Friday, 29 April 2011

Not on the bus

Now I know why my mum suggested a day trip to France in the summer of 1981! It was (in those days at least) a remarkably successful way of avoiding a royal wedding. The parallels with 1981 are hard to miss - here we are in the depths of a grim economic time with cuts aplenty and anger on the streets. So up they pop, "Look at the pretty dress! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain/ bunch of old-school Eton bastards doing over the poorest and most vulnerable again..."

But leaving aside the anger at the ridiculous pomp and forelock tugging, yesterday I found myself pondering the royal life as I sat on the bus to work. I was content, a bit melancholy for one reason and another, but basically content on the bus. Outside there were some late teens/early twenties larking about on the play equipment in the park - at ease with each other. Students on the bus were listening to music and reading their notes. A couple were discussing some complicated arrangement of bank accounts and overdrafts that might see them through to the end of the year. An old woman was pushing a trolley along the pavement with cat food poking out the top. No one wanted me for anything. I was in my home town feeling safe, feeling I belonged, feeling free. And I wondered then if any person born into the royal family can ever have that feeling? I tried to imagine a life where you have never known what it is to be just another person - to never have that invisibility. I wondered how it would be to never get on the bus, pay your fair, sit there and watch the world go by.

I know there are a lot of other things that being royal takes away - like worrying how you might pay the gas bill or wondering if the landlord might decide to sell your flat. No material suffering in such a life. But emotionally? What does it do to a child to be born into such a bizarre life? It's a curse, I reckon. The life of a caged animal. The life of a symbol, a stuffed suit or a face under a hat. No choice and no voice. No opportunity to be a part of society beyond the tiny elite. No chance to get on the bus.