Of Nothing and Everything (And Change)
There are certain weeks that pass you by in life where nothing seems to happen, and yet everything does.
This was one of those weeks.
I really have almost nothing to report from my seemingly very busy time except for a trip to IKEA (which naturally entailed many hours of exciting IKEA-assembly), lots of time cleaning/sorting (which always seems to create more cleaning/sorting as you realize all the cleaning/sorting that you’ve been procrastinating over since last time you did said task, and then decide you really must tackle that too), walking the dog, feeding the dog, petting the dog, having philosophical discussions with the dog (at least 50% of my day goes here), a few local committee meetings and more prep-work for my big trip away to UK week.
Basically I’ve been incredibly busy, but can’t really explain exactly how that happened.
In the world at large of course lots has happened. Fire and smoke in the West of the USA, Sept heat records continuing to be broken (both here and abroad), stories of a massive “doomsday” glacier in the Antarctic that is “hanging on by its fingertips”, and the death of the longest-serving sovereign in British history. Somehow it all feels rather apocalyptic, or perhaps it’s just the end of things that once seemed so stable which make me more aware of the fragility of life and the world.
Deep stuff I know especially for a week where nothing essentially happened, but such is my mood. A week of nothing, a week of everything and all the thoughts on change that happen along the way.
The Big Change
The biggest news story this week was undoubtedly the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and all the changes that will entail.
Whatever you may think of the Monarchy (and opinions are heavily divided, I know) there’s no question the longest-serving reign of modern times, and by a woman no less, is something to reflect upon. The Queen was the figurehead of the UK from 1952 through 2022, an incredibly long life of service, the entire lifetime of 80% of British alive today. The loss of that anchor of stability, a rarity in our modern day, is of profound impact to many. I feel and understand the sorrow.
And now Charles, at the ripe age of 73 finally steps into the one job he was born for. Imagine that…
For me personally I’m fascinated by all the history and procedures that have now been set in motion. The 10-day schedule of events to get the Queen’s body from Scotland to Westminster Abbey is meticulous, not to mention the declarations, proclamations, processions and the crowning itself of the new King. Much of the tradition and wordage dates back hundreds of years and very few people alive have ever seen or heard it before.
Then there’s all the money. There are 4.5 billion (!!) sterling bank notes in circulation with the Queen’s likeness on them, all of which now need to be changed out. Not to mention royal warrants, royal arms, stamps and goodness-knows what else that must all be altered for the new King. The French have no love of monarchies (the history here is crystal clear), but the bureaucratic process about to launch in the UK is bound to inspire some love and respect.
Finally of course there are the 56 countries of the Commonwealth, particularly the 14 who held the Queen as their head of State that will now have a decision to make. Will Australia and New Zealand become republics (as Barbados did in 2021, and Jamaica has already begun to do)? What about Canada? Is it time for this link to history (some of which is very dark) to go? I am very curious to see what direction this will take.
Either way, the Queens death has turned the wheels of time in the UK to a new era, with many more changes undoubtedly to come. May she travel home well.
The One Constant
In a world that’s constantly seems to be changing, perhaps it’s fitting that the one constant I’ve had in my life has been IKEA.
I once made a joke that walking into the maze of IKEA made me so crazy I felt like running around screaming with my pants on my head. And yet, I always come back. There’s something ultimately soothing about the Swedish perfection of clean, crisp lines not to mention a multifunctional shoe-holder-wine-rack-hidden-closet that can fit into the inch-wide space between your washing machine and your dryer. Genius! Somehow I always exit IKEA with way more than I had in mind when I entered the place, and (surprisingly) I remain pretty happy with the purchases afterwards.
In France the IKEA stores are exactly what you’d expect except they also offer a EUR 1 breakfast which consists of a mini-croissant, a mini-chocolatine, a glass of orange juice and a coffee. It’s ridiculously good value and must be a solid money-loser for them, but it’s a simple gesture that makes all their customers happy to go and spend bucket-loads in the store afterwards.
