Category Archives: Anthropology

US: The New Brunswick Option

For disenchanted Americans, I have an escape plan that keeps with Saint-John New Brunswick-S-L-Tilley-SUE statue King's Squarehistorical tradition – New Brunswick. In case of a Trump win in the US presidential race, Cape Breton has announced its willingness to provide refuge for fleeing Americans. But New Brunswick is closer, and Americans who come here might even reunite with part of their family.

In the American Revolution, many residents of the 13 Colonies thought things were going too far when violent secession from Britain became the objective. Yes, better representation and fairer Tory_Refugees_by Howard_Pyle-wikipediataxation, greater local decision-making and less exploitation by the homeland. But severing all ties because of the erratic rule of King George III? Replacing a stable system of governance with a new one made up of businessmen and self-promoters? The possibility of “mob rule”?

Time to head out, many – white, black and First Nations – decided. Better to await the next king and stay affiliated with a nation where rights and obligations are known and had been worked out over centuries between parliament and monarch. That would be north, in Canada.

St_John_River_Map-wikipedia

New Brunswick’s border abuts Maine. The Saint John River was the route taken into the country by the refugees. Its great valley running the length of New Brunswick provided new homes for many of them. About 33,000, the majority of those who fled to Canada, came to the territory of Nova Scotia, which at the time included New Brunswick.

In 1784 New Brunswick was established as a separate colony, with 14,000 new Loyalist residents, due to problems encountered in Nova Henry Sandham painting Coming_of_the_Loyalists-wikiScotia. Many Loyalists settled at the mouth of the river in Saint John. In 1783 it was a village of 145. In 1785 it became Canada’s first incorporated city.

Britain gave the United Empire Loyalists grants of land and start-up resources, money and farming equipment and livestock. The lands granted were taken from the Acadian, Mi’kmaq and Maliseet people resident there. They were pushed to less arable lands to the north and east.

In Saint John, the Loyalist Burial Grounds provides a roll call of UEL names. In it and other old churchyards, I’ve found distant relatives. My Burwell, Lymburner and Mabee ancestors came as Loyalists to New Brunswick and moved on to southwestern Ontario.

Loyalist gravestones-Ford family-Hampton NB
Capt. John Ford “born in the Colony of New Jersey and out of Loyalty to his King in 1777 abandoned all his Possessions and in 1783 Emigrated to this Province”, his wife Alcha, and daughter Mary Munger “relict of the late Wm Munger”. Hampton NB (click to enlarge)

Eighty years later,  US Civil War draft dodgers settled “Skedaddle Ridge” in Carleton County on the Maine border. A century after that, New Brunswick received its share of Vietnam War resisters and disaffected Americans. So, welcome, those seeking refuge from what is likely to be a very changed America, whomever the next president. Your history, neighbours and family are already here.

Dr. George Park 1925-2015

George Park Oct 2012Today, Dr. George Park died at the age of 90. He was a retired professor of Anthropology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He was my thesis advisor and he and his late wife Alice were my “St. John’s parents”.  Below is an excerpt from the introductory chapter of a manuscript that he was working on. It tells us something about his life and his way of thinking. 

Kinga and the Knowledge Wars

My US schooling between the two World Wars was an excellent preparation for university, but left one pretty much in the nineteenth century. I was twenty and a Marine Corps fighter pilot waiting in the South Pacific for the planned invasion of Japan—when the war over there quite suddenly ended…

I didn’t discover the beauties of the social sciences until I was in graduate school. I’d gone back to university after trying journalism because it finally came to me that my colleagues in the profession had picked up almost nothing useful in ‘journalism’ classes about what a writer might do for the world – what the great journalists had done – only learned the ropes. After graduating in literature and philosophy I was finding out how little I understood of what my eyes were observing of the ‘real world’. Three years of graduate work covering all the social sciences led to one intensive year in anthropology. By then we (man & wife & two boys then) had to decide which way to go for earning our bread: ‘high journalism’ and ‘social scientist’ were my options. We decided I should teach for a year, and with one thing and another it turned into something more like a decade.

Sociologists today know the university where I did my graduate work as home of ‘the Chicago school’, an early teaching which linked the social sciences to direct observation and thereby to a ‘high journalistic‘ style of qualitative sociology–something contrasting to ‘quantitative‘ studies which ‘measure’ social systems without necessarily becoming directly acquainted with them… Most sociology falls between the two contrasting poles. I started my teaching career as a sociologist but moved toward the ‘qualitative‘ pole as best I could. The first step was a two year field study in northern Norway (for the doctorate degree in anthropology. Later I was able to get a post-doctorate year at Cambridge (UK) in ‘British social anthropology’ and consequently the fieldwork in Tanzania.

