02 June 2013

Our Lizzie

Sixty years ago this day -- 2 June 1953 -- I was in Nigeria, huddled with a group of Baptist missionaries beside around a short wave radio attached to a car battery, straining through the static to hear the occasional word or trumpet from the coronation of Elizabeth II.  She had become Queen in Africa, I lived in Africa -- it was too wonderful!

In January 1979, I flew from Greece to London to meet E. It was cold, cold to the bone, unbelievably grey after Greece. E kept saying he did not "get" the monarchy, so I took him to see the crown jewels at the Tower. When I had first seen them in 1953, they were in the Round Tower, and I remembered walking around the glittering mound of gold and jewels. In 1979 they were in a different space, set along a table as if for an estate sale, poorly lit, without glitter and glamour, over-determined tawdry gilded ostentation.  The exhibition room seemed nearly as grey and chill as outside.

We were in line behind a young schoolteacher and her class. The children were conspicuously poor, over-run shabby shoes, darned socks, patched elbows and knees, coats with mis-matched buttons and sleeves too short, but they and their clothes were very scrubbed and clean. They seemed very soft, very blond, like a flock of goslings.  They were so very good. They looked dutifully at each item, clearly no more impressed than were we. Then a girl stopped and gasped.  The children near her stopped and looked where she was pointing.

"Ooh, look!" the gosling breathed. "It's our Lizzie's crown!"

The children flocked, a soft shared "Ooh!" floated up, and for a moment the childrens' radiance made the jewels shine.

1 comment:

  1. Our Lizzie's crown may be glistening beautiful, but these children in the poor clean clothes glistened even more.


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