about it’ or ‘time is not the enemy of everlasting love’. I asked Camp what he thought.
‘Well, that’s a loaded question,’ he said, ‘since I’m only wedded for a few years I’m not the expert on longevity in matrimony. I would say that tolerance of each other’s idiosyncrasies and giving each other the personal space is probably the most important facet of my relationship with Muriel. Without her support for some of my silly habits like reading the news at 3am or my bizarre conviction that I’m always right it wouldn’t last.’
‘I’ll let you in on a little secret Camp,’ I said.