In the meantime, pretty much behind my back, the social sciences were flourishing in the US. That break from tradition came rather later on the British side. Social anthropology had developed without much sociological foundation there, though London in its classes brought European ‘sociological philosophy’ (not much observational basis) to bear and to good effect. The more doctrinaire notions at ‘Ox-bridge’ about social structure had helped their fieldworkers start with the politically important features of social organization but had prevented their going much beyond. They sniffed at the ‘American’ notion of an anthropology centered in ‘culture’ and the descriptive analysis of prevailing ‘sentiments’ or ‘psychological’ premises implicit in the style of a people’s communal life. British social anthropologists kept to the end their notion of a ‘system in equilibrium’ as the subject one should study in the field. UK’s only really popular star in the profession was copiously descriptive in style and drifted in the end to New England. This was Bronislaw Malinowski, Polish-born author of an always engaging shelf of books on the South Pacific’s Trobriand Islanders…

So it is to my British tutors I owe my own special interest in social structure, but to fellow North American academics I owe my interest in direct observation (out in the public arena, in the study of a profession or a functioning institution, a community) using facework as a scientific tool. I also owe to North Americans the long years of stress which have led me to an understanding of the useless ‘knowledge wars’ I want to address in this book. The problem, you will see, is the very purposefulness of the narrow mindedness social scientists are expected to show in the pursuit of wisdom in Academia americanensis.

The history of knowledge is older and more lush than the Garden of Academe, but the tales intimately intertwine from the start of the 20th century, when universities undertook the management of public moneys for the advancement of science. Until that point, a university was a center for educating a lumpen elite, the live storage of books, and the meeting of scholarly minds. The introduction of Science, with its increasing needs for equipment, new buildings, salaries for research, and en masse professional training left the poor classical scholar up a tree dreaming of a Saintly re-established Equilibrium. Still, those were stirring times. By the time I had done my apprenticeship, the signs of a shrinking world were burgeoning everywhere.

The great knowledge revolution had taken hold, and knowledge of any sort, ‘practical’ or not, had begun to seem worth pursuing. The first phase in the democratization of knowledge began slowly with commodification of books in the english language: paperbacks, pocket size. The French had them earlier but in fuller size: ergo no sudden revolution. The US version got publishers putting scarce ‘library books’ in cheap versions, ‘mass produced’ with catchy covers. Reading a monograph on an African pedestrian culture community had meant, throughout my time teaching sociology before Cambridge and Africa, at least a week getting hold of the book and writing long notes and citations without marring the library’s copy. A short generation later, by the sixties, you could assign such a monograph for a class and expect the students to buy it. Today, I suppose, that first phase of democratizing ‘college-level’ books was segueing into a further phase of ‘instant availability’ by courtesy of digital devices.

Technology had been democratizing knowledge, but for magnifying the knowledge base of social anthropology the time was short. Research grants were painfully hard to get, and our ‘science’ hardly matured before the ‘field’ for ethnographic observation had virtually disappeared. Yet it is a premise of these pages that the immersion studies actually accomplished—in the too-short window of time a world in turmoil allowed—are a priceless inheritance, unique in its implications for basic research on what we almost casually used to call the ‘human condition’. I won’t try making a monument of pebbles, but bits of insight will begin to yield knowledge when you have got them properly laid out. The result can’t be seamless, and it could never be final. The very final chapter in the story of mankind will still be full of new stuff lying unsorted. That is one philosophical point I want to make, and I want to make it by showing off and sorting the pebbles I brought back, as a much younger social anthropologist, from Africa.

I was lucky enough to have, with my feisty, long treasured Alice and our four children, two years in East Africa just as colonial governments were secretly coming to an end. My research dealt with the Kinga people still thriving then in the Livingstone mountains of southwestern Tanganyika, (now Tanzania)… Fieldwork in the early 1960s came to be focused on reconstructing the precolonial experience of ‘pure Kinga’ communities. What I knew about them when I arrived in their District was only that Kinga were ‘conservative’ in the meaning of their British governors—they hadn’t sold out or lost their way, they had kept continuity with their past as an independent people. This good news and a climate suitable for children had attracted me, and over the next six months as I reconnoitred and my family got settled in a luxurious mud hut (three rooms, tin roof) there was more good news. Guesswork had found me precisely the kind of people I stood to learn most from.

