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Her father was King till I was four. We had no TV so there were very few images of him for any of us to remember. Then this very young woman came to the throne and our school sat us on a grass verge with flags to wave as a large black car drove by. I still hadn’t seen a monarch but what followed was a lifetime of presence; waving, holding bunches of flowers, leaving and returning, meeting people seemingly day in day out, from one hospital or school to another, one country to the next.
But my abiding memory will be of her sitting alone in Westminster abbey at the funeral of her husband Philip. Masked and hunched with no one to comfort her because this was the height of COVID lockdown. She could have flouted every rule and conducted herself any way she wanted, but she didn’t, she did what was right.
And now she’s gone.
I wanted to make something to mark this transition, to acknowledge her passing and to say something about her life in a way that matched my impression of her – a person who ultimately has had to do everything alone because of the cards life had dealt her. I was at a loss until a news item mentioning everything that would change – QCs becoming KCs, God Save the King, those kinds of things – then reassuring us that stamps bearing her image would still be valid.
Stamps. Always placed top right of an envelope with the address in the middle underneath but of such importance and inherent integrity that mail could stall if the stamp was damaged, or if it had been marked, defaced, in some way.
The image that came to mind then was of an envelope in the centre of a black surround, with a stamp also with a black surround. And suddenly I knew the stamp had to be in the centre too, a place it never is, and in being there, becomes both the address and the legitimising token for sending.
To me, this feels like a universal closure; a straight line that becomes a circle that finally becomes one with itself, a singularity.
9th September 2022.