A couple of months ago I had a strange epiphany: the only thing currently keeping the world barely intact is a British nonagenarian who likes corgis.
The second half of the 20th century, the era in which we (kind of) still live, is in the process of vanishing, from Fidel Castro and the Voting Rights Act to Carrie Fisher and non-apocalyptic weather. Yet against all odds, the Queen — until not that long ago, the most boring member of a dysfunctional dynasty — has emerged as the embodiment of good sense and decency, an unflappable, gray-haired titan. Her very perseverance (she’s currently the world’s longest-serving head of state) proves: we’re not doomed. Yet.
Monarchies are ridiculous at best, vicious and blood-thirsty at worst. But after a year in which so many unthinkable things had come to pass, I find myself doing something previously unimaginable: rooting for Elizabeth II. She’s a mentsch. She survived 12 US presidents (chances of surviving #13: not amazing, but who knows? Windsors seem to hate dying). She’s found the precise balance between being real and unreal, flesh-and-blood and emblem. Here are a few great reads on the Queen.
In an immersive BBC News story that unfolds on screen like a true detective case, Jon Manel tells the tale of a man found dead in Saddleworth Moor, in Peak District National Park in Northern England, last December. A cyclist found him in a peculiar position, in clothing inappropriate for a walk, and with no belongings or forms of identification.
Six months later, after tracing his final route across England from London to Manchester with CCTV footage, and examining the few clues the man left behind — including a small container holding strychnine, a poison — detectives have been unable to identify him, or figure out why he traveled 200 miles to die on the moor.
Why did the man travel all the way to the moorland track where he was found? Why there? Why poison? Why strychnine?
Some count the area where the body was discovered as being part of Saddleworth Moor.
It is very popular, especially on a bright summer’s day. Not only walkers but cyclists and climbers come here, and sailors on Dovestone Reservoir.
But it is also a place associated with a number of deaths over the years.
On top of the regular flow of customers, motorway accidents would send streams of cars piling in: coaches full of school trips, families desperate to get home. A service station is not the type of place you’d expect to have regulars, but there were plenty at our Little Chef. The toast lady who came in at 10am every day and wanted two slices of brown toast, no butter. And the handsome coffee man who came in at 11am every weekday, occasionally on Sundays. He looked a little like Kevin Spacey. There was also the guy who would come in late at night, order half a bottle of wine with his dinner and spend ages filling out the Daily Mail crossword, but mostly he was perving on the staff. And he never left a tip. A transvestite would frequent about once a month. One time a young businessman left me his number on a napkin.
There were travellers who would order big breakfasts—washed down with coke in the morning and milk at night—and would use the communal showers. They often took full advantage of the cards we had on the tables that said customers didn’t have to pay if they weren’t satisfied with the food. There were people having affairs. This always puzzled me. Maybe they thought a service station was a safe bet? They would hold hands over the table.There were also those who would come in for their last meal. During my time two different women attempted to overdose at the Travelodge after eating at the Little Chef. Both were rescued just in time.
No one lives forever, not even monarchs. In a recent piece for Business Insider UK, Rob Price explored the slightly morbid topic but deeply fascinating topic of what will happen in Britain when 88-year-old Queen Elizabeth II’s reign comes to an end. The Queen has been on the throne for over six decades, during which time 12 different Prime Ministers have served Britain (as well as 12 US Presidents). Price posits that her eventual death will be the most disruptive event in Britain in the last 70 years, affecting all aspects of British life. In the excerpt below, he discusses how this will play out on the BBC:
Assuming the Queen’s passing was expected, the news will spread at first via the main TV channels. All BBC channels will stop their programming and show the BBC1 feed for the announcement. The other independent channels won’t be obligated to interrupt their regular programming. But they almost certainly will.
At the BBC, anchors actively practice for the eventuality of the Monarch’s passing so they won’t be caught unaware on their shifts. The BBC’s Peter Sissons was heavily criticised for wearing a red tie to announce the Queen Mother’s passing (as seen above), and the BBC now keeps black ties and suits at the ready at all times. Presenters also run drills in which they’re required to make sudden “spoof” announcements that are never broadcast.
The last death of a Monarch was in 1952, and the BBC stopped all comedy for a set period of mourning after the announcement was made. The Daily Mail reports that the BBC plans to do the same again today, cancelling all comedy until after the funeral.