A darn good marketing strategy, I say.
Dad and I went on Wednesday morning with several hundred other aspiring French IKEA lovers, nabbed the EUR 1 breakfast and picked up several things we needed and several we didn’t. We even went back several days later for the stuff-we-really-needed-but-wasn’t-in-stock, thus bringing home a respectable number of boxes which occupied my entire next day happily with assembly (crazily enough I DO actually really, truly love putting together IKEA stuff).
I dunno, perhaps the apocalypse will happen one day but somehow I imagine a blue-and-yellow box store will spring out of the ashes, we’ll all be drawn like flies to the new IKEA and they will have a perfectly-sized 25m2 survival apartment to lead the way. Cockroaches and IKEA….surely they’ll both survive?
The Constant Change
On the topic of change, when I was around 9 I met I Buddhist Monk.
I wasn’t feeling good that day. We had just moved countries in Asia, and as a pudgy kid I was getting teased relentlessly about my weight in my new school. I envisioned my entire future (because of course at that age, your day is your entire life) as a bleak and friendless desert with no chance of anything good ever happening ever again. Yes, even at 9 I was prone to profundity and depression.
“Why can’t things go back to the way they were before?” I asked the monk
“Change is the way of the world, my child” he answered “but that is also a comforting thing to know”
“Why?” (this was a common question for me, back in the day…..and kinda still is)
“Nothing in life is constant, except change. Once you understand that and accept that, you will be free of pain and worry”
My mom (who was with me at the time) didn’t like that answer at all and let out one of her very-not-subtle “phhhhs“, but the monk continued to smile patiently while my little pre-teen brain-cogs churned furiously on his response. Suddenly my friendless-and-dark-desert brain lit up as I was hit with a minor spark of inspiration.
“I get it, I get it!” I squealed “change is awesome”
And off I went humming, because although today had been awful I now knew with absolute certainly that tomorrow could be different. In fact, EVERY day was going to be different and wouldn’t that just be so much fun? All of life’s possibilities lay ahead. Change is the best!
Now I’m a smidgen older, well past my mom’s age at that time, and although I wish I was as carefree and excited about change as I was when I was 9 I have to admit that I’ve become rather attached to life as it is. Perhaps it’s the curse of all of us as we age that we become more sentimental about the people and things we have in our lives, and thus more devastated when we lose them….which only proves the monk was right, after all.
Maybe one day, I’ll get it again….
My Next Change
It’s another dare-I-say-it scorcher of a day today, another Sept record-breaker, but that’s about to change as I get on the road to the UK to cooler (and perhaps much rainier) days next week.
It’s going to be an interesting time to be back to the UK particularly since it’s the week of the Queens mourning, but I’m also looking forward to the trip immensely. My first day will be an insane day (~9 hours!) of driving, then a ferry across, then my University reunion and finally a bunch of shorter sightseeing trips in country. In my unusual manner of “I like to plan ahead like a military general, but travel like a carefree hippy” I’ve already written-up a detailed packing list, but have zero bookings (and only a vague itinerary) past my reunion date. It’s going to be awesome!
In this particular case it’s a change of pace which I really will enjoy. Friends, new roads and a few pints along the way.
See Mr Monk I’m half-way there. I believe some change is always good…
As for the blog itself I’ll just see how it goes. If you don’t hear from me soon, know that I’ll be back again in two short weeks with lots of new stories to share. And in the meantime I hope that any change that comes your way is the kind of change that’s good and will set your little 9-year-old heart afire with excitement and love. Now how’s that for profundity, eh?
So my dear readers two last questions before I travel. How do you feel about the Queen’s passing? What are my Canadian readers thinking? Do you care or not care? Passionate or indifferent? I’m so curious how everyone is processing it. And what of your thoughts on change? Do you agree with what Mr Monk said? DO comment and share below.