An Unforgettable Meeting With the Queen

Even though we had been aware that our Queen Elizabeth was showing signs of coming to the end of her long reign as well as her life, when the world was told on Thursday, September 7th, that she had passed on, many of us were left with a feeling of shock and sadness. Wasn’t it just a few days before that she had inducted the new Prime Minister of England into office, a tradition that has been carried out by the reigning monarch of the UK for eons?

No matter what anyone may think about the value for maintaining the monarchy these days because of its cost at a time when a large part of our world is suffering from famine, climate change disasters, war and terrible injustices, the Queen’s death has revealed to us that there is something very worthwhile about it after all. The debate about abolishing the monarchy has been ongoing for almost as long as the Queen’s 70 years on the throne. The fact that she, a woman who wasn’t the next in line but unexpectedly inherited this responsibility because her uncle abdicated the throne so he could marry a divorced woman, put her in the position of ruling over one of the world’s oldest empires.

Seventy years is a long time to have to reign over an increasingly more complicated role as the British monarch for the “Commonwealth of Nations” which reached to the far corners of the world. Gradually as the world population increased and became more connected, many of the countries conquered by the Brits no longer wanted to be ruled by a distant relative who knew little about them and their customs. Wanting their freedom from the monarchy’s tight control, they either set up their own monarchy or elected their own leaders to form a republic. Despite her efforts to connect with her far flung family with more frequent visits and in some cases a first visit from a monarch, she was dismayed to see more than 30 members leave the commonwealth during her reign. Nevertheless, she handled every crisis within her dwindling empire with grace and understanding. On top of this kind of pressure, she also had to handle the precarious position she was put in as a Head of State demanding she be supportive of the numerous changes of government and Prime Ministers in England whether she liked them or not. Again, she was able to handle every political crisis and leader with an astounding knowledge and understanding of their roles. I think there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that she was born to be both a Queen and a Head of State. Totally dedicated to her job with its responsibilities and changes, she revealed such dedication that at times the media blatantly accused her of neglecting her own family. No doubt she did but she never faltered. She came through both her personal and her public life with aplomb.

We, being her people you might say, have always taken a tremendous interest in her personal life. Unfortunately, the media may have expressed too much interest in the the Queen and all the Royals. Many of us will remember the time when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Unfortunately, the Queen was instantly chastised for the how she handled the tragedy. Why had she waited so long before issuing statement after the tragic news to the people, and why did it take her so long to return London from Balmoral where she was taking a holiday? Did she not care? Was she that much out of touch with the public that she was not there to mourn with all her subjects the death of a young woman who inspired all those she met with a freshness that the monarchy had never seen before? All of this kind of publicity was probably one of the worst times of Elizbeth’s reign. I remember distinctly listening to her annual Christmas speech that year when she described her year as a “horriblis annibus”. Well, to her credit, she took the message from the people to heart because from that time on the whole mood at the palace began to change. She made more appearances and somehow appeared to be more vulnerable as a person whom they could connect to. Yes, she had listened to her people and had learned from them.

During this time, I wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on with the royal family. I had other, more important things on my mind. I remember thinking, however, that the media were making far too much fuss over Diana and being almost cruel to the Queen. I could understand the difficulty Diana would have had dealing with her role as wife to the future king, the protocol that this role required, and worst of all realizing that she had married a man much older than she who was in love with another woman… Camilla…his first love. Of course, the media had a hay day with this family affair making it into a sordid event which must have been extremely difficult for Elizabeth.

Somehow the whole tragic story got absorbed into my subconscious because one night I woke up from a dream I had about the Queen. It went something like this. I found myself enjoying a beer in a typical British pub and sitting across from me at my booth was the Queen! She was casually dressed with no hat and purse. She seemed relaxed and to be enjoying herself. All I could think of was how natural she was and how normal she appeared. Our conversation…can’t remember what we were talking about…flowed so naturally that I felt I was talking to one of my close friends. Not long after that dream, I heard on the CBC news that the Queen was making a huge effort to visit some of the small villages in England that she seldom got to, and that she had actually visited a pub or two. Wow! To this day I fully believe that our dreams sometimes do foretell the future, not just for ourselves, but for others we may know or events that are about to happen.

Now almost two weeks later since her death, the out pouring of love for this remarkable woman has been phenomenal. England hasn’t seen anything like this since the death of her father, King George VI, and the invincible Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister who carried the British through WWII to victory over Germany. There have been many great men, including past Kings of England, who have been proclaimed as heroes but few women. Elizabeth II will be the first to have ever succeeded in her role as Queen for over 70 years making her the longest reigning royal in the world. She will surely be missed for her undying sense of responsibility to a job she never asked for. Once she revealed her vulnerability to her people via the media, we came to see her as a human being dealing with the trials and tribulations of life. She became better at her role as Queen and as a person as she grew older. She never gave up. We have been moved by her death more as the person she was than what she represented in a way that we never anticipated. She has been a great role model for us all and will remain in our hearts for a long time.

God bless the Queen and God save the new King”– A quote from an anonymous admirer.

The Queen in her later years.

