I haven’t uploaded a blog for almost one month, even though I have made some notes in between, mainly on the weather, or the hot weather. Today, for example, my phone registered at 2 pm a reading of 36.9 degrees Celsius while the Hong Kong Observatory recorded an all-time high of 35.9 degrees for the month of September. But we have past Mid-Autumn Festival already. Last month also saw Severe Tropical Storm Ma-on skirting through, bringing cooler air for one or two days, but disrupting a programmed visit to the Palace Museum that Su and I had booked with the ASA (Administrative Service Association). Luckily, we were amongst a group on another visit a few days before when we were met by the Museum Director Dr Louis Ng, followed by a guided tour from the Deputy Director (Curatorial and Programming) Dr Daisy Yiyou Wang, who had been with the Museum for the past three years and was extremely knowledgeable.
Back to the week that just passed, it began with Britain having a new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, who has been known to be antagonistic with China and Hong Kong. Some friends – Britons and home-grown Hong Kong people alike – would not hesitate to say that the country has better people to hold that office. She spoke with an accent that Professor Henry Higgins would recognize as coming from people far away from London. Anyway, she went to Balmoral the following day for an audience with the Queen who appointed her the 15th Prime Minister since Winston Churchill; and the rest is now history.
Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900) was reputed to have boasted that he could talk spontaneously on any subject. On one occasion when he was speaking in public, someone called out, “The Queen” for a subject. Without a pause, and in true reflection of his wit and humour, Oscar Wilde replied, “The Queen is not a subject.” The Irish poet would have been referring to Queen Victoria who reigned for over 63 years, the longest of all British monarchs at the time. Her record was broken by the Queen who passed away last week (1926 – 2022), who had reigned for more than 70 years and who was still seen by the world to be on active duties two days before her transitory life on Earth ended.
Yes, as her successor and the new King has alluded, her reign was marked by the duration and her dedication and devotion to duties. Many people, writers, columnists and broadcasters have since spoken or written on the passage of the Queen, the likely effects to the United Kingdom and Britain in general and to the monarchy and the Royal Family in particular. The commentaries have mostly been pleasant and positive on the Queen, as would be expected. She was roundly praised for her decency and for having truly lived respected and died regretted. Indeed, the Queen must have touched the lives of millions of people worldwide, including many in Hong Kong.
My first recollection of the Queen was her coronation when all school children were given a plastic cup mounted on a metal holder formed in the shape and style of a crown. The plastic cups were all in bright colours, red, white, blue, green, yellow and so on, and are meant to last for a long time, if not forever. I would have been in primary school with my two brothers, Anthony and Francis, and I remember using it for the daily ration of milk we got from the Church. The cups remained even after the holders got rusted, but I can’t remember now when I saw them last.
The Queen’s Birthday was a Public Holiday, which I recall, was on 21 April initially, the actual day she was born, until it was changed to another date known as the official birthday. After China resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong, the public holiday was dropped silently and replaced by the Buddha’s Birthday, thereby neatly maintaining the numbers.
Some of my good friends were Royal family watchers; and I have followed the Queen Mother, Prince Charles and the Queen – the Queen Mother because of her poise and dignity; Prince Charles because he was born in 1948, the same year I thought I was born, and later because he married Diana; and the Queen because all of us were brought up as her subjects. I like the Queen’s diction and her speeches and would follow her traditional New Year or Christmas broadcast. I also recall watching the funeral procession of the Queen Mother in 2002 from a hotel room, either in New York or San Francisco when I was on duty overseas.
Until recently, a charity with which I have been closely involved habitually toasted the Queen at dinners. The protocol changed after 1997 when we made the first toast instead to the President of the People’s Republic of China and gave the second toast to the Queen. After the enactment of the national security laws, the toast to the Queen was dropped.
Alex Lo wrote in SCMP and predicted that the United Kingdom would be left with little England, now that India has become the fifth-largest economy in the world and has overtaken Britain, that Scotland would leave the Kingdom and join the EU, and that Northern Ireland would unite with the rest of Ireland and so on. I sort of agree with him, but would add that that would be the consequence of the governance of the country, rather than be counted as the legacy of the Queen who has lived throughout her life honorably and admirably.
Meanwhile, we observe the rituals associated with Mid-Autumn Festival; we eat and drink to keep or sanity and cool; and we take regular PCR tests and almost daily RAT tests.
I hope to talk to you sooner next time.