George Park and daughter Oct 2012His Kinga trilogy is available at Scribd to read online or download:

2001 Twin Shadows: Moral strategies of the Kinga of southwest Tanzania

2002 The Four Realms: Religion and politics in the making of an African protostate

2002 A Politics of Fear, a Religion of Blame: A comparative study of Kinga, Pangwa & Nyakyusa peoples in southwest Tanzania 

Nim the Chimp

Amazon link for dvd

Project Nim is a film by James Marsh about Nim Chimpsky, the chimp who was raised from infancy as a human in order to explore the learning of language in non-human primates.  The film is based on the book by Elizabeth Hess, Nim Chimpsky:  The chimp who would be human.  CBC Radio’s Q interviewed Marsh about his film and Nim.

In an experiment started in 1973 by Columbia University psychologist Dr. Herbert S. Terrace, Nim grew up like a human child and learned American Sign Language.   As he matured, he became a real male chimp with all the aggression and wildness that goes along with that.  But he also liked going to the ice cream parlour for peach ice cream and sleeping in his bed.

After four years the experiment came to an end.  Nim was taken from his home to an animal research facility.  When it closed, he and the Nim Chimpsky, at home, drawing on chalkboardother chimps were sold to another lab.  In the labs, he lived in a cage.

Once Nim escaped.  He broke into a house where he climbed in a bed and went to sleep.  Just like Goldilocks.  Poor Nim.  Listening to that in the interview broke my heart.

Nim grew up in human surroundings.  He knew how to communicate through ASL.  Then all that ended, and none of his new “keepers” knew sign language.  What must he have thought?  Obviously, he knew something was wrong and he sought to rectify it.  Shows intelligence and rational thought, in my opinion.

And the people responsible for this:  what on earth were they thinking?  They had taught him to live like a human, why would they think that he would ‘adapt’ to being treated differently?  Would it Chimp in a lab cage (Capital Chimpanzee Exhibit, AHS 2009)have been so hard to provide him, in any environment, with his own ‘room,’ with the bed and pillow and blankets that he was used to?  Hire someone who knew sign language?  Not understanding that, to me, shows less intelligence and rational thought than Nim demonstrated.

Some of his original caretakers continued to care, and publicized his plight.  Nim was rescued by Cleveland Amory’s Black Beauty Ranch.  He lived there until his death at 26 in 2000.  I don’t know if he had his own bed, but he had chimp companions that he liked and humans with whom he could sign.  I hope he also had all the peach ice cream he wanted.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, July 22, 2011

Royal Charlottes

Charlotte-queen-and-princess-royal-Royal-Collection-TrustThe first British royal Charlotte was George III’s queen. She is best known as the founder of London’s Kew Gardens and for perhaps having black ancestry. Born in Germany in 1744, fifteen generations back in her family tree is King Alfonso III of Portugal and his mistress Madragana of Faro in Algarve, described as a “Moor”.

Charlotte_Princess_Royal_Queen_of_Wurttemberg-1798-wikicommonsCharlotte and George III had fifteen children. Their fourth child was Charlotte Augusta Matilda, Princess Royal. She married Prince Frederick of Württemberg and in 1806 became Queen of Württemberg.

Their eldest, and heir, was George. At age 23, he secretly married a Catholic widow, Maria Fitzherbert. The marriage was not legal. He had children with her and other women, but none could be his heir.

A “suitable” wife, Caroline of Brunswick, was chosen for him. An heir, Princess Charlotte Augusta, was born in 1796. George and Caroline Princess_Charlotte_of_Wales-Dawe_1817-wikicommonsseparated soon after. George became Prince Regent in 1810, taking over from his father whose mental illness had incapacitated him.

Seven years later, at the age of 21, Princess Charlotte died in childbirth.* George III and Queen Charlotte had many other grandchildren but all were illegitimate. With the Prince Regent unable to divorce and unwilling to share a bed with wife Caroline, he would have no more legitimate heirs. His brothers were hurriedly married off so there might be an heir and some spares.

George, Prince Regent became George IV in 1820. Next in line was his brother William, Duke of Clarence. William lived with an actress Dorothy Jordan and their ten children. In return for his debts being paid and the promise of the throne, William agreed to leave his Fitzclarence kids and their mother.

He married Adelaide of Saxe-Meingenen. Their first daughter, Charlotte Augusta, lived only one day. A second daughter lived four days. William IV reigned seven years, until 1837. His heir was Princess Victoria, daughter of the next eldest brother, the late Edward Duke of Kent, and his wife Victoria of Saxe-Coburg.

