It’s a little hard to know what to write today.
The other evening I got a call from my old travel buddy, Tim, just back from India and bursting to tell me all about his trip.
When he calls, it’s never brief, so I went outside with my camera and took some shots of the receding day as he chattered.
Tim has travelled almost his entire life and he can’t stand being cooped up. Covid was hard for him, isolated in a Brooklyn penthouse.
So the moment rules relaxed he was off, to Iceland, to France several times and then he had the chance to go to India, where he’s been many times.
There are dozens of places I would love to have seen but even if I was wealthy and fit, I can’t imagine myself travelling anymore.
It’s not the fear of terrorists or plane crashes or any of the things that some people worry about.
It’s the chaos, the noisy bedlam of airports.
Travel groups or individuals that ought not to be allowed to leave their homeland.
When I last travelled “abroad” there were already too many people on the move but back then they were not as numerous. They were easy enough to ignore.
What makes me think I was “better” than them?
It’s not the right word.
What bothered me was the notion that popular destinations were being overtaken by tourism and losing their natural essence.
Tim talked the other night of the massive ships he can see coming and going from the dockyards in New York.
Monster ships. Floating hotels.
They make me shudder.
The two trips we took to Antarctica were aboard small ships with a capacity of 100-130 passengers. The company was sensitive to environmental issues and yet I worried that even those minor intrusions to the fragile ecology would be too much.
And yes, opening up the area for larger ships.
A reasonable concern, as that is exactly what happened and ironically, as I have mentioned before, both of those two ships subsequently sank.
Or to be accurate one sank in Antarctica and the other lies beached in the Solomon Islands.
Tourism is big business. It was bound to happen as aeroplanes got larger and fares became affordable with “package deals”.
It was no longer people travelling for business or to see friends and loved ones, as in my childhood.
Only the wealthy could afford to travel back then.
And people who got industry discounts, which is how I managed as much as I did.
Now, everyone is on the move.
Tourists and terrorists and refugees.
The mental image makes my nerves stand on end.
If you have ever looked at the Flight Radar24 website you may know what I mean.
Perhaps it’s the neat freak in me that can’t stand what I see as disorder.
Maybe it’s that I am not physically strong enough to negotiate busy places anymore. I always had a fear of crowds, needing to know where the nearest exit was.
In my mind I could see people fleeing in panic and being trampled under foot.
You’re saying to yourself “Neat freak? She called herself neat freak but she has 11 cats?”
My standards had to be adjusted slightly, it’s true.
But animals, that’s a different thing.
Animals have always touched my emotions.
Today was no exception.
Tim called me again last night, asking if I intended to watch the Queen’s funeral today.
It was clearly a moment in history, whatever your personal feelings might be. I had become fascinated by the choreography and organization, the precision of it all.
As a child, in London I was aware of royalty. I remember when King George died, but we had no television to watch funerals or coronations and after we left England, I never really thought much about it.
Having lived abroad so very long, I can’t say I have an opinion, one way or another about royalty.
But I have never stopped feeling British and maybe that is partly what drew me to watching not all, but significant parts of today’s events.
Such a long, long funeral. You could say it started the day the Queen died, with so many steps where something could have gone wrong.
If anything did, it was very well covered up.
I try picturing a similar state funeral held in the modern United States. Presidents do die in office, so is there a plan which goes into effect as it did in Britain?
The British, with all their pageantry, are experienced but they are also disciplined and over here, more and more I see discipline being eroded.
Who can people in this country look up to?
Let us say that dwelling on these matters rendered me more than usually emotional.
As ever, though, it was an animal that made me cry.
Not the corgis, or the Queen’s other dogs that I am sure will be cared for.
It was the sight of the Queen’s horse Emma, standing with her attendant beside the road in Windsor as the procession passed by.
And perhaps the lone piper’s lament, fading away as the Queen was laid to rest.