Older than Feinstein
Lessons we can learn about resilience from our longest-serving political figures
On this rainy Saturday I got to perform a 31-question Pub Quiz before a live audience. I used to do this every week, but now I am semi-retired from this work, sending quizzes out to a select number of devoted Patreonsubscribers, perhaps including you.
In her most famous song, Joni Mitchell asked the immortal question, “Don't it always seem to go / That you don't know what you've got / Till it's gone?” I felt incredibly lucky to connect with my Pub Quiz friends and the many enthusiastic strangers every week, but, like so much of our lives, like walking without fear into an art museum or a used book store, I didn’t pause to imagine what life would have been like without the rituals that we had come to depend upon. I always thought the show would go on.
We can’t always foresee life’s dramatic changes. Consider this photograph of Princess Elizabeth at 14. You can tell that she is finishing a book, and probably had a lot of time for reading in 1940, when she wasn’t raising money for, say, the Queen’s Wool Fund, that bought and collected wool for soldiers’ uniforms. Elizabeth was born April 21, 1926 (she turns 96 next week), and Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939, so she had just over 13 years for play, leisure, reading, and family before everything changed.
Like all of us beginning in March of 2020, Princess Elizabeth stayed home when war broke out, but which home? It was proposed that the heir apparent be evacuated to Canada, but her mom (later the Queen Mother, who outlived Princess Diana) objected. She said, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave." I’m sure King George VI of England inspired his citizens much the way that the rapidly-aging Volodymyr Zelenskyy inspires the people of Ukraine and the people of the world today. The royal family came to symbolize the resilience of all British subjects.
Princess Elizabeth spent much of her early teens holed up in the Balmoral (Scotland) and Windsor Castles, where her castle was her home. After she came of age, she trained as a driver and mechanic, and was given the rank of honorary junior commander. That’s probably not the title that comes up most often when people are addressing the Queen. When Elizabeth turned 21 during an overseas trip to Africa, she made this pledge: "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."
Queen Elizabeth’s life has indeed been long, practically the longest of anyone with a job like hers. She is the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch, beating Queen Victoria by seven years so far. Elizabeth is the longest-serving female head of state in history, and if she maintains her spot on the throne for another year and a half, she will beat the record of Louis XIV of France. Even older than Dianne Feinstein, QE2 is the oldest, most traveled, and longest-serving incumbent head of state. Assuming her memory is intact, she has stories to tell about meeting most of the important figures from most of the 20th century, including, for example, Winston Churchill, Harry S Truman, Charles De Gaulle, and Barbra Streisand.
Like Charles Foster Kane, Elizabeth probably misses simpler times. As we are all younger than she is, and probably somewhat more nimble, we might consider that we need not wait to reminisce about earlier times. The present is the earlier time that we shall reflect upon fondly. Let us act now, as the marketers say. Let us be present with the present, take gaps to notice the fickle weather, and gather with our friends for a drink or a performance, just as we did all the time, not knowing how lucky we were.
Thanks to all the supporters on Patreon who make all this happen, especially the Outside Agitators, the Original Vincibles, and Quizimodo. Please join these players on Patreon! I’m always grateful to players who pledge for their entire team. Let’s look forward to a time when we can all gather again to play with our friends and competitors! Until then, I appreciate your remote support.
P.S. Here are three questions from last weeks’ quiz:
Four for Four. Of the following oldest buildings of their kind still in operation, which opened for the first time in the 19th century: Airport, movie theatre, shopping mall, zoo?
Martial Arts. What Michigan-born actor and Aikido practitioner was granted Serbian and Russian citizenship in 2014?
Pop Culture – Music. Born in New York City, what singer-songwriter enjoyed a 20+ year solo career, during which time he produced 33 top 40 hits in the U.S., all of which he wrote himself? Hint: He had three number one hits in the 1980s.
P.P.S. Congratulations to the team The Outside Agitators, for they won my Saturday in-person Pub Quiz, correctly answering 26 of the 30 questions. They get bragging rights for the next year, or until the local Rotarians hire me back to entertain and perplex them once again.