Princess Charlotte
Family Tree of Charlotte of Cambridge (click for full size)

When Victoria was born in 1819, the Prince Regent said no to the names Charlotte, Augusta and Georgiana, all closely associated with the crown. He agreed to Alexandrina, after her godfather Tsar Alexander I, and Victoria, after her mother.

Victoria became queen one month after turning 18. After three kings in three decades, she reigned for 63 years. She gave the name Augusta to one of her five daughters, but none were named Charlotte.

Augusta-Caroline-Charlotte-wikipedVictoria’s younger cousin got all the royal names. Princess Augusta Caroline Charlotte Elizabeth Mary Sophia Louisa of Cambridge was the daughter of George III’s seventh son Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge. The title passed to Augusta’s brother George, the last to hold it until the present Prince William. Princess Augusta died in 1916 aged 94. During preparations for Edward VII’s coronation in 1902, she was called upon for advice. She was the only person in royal circles who could remember not only Queen Victoria’s coronation but also King William IV’s.

carlota_mexico gogmsite.net*Charlotte’s widower, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, later married Louise-Marie, daughter of the future King Louis-Phillippe of France. They named their first daughter Charlotte in honour of Leopold’s first wife. She became Empress Carlota, married to Maximillian of Mexico. Her brother became Leopold II of Belgium, inheriting the throne from his father.

 

VE Day 70th

VE Day post, photo Jim Taggart, George Anger, Bill Carley 1944May 8th 1945, Victory in Europe Day, marked the end of one part of World War II. War with Japan continued until two atomic bombs were dropped in July and Japan’s formal surrender was signed September 2nd.

My mother was on Dundas Street East in London Ont. on VE Day. She said when the news spread, everyone ran into the street screaming, laughing, hugging anyone at hand. They stayed outside for hours, revelling in the knowledge that the war was over. Bluebirds were flying over the white cliffs of Dover, the boys were coming home.

Coming home took time. My dad’s official discharge papers are stamped November 28th 1945, Wolseley Barracks, London Ontario. My mother and her parents met him. My 3½ year old brother was in his VE Day post, soldiers on Jeep at Camp Borden England 1944grandpa’s arms. He didn’t know the man they all were hugging and kissing and crying over. But he connected the name with the daddy he’d been told about. He slithered, Mom said, across from Grandpa’s arms to Dad’s.

My parents knew they had been luckier than others in the war and the post-war adjustment. Mom was happy to stop restaurant and factory work and stay home with her child. Dad had spent his war working on army vehicles in England and Scotland. At home, he worked on civilian vehicles. They made their photo wwii Bill Hardy and George Angercontribution to the Baby Boom. The war receded into the background, never forgotten but not active in their lives.

Decades later, Mom found an undeveloped film in a drawer. It wasn’t one of hers. From the printing on it, she saw it was from the UK. Realizing it was Dad’s from the war, she was a bit nervous about having it developed. So was he, I think. What would be on the pictures? Soldiers. Some of them he hadn’t seen since.

photo Bill Stewart Captain US Army Air ForceMy parents-in-law survived it too. They had to wait until VJ Day for it to be over. Bill was a pilot in the US Army Airforce. A blast to his eardrum during training put an end to his hopes to be a fighter pilot. Instead he flew transport planes, cargo and people. Some of his passengers, near the end of the war, were survivors from POW camps and Buchenwald, a concentration camp.

He came home to Kentucky in August 1945. He brought gifts from Paris for a girl he had met when home on leave in 1944. One was a gold sequinned Juliet cap. She wore it at their wedding three months later.

 

Lotto Red Chamber

Senate_of_Canada-wikicommons-Montrealais-2007Is the Senate a place for ‘sober second thought’ or what, in 1985, then-reporter Mike Duffy called “a task-less thanks” for political party helpers? Senator Mike Duffy is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Investigations continue into other senators’ expense claims.

Some senators, it seems, take advantage of an already very comfortable job. How to effectively restructure the red chamber has long been discussed, to no avail. Here’s my idea.

Why not appoint senators by lottery? Not with tickets to buy, but open to all citizens of voting age. Similar to jury duty, anyone can be vietnam-lottery-nhd.weebly.comcalled. But instead of mailing out foreboding looking letters, jazz it up a bit. Make it a happier version of the US draft lottery in the Vietnam War. If your number is called, report to the Red Chamber. Your social insurance number, that is.

