Life in a Fishbowl

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Kayaking up the mighty Hudson. Photo: JH.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019. A beautiful sunny summer’s day in New York yesterday. Temps in the low 80s, a soft breeze escorting the sunshine.

The topic amongst people I know remains Epstein with new explanations of how he came to kill himself. Assuming that is what happened. The problem with comprehending the situation is that the man lived such an obsessively urgent life whatwith all of his business dealings, his daily “massages,” his dinner parties, the girls, the ranch, the island of delites, that the center is missing. Anything you read about him, no matter how outrageous or incredible, you could believe about this guy. He’s a mystery. His connections – or acquaintances – were so high up there, that it can’t help making you wonder about a lot of people.

I look at the Daily Mail everyday. It’s a wonder in itself. That’s world gossip-central on the internet. It’s unashamedly brilliantly tabloidal, and the only bad part of that is you will read (or see – I don’t read them) the terrible things people do to each other, to their children, their families, their neighbors, the partners, their animals. You’ll also see (or read) something about one of the Kardashians. Everyday. It’s mindless and it’s big business too. Yesterday, one of them – Kylie Jenner, I think – was getting kissed by her boyfriend Travis Scott. That’s the story: they were kissing on the lips.

Then I came to Nigel Farage having a few words about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Farage is outspoken in that he doesn’t appear to hold back any objections about matters he’s discussing. I’ve seen several of his moments when he was a representative at EU meetings. My British friends say that he’s not popular (with them) politically. I think he annoys them. I think he annoys a lot of people because aside from his opinions, there’s something kind of next-door-neighbor likeable about him.

I can’t help laughing about it. I’m one of those who finds this Royal Family interesting. After all, it’s the only one we’ve got (or sociologically most interesting) as Americans. I am in awe of the persona of Her Majesty. From everything I’ve read and learned about her – including Sally Bedell Smith’s excellent biography — and from her conduct as a national figure, she is indeed the most Powerful figure in the world. Despite everything around her and the rest of us, the Queen personifies peace and Common Sense. Off camera, from what I’ve learned from those who know her, she sounds like a very amused and amusing older lady.

In the Daily Mail article, Farage remarks also about the Queen Mother Elizabeth and how she was “slightly overweight, chain smoking, gin drinker who lived to 101 years old.” This annoyed a lot of people, obviously.

It made me laugh because I’d heard several stories about the Queen Mother when she was very much alive. And all of them are a portrait of a woman of power and position who enjoyed herself and was very funny — especially when you connect it to that public face with its wise, wry smile.

Edie “The Queen” and Bill Goetz.

Years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles, I was having dinner with Edie Goetz whose butler Lodge had served in the Royal Household as a footman. While waiting for Mrs. G., I asked Lodge how he liked working for Madam after working for the Royal Family.

“Oh, very much sir. She’s very much like the Queen.” And then he added, “I don’t mean Queen Elizabeth, I mean the Queen Mother.”

Surprised by his seemingly serious remark, I ask him how Mrs. G was like the Queen Mother.

“Oh, staff, sir – her staff comes first.”

I learned from others that her footmen all loved her. And they all had stories about her – all of which were endearingly funny. One oft-told anecdote was about how one afternoon she sent one of her boys to fetch her jewels since she would be attending a formal affair that night. Waiting for him by the “lift,” he soon emerged, bedecked in her jewels – tiara, necklace, brooch, etc.

Highly amused by the astonishment she said: “Give me those, they are for real queen!”

When Princess Margaret was alive, the Queen Mum, Margaret and eight or ten of the footmen from the palace, would go up to Windsor Great Lodge for the weekend, and have their own party. Margaret would play the piano (and play the piano), and the boys would all accompany her and the Queen Mum singing and enjoying themselves.

The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

Meanwhile, back to the Daily Mail article: Mr. Farage doesn’t think much of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s global awareness campaigns. Farage said Harry’s popularity “has fallen off a cliff” since he married. He evidently liked Harry better in the role of playboy prince. His admiration for the Queen herself is of “an awe-inspiring woman; we’re bloody lucky to have her.” He refers to her heir as “Charlie Boy …. “is now in his 70s, may the Queen live a very, very long time.”

I’m a Prince Harry fan. I think of his mother and how much I imagined she loved her sons, and what a loss she was for them. I want them to win. For their mother. That’s all from reading it in the Press of course, but it’s the nature of life also, the pure sentiment of fandom.

Theirs is such an odd life, being a member of that Family. We take it for granted because they are in the goldfish bowl, not us. We’re just passers-by. But that kind of isolation – in the eyes of the world – is not only social but historical, a kind of antiquated cultural segregation. It surely has its drawbacks, psychologically as well as socially. It looks like it’s ultra-luxury to these ordinary eyes. But “Charlie Boy” as Mr. Farage refers to this institutional player, has been denied a normal lifetime by the rules of this institution. But those rules are barriers to growing and learning.

It is also a fading social phenomenon in the 21st century world. Only two centuries ago, the notion of a Royal Family dominated much of civilization. It was commonplace in history for eons. Today there are remnants of that political human creation. However, it is no longer common. The British were the remaining Empire in the West (and the East). Elizabeth’s great-great-grandmother Victoria was the Empress of India as well.

That is all gone now, finished by the time of our grandparents’ generation mid-20th century. The Royal Family under Elizabeth’s “reign” has provided a lustre of power that is more image than reality in today’s world marked, as it is by the migrations of the past quarter century that has affected all of Europe. That “lustre” is what real human power is, and she has it. This is the world that Prince Harry and Meghan and Charles and Camilla and William and Kate are seeing from the palace windows, and it’s a powerful view; an eye on the world. Outside.

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