Expat Chronicles: Lockdown Lifts! A Prince Passes

Biking around London this week, I keep running into the same recurring dream I’ve had a couple of times before. Pubs are opening. Stores are opening. Restaurants and cafes are opening. Owners, managers and staff are wiping down windows and sweeping up the sidewalks. They are setting out tables and chairs, rearranging inventory.

It’s the same dream I had last summer, and last fall. Businesses blossoming! Smiles widening! Merry tipplers downing pints of ale at 11 in the morning as I pedal on past. The skies have parted, and the sun is sunnier than it’s ever been!

This is the week the UK emerged from another COVID-19 lockdown – sort of. You can now go to a pub for a drink, or a restaurant for a meal, but you have to enjoy them outside. In another month or so, indoor service should also be available. Luckily, the weather has been cooperative. Mostly clear skies; temperatures pushing into the 50s Fahrenheit. For London in April, that’s tropical.

As I write this I am preparing to go on my first Daddy’s Night Out since early November, so I am typing quickly. I am in a hurry to blog this blog out and go to a pub, where I will party like it’s 1999, which in my case means having about three beers, swinging by the Peri Peri fried chicken place, returning home by 10 p.m., and eating chicken in front of the TV while I watch the Masters golf tournament, which I recorded.

I am typing so quickly I might misspell some werds and have some brakedowns in logic, which means my thoughts will suddenly shift from one thing to Prince Philip died the other day.

I saw the news almost as soon as it happened. I was on the internet, doing my usual mindless web surfing, when up pops a breaking news story about Prince Philip dying. I thought to myself, “Now that’s too bad. Which one is Prince Philip?” I honestly didn’t know. I really, truly, honestly, in all my Expat-Living-In-London-Three-Plus-Years self did not know which one was Prince Philip.

Well, he was the husband of the Queen. England’s First Husband. The Duke of Edinburgh. A man who lived 99 years, the last 73 married to Queen Elizabeth. He was a dashing rascal of a gent who was born on the dining room table in Mon Repos, a villa on the Greek island of Corfu on 10 June 1921, the only son and fifth and final child of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg.

He served as a Naval Officer in World War II. In 1942 he became first lieutenant of HMS Wallace, at 21 years old one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy. During the invasion of Sicily, in July 1943, as second in command of Wallace, he saved his ship from a night bomber attack. In 1944, he moved on to the new destroyer, HMS Whelp, where he saw service with the British Pacific Fleet in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla. He was present in Tokyo Bay when the instrument of Japanese surrender was signed.

I stole most of the above two paragraphs from Wikipedia, so you know the info has been properly sourced and vetted. What I did learn on my own is that Prince Philip had a sharp wit, was an avid sportsman, lived a long and busy life – he died at 99 – and was maybe not very nice to his only son, Prince Charles, because Prince Charles was not properly macho, and might have been something of a wimp.

That last part might have some merit. The way I hear it, Prince Charles didn’t really want to marry Lady Diana. But his father wanted him to marry her, so marry her he did, and the rest is history. An unhappy marriage ended tragically, and decades later we still can’t stop talking about it.

Also, it appears that Prince Philip was not the Royal Family member who wondered aloud about the skin color of Archie, the offspring of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. If you want more info on all that, read my other blog (“Expat Chronicles: Meghan and Harry, Race and Royals”).

I do know this: Prince Philip lived his life when the world might have seen the greatest century-long change in its history. When he was born, many earthlings still got around on horses or other animals. Today, almost everyone has a car or access to motorized transportation. Flight was still in its relative infancy when he was born; today there are missions to Mars.

He came of age when telegraphs were a popular form of communication; today a woman in Peru can have a Zoom call with her cousin in Mongolia, aunt in Norway, and brother in Tanzania in a matter of seconds.

Prince Philip lived a privileged and enchanted life. He wanted for nothing while much of the world didn’t have adequate food, water or shelter. He served his country honorably against fascists intent on world domination. He married into a royal family that seems rooted in the past and no longer relevant in today’s world.

He was born just a few years after the Spanish flu pandemic, when much of the world was forced into lockdown. He died during the coronavirus pandemic, when much of the world has been forced into lockdown.

I’ll tip my glass to him tonight while enjoying my first pub beverage since around Halloween. He deserves it, and so do I, and so do all of us.

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