Let Lottery Canada run it since it has the wherewithal in place for national draws. Televise it, with disco balls, lots of neon and the ball hopper of bingo halls. If aired on CBC, it would do wonders for the state broadcaster’s ratings. They will need a future whenever Philippine_Idol_Stage-wikicommonsDragons’ Den finally (please God) slinks off to wherever old dragons go. Although it probably couldn’t be replayed as often as DD is, maybe George Strombolopolous could host retrospective specials. We don’t see enough of Strombo anymore!

How would a lottery senate work? Term of office would be two years maximum and those chosen would be required to move to Ottawa for their term of office. As is the case now, accommodation would be covered as a Senate expense. They would receive the same annual salary as present Senators do, but it would cease after their term ended. They would not be eligible for pensions or continued benefits as present Senators are after a mere six years of service.

Trailer-Park-Boys-TO-Star-Rick-EglintonYou might end up with a Senate full of Trailer Parks Boys. Odds are there would also be great senators who everyone would wish could continue forever. They could not, but neither could the waste-of-space fools.

Probably some good legislation would get passed each term. Probably palms would be greased and nests feathered as well. But everyone would have an equal shot at both those outcomes instead of a select few chosen by a political party leader.

blogs.post-gazette.com-11-27-10With the present system, the chosen few hog the trough for a long time. The up side is that senators with integrity are also there for a long time. I don’t think a Senate comprised of randomly selected hoi polloi could be any more hit and miss. And the advantage is, no matter how much you or I or the idiot down the street messes up, we would be gone quickly and painlessly – and cheaply.

 

War and Peaceniks

“Where have all the flowers gone, and the young men gone for soldiers every one.”  Pete Pete Seeger Newport Folk Festival 2009-wikicommons-wm-wallace-photoSeeger’s song.  The death of that great warrior for peace made me think also about those for whom he became a teacher, the generation born during and soon after World War II.

Called “entitled” now, they are believed (often even by themselves) to have sold out.  They were revolutionary proclaimers of a new age of peace and love.  Now their children and pundits say they have “dropped the ball,” upgrading their Beemers instead of the world.  But not one, I dare say, is unmoved today, thinking about Pete Seeger.  Born in 1919, Mr. Seeger was a parent to the “flower children,” and throughout his long life he passed his mission for peace and justice on to their children and grandchildren.

bumper-sticker if you don't stand behind our troopsListening to him sing, I thought of the Vietnam War.  Today, we care about veterans, old and young.  PTSD is a recognized issue for soldiers and effective methods of treatment are sought and tried.  We nod thanks to soldiers and display bumper stickers of support.  We honour World War II veterans.  Even Korean War vets have been brought in from the cold, so to speak, acknowledged and thanked for their contribution.

But Vietnam vets?  It’s a different story for them. It’s still relatively recent history – lived writerfox.hubpages.com_hub_WarPoems-CivilWarby many still among us.  But, I think, the extent of its devastation remains overlooked.  It caused the greatest rupture within America since the Civil War.  It divided society and families.  And we everywhere could watch it unfold, and judge.  Combatants in the war about Vietnam were killed overseas and at home.  But now, after 40 years, it is remembered in popular culture as a war of drugs and rock and roll and reluctant soldiers.

writer.fox.hubpages.com_hub_WarPoems-Vietnam1That last observation is the nub of the issue, perhaps.  Vietnam was the last war fought with conscripted soldiers.  Thousands of young men fled their country to avoid it, thousands went to jail, thousands found Jesus or any excuse that would get them conscientious objector status.  Many completed university degrees that otherwise they might not have sought:  it was a way to defer the draft.  Until the loophole was closed, the Peace Corps probably got many more recruits good-morning-vietnam-cdsfor its overseas development work than it would have in normal times.

And the poor schmucks who couldn’t escape or chose not to?  Only they know what they endured during their tours of duty.  But all of us old enough to be sentient at the time know what they endured when they returned.  They were reviled.  Few parades or ‘thank you for going through hell’ for them.  They were spat upon and called ‘baby-killers’.

Those who went to Vietnam, and those who didn’t, all suffered.  Veterans suffered because of what they endured there, and the reception they received upon return.  Draft dodgers suffered because a) of guilt for escaping while others, including their friends, did writerfox.hubpages.com_hub_WarPoems-Vietnam2not, and b) they left their homes for years, maybe forever, evading FBI and military police.  Those who took what they hoped would be a tolerable option, such as medic, were still traumatized by what they had to patch up.

