Bognor and a public mourning

I’ve got got 3 radio channels set to buttons in my car and they’re all BBC. Adverts get very wearing on long drives. The BBC has no adverts. I found myself regretting only having those three options today as I drove to Bognor Regis in the morning.

“Bugger Bognor”. Those are often claimed as the last two words spoken by King George V as he was put down. There were very few people present at the time, so we can’t be sure. I expect there are extant theses arguing both that he did and that he didn’t die cursing that little seaside town. I expect the bulk of the ones arguing he didn’t originate from near the place itself.

We don’t know what the Duke of Edinburgh said as he shuffled off his mortal coil today. The BBC coverage on Radio 4 this morning was in many ways exhaustive, but it didn’t stretch to circumstances of death and last words. That’s ok. It’s hard to shake those images of the final state. They burn over some of the happy memories. Best to keep us remembering the public persona and let his passing remain intimate.

“We are abandoning all programming to bring you this special report into the life and etc etc” I listened for a good hour, negotiating my way out of London, as they picked through his life minute by minute. “And it was on the fifteenth of June 1987 that Beryl Stourbridge noticed the Duke, or somebody that looked like him, walking down the high street in Carnarvon”.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when they did the beeps into a news report, I shifted in my seat looking forward to hearing something else – anything else. It’s an incomprehensibly vast world out there… It was the only story on the news. It was everything I had just listened to but shorter. I think Johnson spoke well. But I don’t want to have to listen to him.

I changed channel to Radio 3. Perhaps some soothing and obscure choral music as I slammed south to the coast? No. The same. Radio 2 hoping for some overenthusiastic jerk playing tunes I didn’t like first thing around? No. More of the same. There’s a whole department whose job it is to prepare these days of mourning. They had pictures of him on the bus stops for crying out loud. I switched it off and I could still see it out the window. They probably had his head on the side of the Good Year blimp.

His death, like any death, is sad – of course. He was 99 – just missed the telegram. I worry for her majesty now. Like it or not they’re in the public eye so these thoughts happen. It must be terrible to lose your partner. And I’m the guy in my peer group that kind of likes the monarchy. Still, I didn’t want it anymore. Click. Off.

I relied on the inside of my head instead. It’s busy, but at least it’s not excruciatingly repetitive and dull. I put the windows down and blitzed my way to Bognor. People pulled every trick in the book to get me to hit their cars, jolting across lanes and slamming on brakes and ramming through roundabouts. I made it unscathed but it’s like everybody had a day of driving like him in solidarity.

Job half done. A bunch of things picked up in the car and they’ll go to Brixton on Monday. I’m basically uber without the app – well I’ve got the Audi. Might as well use it.

Tomorrow more driving. Hopefully a wider range of programming to keep me company. Sure, they had this stuff queued up for years as they knew it was going to happen. But nobody stopped to ask if it was what people would want to listen to.

Hey ho. God rest his soul. There are too many people going these days, known and unknown. The finality of death. Ugh. Bugger Bognor.

Picture: Cowdray Park Polo Club, near Bognor

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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