Continuing on the Road Less Travelled

Where has the time gone! I can’t believe that my last blog was published at the end of April over three months ago. It’s no wonder that feelings of guilt have been knocking at my door. Of course, I am as guilty as any decent human being for making up excuses about why we aren’t doing what we know deep down we ought be doing. Okay, perhaps I am being a bit harsh on myself because I need to acknowledge the fact that with the arrival of spring, I needed to get my veggie garden started. By June my transplants had to be put in and before I could catch my breath lettuce, spinach, and other greens were all begging to be picked. My days were consumed by my gardening and attempts to do a bit of landscaping around my property. Dare I compare gardening to a battle that just seems to get a little bit more difficult every year? The other battle I had to overcome was the plain and simple fact that I had lost my mojo to write. I could blame this on COVID, rampant inflation, unpredictable weather, along with myriad other reasons, but I won’t because the truth of it was that I felt I didn’t really have anything to write about. I hadn’t travelled anywhere for over a year and was faced with the glaring reality that my travelling days were probably over forever.

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How to Find Happiness

Finding happiness is going to be a huge challenge for me and so many others in 2022 but we can do it if we want to. After three years of a myriad of changes in my life, such as leaving a marriage of 25 years, two moves, buying a house, and learning to adapt to living on my own, I am finally in a good place where I know that I must get back to my writing. I have promised myself, let’s call it a New Year’s resolution, that there will be no more excuses for procrastinating. After considering a number of ideas for writing about my travels “within” rather than “without” since COVID isn’t allowing me to travel very far these days, I chose to tackle a topic of interest to me for a very long time…happiness! Why have we human beings been pursuing happiness, this elusive state of mind, ever since we came to this earth, and why have we failed so miserably at achieving it?

When I stop to reflect on this topic, I realise that my interest in what happiness is began more than 20 years ago. Up to that point, it really was just a word with no significant meaning attached to it. In fact, I had never even stopped to consider whether I was a happy person or not. I was too busy working and getting on with my busy life.

Then one day out of the blue, I overheard a conversation between two people where one of them remarked that in his experience, he had discovered that many people were unable to share in the happiness of another. He concluded that it was almost as if they were jealous of anyone who was always happy. On the other hand, he wondered if it was a case of that old saying “Misery loves company.” It’s true that we all want to be happy, yet we can’t seem to achieve it for some reason. Oh yes, some of us can put on a happy face when underneath we are not. It could be a mask covering up latent anger, sadness, or anxiety which we don’t want others to see. So I began to think about why we would rather talk about our misery instead of doing something about it. Are we afraid to seek our own happiness because it might seem selfish, or is it because we have the wrong idea about what could bring it to us causing us to search in all the wrong places?

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Seeking the Truth of the Matter

We won’t regret what we do in life only what we did not do.

Whoever said this could not have said it better. Most of us will probably have more regret about what we never got around to doing rather than expounding on what we did do. This is a common lament say those who have worked with the dying. Let’s face it, we can get so bogged down in the business of daily living with obligations to family, friends, work peers, and basically what society expects of us that any dreams we might have had get relegated to the back seat. It’s unfortunate that it’s not until we are on our death beds that we finally realise what we could have had if only….Why do we do this? Why can’t we do what our soul wants us to do? Why do we believe that we should settle for a life that excludes true inner peace and happiness? Did we not come here to do better than settle for second best? These are weighty questions which I have been pondering for some time.

After more than a year of having to live with the ramifications of COVID, many of us older folk are discovering that it has given us more time to consider our past and what lies ahead. Please note that I am speaking for myself as one of the ‘older folk’ and most likely not for our children and grandchildren. Their time is apt to be taken up with work, school, parenting, and whatever it’s taking for them to keep their heads above water during the pandemic.

Like so many of us today, we are having to make adjustments that we had never dreamed of doing before the pandemic. Where we can go and what we can do have been severely limited and yet, I can honestly say that my days are as busy as they were before but with a difference…a huge difference! Whereas before I was spending my time going out and about to visit friends, attending meetings, shopping, visiting my family in Ottawa, and preparing for my annual winter trip over to Thailand and beyond, now I am being forced to rewrite my schedule. My travels are taking on a whole new direction. As we go into a third wave, it’s an misnomer to say that my blog which I named betstravelsabout is rather outdated. But is it?

Reversing my travel from going outward to going inward is a work in progress. So what does travelling within look like and what can I learn from it? How can it ever replace the joy and excitement of getting away from my everyday life in Nova Scotia to return to Thailand and other Asian countries where I built up a whole new gang of friends sharing the same joy in travelling as I did? Some of my closest friends still live there and may have to stay there until they can either go back home to their country or be allowed to pick up their nomadic life once again. Judging by what is happening throughout our world today, their latter choice could become just a dream. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I plan to finish off this post with what ‘travelling within’ looks like for me.

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Handling Stress in the Midst of a Pandemic

Nothing is good or bad for thinking that makes it so” – William Shakespeare

I marvel at how great minds have expressed truisms that have lasted for so long and yet go unnoticed by so many of us these days. I chose this one from Shakespeare’s ” Hamlet ” because it is one we need to keep in mind as we face the challenges facing us now and in the future.

As some of the lockdown restrictions imposed upon us by COVID-19 are lifted, we should be thankful for that, but still remain vigilant because this virus will in all probability hang around to haunt us again. For the present, we  can now go outside and use our parks and trails to get a breath of fresh air and some much needed exercise.  As our days slowly morphed into spring,  we joyfully welcomed this small step forward to some kind of normality which will hopefully relieve some of the stress that many Canadians are feeling during this time.

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