I consider the monarchy

The Queen has died. It’s a weird thing as, for most of us, she’s just always been there, a constant fixture in our lives, her face on our money, on our postage stamps. I’ve never given an awful lot of thought about what it meant to have a Queen.

However, considering I never met her and that I have no connection with her or her family, I did find myself quite upset when we knew she was dying. When the news broadcast said the close family were rushing to her bedside, I did get a little teary but I realised that was because it brought back the morning that I got a call from the Care Home to tell me I should come to see mum. It reminded me of how I tried and failed to convince my brother to come there and then, and not leave it another couple of days. He ended up missing her by a few hours. As did, apparently, her youngest grandson.

My brother mentioned the grandson. I was about to say: just like you missed saying goodbye to mum, when my brother said, the prince should have gone earlier. I wondered if that was a sort of displaced emotion, because my brother should also have gone earlier. Anyway, I didn’t point that out to him, but kept my own counsel.

Sadly, many people I’ve known have died, which is to be expected at my age, but the Queen’s death did remind me particularly of mum’s death. I suppose we blank things out when they are too hard to remember, and when something happens that is reminiscent of the original trauma, it triggers the emotions that we couldn’t allow ourselves to feel at the time, or were too busy to feel, or that we didn’t want to remember

Look at how we’ve collectively blanked out those years of Covid. Clearing out the house in preparation to move, I found the diaries I’d written during the lockdowns. Even though it’s only a couple of years ago, I was actually shocked at how little I remember of the difficult reality of how it was. So, when a major event – and it is a historical event no matter what you think of the monarchy – happens, it resonates on a deep level as the Queen was a constant fixture in our lives.

I don’t think I’ll feel the same about Charles. He and I were born virtually a month apart, and although when I was a very little girl, I might have imagined marrying a prince, by the time I’d reached my teens it was quite clear to me that he wasn’t a boy I’d get on with. Being the same age, I’m never going to really take him seriously as my King. But I was fascinated and intensely curious to observe the rituals and pageantry of the country where I was born.

I’m now staying with friends, recovering from the trauma of moving out of mum’s house. They have an apartment in Spain and I can feel myself recuperating in the sunshine and warmth. But, even though none of us would describe ourselves as monarchists, the three of us sat together and watched the Queen’s funeral. And found it quite emotional.

Although I understand intellectually what it means to have a constitutional monarch, I’m still as confused as ever about why it should matter so much, why so many people should feel so emotionally connected. I’m still no further forward in working out what it actually meant psychologically to have a Queen reigning over us – or from now on, a King.

Mum’s favourite rose has hasn’t flowered.

There’s a rose bush in the garden that mum loved very much. It’s a tall rose, a sort of sugar pink in colour, and she could see it from her bedroom window when she was sitting up in bed. It’s an old rose but every summer it would flower profusely. ‘This old rose keeps on going,’ she would say. When she was in the care home, I’d cut a few blooms and take them into her.

This year, for the first time ever, it hasn’t flowered once. It can’t be the drought because the other roses have flowered. It still has green leaves, but no buds. Now I’m about to leave the house, and there’ll be no further connexion, it felt like the rose has stopped bothering to make the effort to flower. A bit like a reverse Beauty and the Beast. Initially, I felt sad. It seemed to signify the ending of an era. But now I feel Ok about it. Now I really feel I’m allowed to move on.

It’s not the only symbolic – or superstitious, if you prefer – indication that it’s the right time to leave. It’s an old adage that a robin in the garden is the spirit of someone who’s died. Actually, there’s always been a robin in the garden, I remember dad used to talk to one, but it’s also true that the last few years robins have nested close to the house in the guttering at the top of a drainpipe. It’s a safe, sheltered place to nest, out of the reach of predatory birds and prowling cats. Last year, as I was afraid their nest would be washed away after heavy rain, I covered the tempting gutter with a piece of mesh. This year, they built their nest on top of the mesh! So, they are very much resident in the garden.

And once, when I was on the phone in the living room, talking to someone about grief and death, I looked up and saw a robin had hopped right through the back of the house and into the living room. ‘Did it seem to be looking around, checking out how things were?’ asked my pal on the other end of the phone line.

‘Well, yes it did, rather,’ I had to admit. My friend was convinced: it was the spirit of one of my parents come to see me.

Then there are the feathers. Everyone knows that, if a white feather floats down beside you, that means you’ve had a visit from a departed soul. Several times now, I’ve found some of the most downy soft, pristine white feathers scattered all over the lawn.

So, whether or not other people take this seriously, it’s made me feel that although I’m leaving the house, I’m not abandoning it. It’s the right time to go and somehow, I’m receiving permission, receiving a Blessing, if you like. As much as my parents were happy here and I want to honour that, my work here is done.

Funnily enough, as I was typing this, the new owner knocked on the door to say hallo. We went out in the garden and I showed her some of things I’ve planted. Her mother has just died and we talked about how difficult it is to let go of things that once meant something to our parents. In fact, she admired a couple of pieces of furniture which I don’t want and said I’d be more than happy to leave behind. So, I do hope the new people will also be happy here.

What I’ve got to do is make sure I’m packed up and ready to leave! At the moment I’m surrounded by chaos! There’s a lot to do, but at least most of it is my own stuff. If I decide to throw it out, that’s my choice, I don’t have to burdened by guilt or some vague sense of responsibility to the past. And my current concern is: will everything I am keeping fit into the storage space that I’ve booked to use while I’m settling on the next phase of my life!