Bewildered, I watched. Watched them watching them. Their exhausted elation. Smiling, smiling, slightly hysterical. Armed: flasks of tea, folding chairs, flags and placards. I listened, confounded. To their tales. Of what it had cost. Financially, emotionally. The cold night. The long wait. What it meant to them. Just to be there. To catch a glimpse of two prematurely-balding men in full military get-up. To be on the receiving end of a blurry wave from a bride trundling by in her tiny Noddy car.
It's not that I dislike the royals. They bother me no more, no less, than any other celebrity, famous largely for being famous. I get that it provides a distraction, from the mundanities, the horrors, of life. From filling in that insurance claim or replacing that washer on the kitchen tap. From dwelling too long on the plastic straws choking the turtles or thinking too hard about Myanmar's Rohingya, "the most friendless people in the world". Besides, I, too, was curious. To check out Meghan's dress. To see if Eugenie and Beatrice could top the extraordinariness of the outfits they wore to Kate and William's wedding. To observe that for all its supposed inclusiveness and modernity, "the wedding of the year" stopped short of allowing the bride's mother to walk her down the aisle.
But I cannot understand the slavish adoration of a person or persons, who, while you might have read every column inch devoted to them, watched every minute of footage featuring them, you do not know, not really, not in the ways that count. Not how they can scarcely bring themselves to make eye contact on waking, not what a shitty patient they make, not how their words begin to melt after three wines. I have always been this way; not a single heart throb's poster on my bedroom wall nor autograph ever asked for. I have never wanted to be considered a fan, a punter. Pride, I guess.
Earlier in the evening last Saturday I witnessed a different kind of adulation. I was at the Auckland Writers Festival to hear "literary rock star" Karl Ove Knausgaard speak. A man you could argue deserves any fawning which comes his way, given it is earned via exceptional talent as opposed to birthright. Literary events are odd affairs; a proportion of the audience there because they genuinely love reading, but a large chunk, I suspect, aspiring writers, dragging along behind them their particular combination of hope and longing, jealousy and grievousness. I know because I am one of them. More than capable of rejoicing at another's success, when it is in a field I harbour my own ambitions, an uglier part of me rears its head. Sitting listening to the writer whose pearls you are there to harvest, a little voice inside whines: it's not fair, why him, why not me? And when they open up the floor to questions at the end some of those little voices in the room will decide now's their chance to be heard; posing a question so padded with their own preoccupations it is merely a thinly veiled means of discussing their own project. We were saved, though, from the usual cringe-worthy tedium by our host, writer Paula Morris. Genuine questions only, please, she said. No statements on life. No musings. And it was as if that massive auditorium collectively exhaled: a sigh of both sweet relief and bitter disappointment.
Last week I wrote of the importance of continuing to speak out against homophobia. Bob said while he enjoys my honesty, he also enjoys Israel Folau's. "I am a Christian and because of my beliefs I do agree with Israel Folau's stance on homosexuality and, like him, I have to say it's a sin but also like him I do not judge or condemn other people." John was curious why I included Putin in my list of reactionary lunatics. "Maybe time to stop reading NYT and watching CNN and you'll see a whole new appreciation of Putin, who is unquestionably the most intelligent and measured leader in the world today. Just a shame he's not leader of the US. The world would be a much more peaceful place." I'm not sure how this statement marries with the fact that under Putin's rule discrimination and violent crimes against the LGBT community in Russia have steadily increased.