Celebrating, celebrity, and a new perspective on loneliness

In case you missed it, TLC has been in the news. Last week, I was invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace celebrating the work of faith leaders building community cohesion across the UK. It was hosted by our Queen, and, from the 160 guests invited, I was one of the 8 chosen to meet and chat with Her Royal Highness.

Within hours, pictures were appearing online, of me with the Queen, enjoying a conversation where she commented, “a little bit of toast is so simple, yet can go such a long way”, and suddenly (and, momentarily I may add!), I was launched into the world of celebrity. Luckily, it was short lived, and I can report that life has returned to normal without too much of a furore, but it has made me reflect and think about celebrity, spotlights, power and what you do with it:

My memory of my chat with our queen is overwhelmingly one of warmth, connection and joy. I felt as if she genuinely cared about the people she was meeting, and wanted to know what we were doing. In the small group of six of us, it felt as if she would have much preferred to have been an equal, just casually chatting with other women who cared about the same issues she did, rather than the pomp and parade that follows her wherever she goes.

Then there was a moment when she walked on from our group, and wasn’t sure where to go to next. She stood, alone, waiting to be escorted to the next group of people waiting to talk with her. She was in her own home, with over one hundred invited guests having a great time chatting together, but she was apart from it, excluded, alone.

Once she had chatted with the select few, she was escorted out of the room and left. As I watched her depart, I really wanted to reach out to her; as I do with the elderly people who come by themselves to our cafe. I wondered if she felt lonely, amongst all the privileges and wonderful moments of being monarch.

When the pictures and articles started appearing online and in print, friends jokingly asked if they needed to curtsey in front of me now; if they were worthy of talking with me still. But for those few days, I felt different. I felt there was a slight separation between me and others, especially those who didn’t know me but had seen my picture online.

I felt more alone in those few days than I had done in a long time. Luckily, I knew a great little cafe near where I live where I could rock up, be welcomed and enjoy a cup of coffee and a chat with someone new. I wonder if my new friend Elizabeth will drop in next time she’s in Leeds…

(In case you’re wondering, I’m the one with the crazy curly hair, in the cream and navy suit with my back to the camera)

published by Anna Dyson
Founder and Director of ToastLoveCoffee. CEO of Dyson family, Roundhay (Leeds) branch which involves a huge array of skills impossible to imagine or articulate! Formerly, Jewish educator and community professional.
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