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Weeknotes 2022.37

A few things I’ve been thinking about this week. The thirty-seventh post of a series, and the second during this national period of mourning.

An incomplete list of unexpected places I’ve been offered written condolences on the Queen’s death: a billboard over the A167(M); the Amazon app; the Apple App Store; the Argos app; the ASOS app; the British Airways Executive Club app; every screen in the window and interior of Charles Clinkard; the Costa Coffee app; a signature on the bottom of an email from a local Council officer; the CrossCountry Trains website; the Deliveroo app; the EasyJet app; screens in Eldon Square; every single notice in several estate agents’ windows, because there’s nothing as disrespectful as advertising a house for sale; the window of Fenwick; the GoPuff grocery delivery app; the menu board in Greggs; Haymarket Metro station; the window of HMV; the window of HSBC, in a notice featuring the Queen wearing an outfit in the bank’s black and red colour scheme, because mourning presents an opportunity for brand reinforcement; the IKEA website; the John Lewis app, as well as their shop window; the LNER app; an email from The London Library; the M&S app and shop window; Matt Goodwin’s Substack; the Newcastle City Council website; one (and only one) of the entrances to Newcastle City Library; the Next app; an email from the Royal Society of Medicine, though maybe I should have expected that one given the name; a wall inside a Samsung Experience Store; the Selfridges website; the window of Skipton Building Society; the window of Specsavers, in surprisingly small writing; the Superdrug app; a broken screen in the window of TSB which I think was offering condolences, but for all the text I could read may have been suggesting the overthrow of the monarchy; screens in the window of Vision Express showing photos of the Queen wearing glasses, because mourning presents an opportunity for a sales pitch; a little A5 sign on the Waitrose deli counter; the window of WHSmith; emails from no fewer than four people above me in the management chain at work, no doubt time well spent; the Yeo Valley website; the window of the Yorkshire Building Society.

So, where was I (last week) when I heard? I’d been in the office, and aware from news websites of the concerning update from Buckingham Palace regarding the health of the monarch. Without really any knowledge to back it up, I half-expected an announcement at 5pm, which didn’t come.

As I walked home from work, assuming I’d be unable to stomach whatever Radio 4’s was offering, I listened to John Pieneaar and Stig Abell on Times Radio. They were delivering a pitch-perfect live programme reflecting on the life of the Queen. The hour I heard was focused on the response around the world to the concern about Her Majesty’s health. Correspondents from a string of countries reported on how their national news media was covering the story and shared insights into those countries’ longstanding relationships with the Queen.

As 6pm drew near, Pineaar and Abel prepared listeners for an expected ‘significant update’, cueing up 6pm with a well-chosen clip of the Queen’s “we’ll meet again” speech. There was some palpable filling after the top-of-the-hour when the expected news didn’t come, with the usually prompt headline sequence following only minutes later.

As I arrived home, Wendy had BBC News on the TV. At 6.30pm, I spotted a Press Association update on the web, which announced the death. Wendy and I sat together, anticipating the BBC’s announcement. Once Huw Edwards had broken the news a few minutes later, we got on with dinner.

Shortly afterwards, my on-call phone rang with news of a multiagency Tactical Command Group called that evening by a local police force as the North East elements of Operation London Bridge began to be implemented. And the world kept turning.

I’m loath to criticise anyone for over-reaching with days of continuous coverage of a single story to fill, but some may have pushed it a little far. I’m not convinced that we can infer much about King Charles’s approach to kingship from his haircut, as one weekly newspaper suggested. While technically true, I’m not certain that it’s all that illuminating to discuss our new monarch as an ‘orphan’, as one news channel did. And I’m not confident that the King’s response to a leaky pen really gives us quite the insight into his psyche that so many media outlets proposed.

This post was filed under: Weeknotes.

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