Can you remember 6th February 1952? Not many of us can remember the young queen in black descending the steps of the de Havilland Comet (I think) from Kenya 70 years ago. I was starting my first term at boarding school a few days later and my memory of that is clearer. I saw the tail lights of my parents' Austin Ten vanishing down the drive and feeling utterly alone; it vividly remains with me to this day. The princess becoming a queen was irrelevant to a nine year old boy in short trousers. Just that car vanishing down the drive with its lights vanishing and entering a strange new and frightening world.
Remembering the Coronation, 2nd June 1953. A tiny flickering black and white television, the event going on for ever and incredibly boring. Our friends had one and we only had a radio. Their son was a friend called Ronnie Ring (I wonder what happened to him?). He had bicycle pumps which we filled and refilled from a water butt. We spent the Coronation hosing one another with these pumps and from time to time reminding our parents that we were still alive. Then back to prison in Bath (I hated school). In 1954 we watched a film called 'A Queen is Crowned' (remember that?!) and colour film was new to me. The Bishop of Bath and Wells who had played a key role in the Coronation later confirmed me. His chaplain wanted to borrow the Bishop's confirmation sermon the next week at Gloucester Prison but found himself unable to do so because my clergy father was at both services, being the prison chaplain - that's another story!
Now 70 years later we remember the same dedicated queen who has broken every royal record for longevity. Always Queen Elizabeth, unshakeable, always there. This month we remember her with thanksgiving as arguably the greatest lady the world has ever known, the most loved and respected. This year will hopefully be a time when we can give thanks for her and rejoice with her - not as a duty but as someone we genuinely want to celebrate. This is my first columnfor 2022. The lasttwoyears have been difficult; if these celebrations can shine a brighter light on this year, then we can look forward with optimism.
Forgive my sentimentality but illustrating these memories may show how far we have come since the young queen came down those steps. That aircraft, that car and the television were all state of the art, now they are only seen in museums - even the 'water pistol' is a far more sophisticated weapon of mass saturation than the one that Ronnie and I improvised to the despair of our parents 70 years ago. It is as though we are experiencing a second (or even third) Industrial Revolution and the world changes at an astonishing speed year by year - my five year old grand daughter is teaching me things that I can never understand while I speak of slide rules and logarithms (remember them?) to people who have no idea of what I am on about. Queen Elizabeth has remained constant while the world has changed in a way that children who watched the Coronation could never have visualised as such future things. After all, remember Dan Dare from 'The Eagle'? At least The Beano remains.
But not even she can last for ever while God is eternal. Remember that hymn - 'Change and decay in all around I see, O Thou who changest not abide with me'. God never changes, nor does His love for us. 2022 may be a difficult year for organised religion and for the Church of England as a whole, but He will always be with us, a spiritual rock in what lies ahead. That is our hope and we have confidence in Him.