I admit to spending the best part of Monday afternoon stoically trying to fight off the teardrops -- and almost managing it. I was watching the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on TV and for an ancient Brit like me it was emotionally exhausting. Please excuse me for the sentimentality.
From early on it became clear I could be fighting a losing battle with the emotions. As the cortege set off from Buckingham Palace the haunting sound of the pipers sent an immediate shiver up my spine. Nonetheless I was holding up quite well until towards the end when the procession approached Windsor Castle.
That's when we saw Elizabeth's favourite horse, Emma, obediently standing there between the flowers watching the hearse go by. The lovely black fell pony which Elizabeth rode while she was in her 90s, looked forlorn as if it knew it had just lost a dear friend. There was even the Queen's headscarf on the pony's saddle. Cue the first tear.
Then came the corgis. How strange that after spending hours watching the weeping crowds it took Elizabeth's four-legged friends to trigger my first teardrop.
The entire proceedings were a memorable display of pomp and ceremony organised with military precision. Topping the list were the 10 pallbearers from the Grenadier Guards. Being a pallbearer is an unenviable task at the best of times, let alone when half the world is watching and will spot the slightest slip. The composure they showed as they carried the coffin up the steep steps to St George's Chapel at Windsor was truly impressive.
The final chapter in the chapel featured a lone piper playing for the late Queen. What a poignant moment and a fitting farewell to Elizabeth II.
Standing in line
One of things we have observed in the past couple of weeks is that the British still lead the way in the art of queueing. At one stage people stood in line for as much as 24 hours in the nearly 10-mile -long queue to see Elizabeth lying in state, although it was usually around 14 hours. One twitter thread called it "a triumph of Britishness".
Being brought up in England I have had considerable experience in the doubtful joys of queueing, although admittedly on a much smaller scale to those witnessed in London. In fact, queue etiquette was an essential part of one's upbringing. According to a survey some years ago the average England person will stand in a queue for a total of four days a year. It's almost a national sport.
As George Mikes, the Hungarian-born English writer once observed: "An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one."
When I was first in Thailand, I noticed people at bus stops queueing diagonally across the pavement. It took me a little while to figure out that they were actually escaping the sun by standing in the narrow slip of shade created by the shadow of the power pole.
In those days people would joke that Thais had no real understanding of the word "queue" and when waiting for something would simply gather in a large crowd with no discernible beginning or end.
Things have improved considerably since then and people queue quite sensibly on the BTS even when it is crowded. Admittedly the Thai interpretation of queue is perhaps still a little more flexible than in Europe. And as in most countries there are always some people who seem to think you join the queue at the front.
Blame it on 007
I associate long queues with the early James Bond films. On a wet November night in 1962 in my home town of Reading I recall joining a queue that snaked around the Odeon cinema for the opening of the initial Bond film, Dr No. It was the first time I heard the catchphrase "The name's Bond… James Bond." Anyone who had the surname of Bond lived on that little phrase at dinner parties for years to come.
A couple of years later, in 1964, as a student I remember queueing at a cinema in Kingston-on-Thames to see the newly-released Goldfinger. Again it was inclement weather and we were wrapped up in our college scarfs. I recall the cinema doorman sneering at us saying "I thought students are supposed to be intelligent. This film's a load of rubbish."
He was probably right, but it was entertaining rubbish. Not so sure it was worth queueing for though.
The longest time I have spent in a queue was for more than three hours one Sunday morning outside Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium in February 1965. I was buying tickets in advance for a Chelsea v Spurs FA Cup match.
That was long before the days of mobile phones, so you had to pass the time doing strange things like actually talking to other people in the queue. It was quite good fun.
Around the world there are actually queue professionals, sometimes known as "line standers" who make a living standing in line for rich people who can't be bothered. One Londoner charges 20 pounds (840 baht) an hour and says he makes a decent living. In China one professional commented cheerfully "You don't need any skills, except the ability to suffer."
Think I will give that job opportunity a miss.
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