In a country of just a few million people, it’s often easy to move in unison, especially when the chips are down. But if you come from a nation the size of the United Kingdom – 67 million souls and more – it can be harder to talk about the national mood, let alone generate one, in a society where faith, politics, and where you live on these islands shape your outlook on life in divergent ways. Even now, amid preparations for the Queen’s funeral on Monday, there are of course some Britons who are unmoved by her passing. Yet despite the odd salvo of an attention-seeking academic, there is something of a national mood, or at least the feeling that we all ride through these days of pageantry and tradition to the same drum beat. . Indeed, it is the very choreography that attracts you. It’s like we’ve been swept up in an epic flash mob.
Synchronization can be incredibly moving – the moments when the individual voices of a choir rise in harmony, when the dancers of a ballet come together to each repeat the same movements; that second in a nightclub when you watch and see everyone captivated by the same song. And it’s those moments of synchronization, both practiced and spontaneous, that have moved this week. Watch, for example, eight young soldiers of the Grenadier Guards carry the Queen into the Palace of Westminster with the coffin, draped in the royal standard, hanging over their shoulders; their hair damp with sweat from their now removed bearskin hats; their faces pressed against the coffin to make sure that even now she was moving gracefully. Yes, repeated but also with a bit of magic in perfect timing. The synchronization of thousands of people leaving their homes and heading to London to join the mile-long queue to pass his coffin as he lay, to say their own farewells, was also moving. And the uniform silence that fell on them when they entered the great hall.
National moods don’t appeal to everyone (and thank goodness those rhythmic moments otherwise would smell like a Pyongyang propaganda parade) and they rarely last much longer than the life of a mayfly. But in these rare moments, you see how a few more shared values, a few more examples of moving together, could bring good to your country.
I came back from my work trip to New York last Sunday – traveling with my colleague Kate and joined by our American editor, Chris (an amazing and funny journalist too) – and a similar question about background music came up a few times since. “How is New York? people want to know, asking with the same tone of voice you would use to inquire about a dear cousin with temperamental tendencies. In short, they want to know if this great city is in trouble. After all, they’ve read the reports of rising crime and seen the April cover of New York magazine who asked, in the wake of the Brooklyn subway shooting, “Who’s Afraid of the Subway?”
I had wondered that too, so I asked almost everyone I met what they thought. The conclusion was uniform: it’s dynamic, exciting, it’s expensive, it’s always the place to be, but the number of homeless people on the streets is distressing, especially when many of them have mental health problems. Then there is the traffic. While the city has attempted to get people on bikes, the traffic jam is shocking, especially if you’re trying to get from one borough to another and a bridge is involved. And even…
The sun was shining and for some 72 hours in town we went to events, openings and meetings with Monocle partners. I met correspondents, contacts, writers, private detectives and photographers. Maybe I ate and drank a little too much (“How’s Andrew these days?” people probably ask worriedly). I saw Spike Lee, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Carrie Mae Weems and Phyllida Lloyd in conversation on stage for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. I was introduced to photographer David LaChapelle. I ended my trip with brunch at Gertie’s in Brooklyn. Delicious.
As we left Gertie, ready for the taxi ride to JFK, Chris and I passed a young man wearing a T-shirt that had an eye-catching statement printed across the chest. “An orgasm is better than a bomb,” he said. As I wondered when you might have to make that choice, Chris said, “That boy has obviously gone to see his mom.” And that’s how the trip ended: two slightly battered hacks walking off laughing into the Brooklyn melee. Personal background music? Jolly if a little scratched from overuse.
#Saturday #September #Minute #Monocle