No one won in that war.  No matter which ‘side’ you were on, it was traumatic then and caused lingering pain, guilt and/or regret afterward.  For many, the drugs that got them through Vietnam or the anti-war movement at home, stayed with them afterward, allowing them to live with the memories or becoming a burdensome souvenir.  The casualties of the Vietnam War still have not stopped.  And yet the horror of it, and the opposition to it, is not talked about all that much.  It’s become part and parcel of psychedelic imagery of cleveland.com_plain-dealer-kent_state_shootings_may_1970_13-photo-APbell-bottoms, flowers, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and, yes, Pete Seeger singing We Shall Overcome.

PTSD had long been known of course:  shell shock, ‘he’s never been the same since’.  But it was something you were supposed to get yourself over: put it behind you and get on with your life.  The parents of the Vietnam era lived through World War II.  They knew what it was to fight, and what it was like to get news of your war dead.  Like their parents who had gone through the “Great War”, you went if your country called, like it or not.  The WWII fathers knew they had stopped a monster and an invasion, and here were their sons saying “hell no, we won’t go.”

But perhaps those parents didn’t realize that their children had grown up convinced they duck-and-cover-SourceUnk-www.anthonysworld.com_airraidwouldn’t see adulthood. It was hard to think of ‘battleground valour’ after years of “Duck and Cover” school drills in case of atomic bomb attack. Maybe it was their awareness that war is hell and no one comes out unscathed that has led to greater concern with the psychological wellbeing of veterans now.

And that, children of the Baby Boomers, is what your daddy did in the war.  If he doesn’t talk much about it, preferring to blast his eardrums with the Rolling Stones, you might think about why that is.  He lived through a time of war never before or since replicated in North American history, whether or not he has a service medal.  By the way, Pete Seeger also was a veteran of the US Army in the Pacific in WWII.

Poems and song lyrics are from War Poetry – some wonderful writing.

Mom, Christmas Postie

In the early ’60s, my mother worked at London’s postal sorting station during the Christmas rush.  It was for a few weeks when the Christmas Postie mom Xmas 1962volume of mail overwhelmed the sorting capacity of the regular staff.   It was the only time my mother worked at a job where she had to clock in for regular hours.  It was tiring, standing up all day.  The other women told her to bring egg cartons.  She’d flatten several cartons or get the 2 1/2 dozen flats and take them to stand on.

It was odd coming home from school and Mom not being there.  It was kind of fun but I don’t think I’d have liked it all the time.  I think that’s how she felt about the work too – fun to go somewhere and do something different and nice to have the bit of extra money but not something she wanted to do day in and day out.

I never thought at the time how she managed to pull Christmas together at the same time.  She made dinner for us, her parents and her sisters and their families.  Dad set up Xmas-1959tables in the basement, using sawhorses and half sheets of plywood.  Plastic Christmas tablecloths covered them.  All the food got carried down from the kitchen.  It was the only time of the year that our unfinished basement was used as a dining room.  It was fun.  In the evening, after everyone had left and Mom had cleaned up, we would drive to my other grandparents’ house and have presents and another huge meal there.

I don’t know if Canada Post still hires casual Christmas workers.  There is not the deluge of Christmas cards mailed that there used to be.  We got so many that Mom would cover walls with them hung on loops of string.  She sent just as many too.

All this was before automated sorting and postal codes or the strikes that seemed to happen every few months in the 1970s.  It was before canadiandesignresources.ca stamps centenarycourier services took over much of the mail delivery, because of the strikes.  It was before postal workers began making a very good wage, and before the head of Canada Post earned half a million dollars plus bonus each year.  And of course, it was before faxes and emails, Facebook and Twitter.

People mailed letters and thank you cards, party invitations and birthday cards, sympathy cards and thinking-of-you cards, postcards that got back before you did from your vacation, and airmail letters on onion-skin paper to save on weight.  It was all delivered to your house or, if you lived in a small town, you went to the post office and had a chat with the postmaster or –mistress while you collected your mail.  In the country, it came to a box at the end of the driveway, canadiandesignresources.ca stampsdelivered by someone like my grandparents who had a mail route for many years.

There’s still some of that of course.  Superboxes haven’t replaced all human postal contact, yet.  And they’re fine, as long as they don’t freeze up in winter or jam in summer.  But you still need post offices for stamps and questions that the website can’t answer.

Baby Prince George

FB-Monarchy-post about Prince GeorgeIn the past three days, the royal baby has been born, brought home, had pictures posted on Facebook, and been named.  A boy named HRH Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.

For two days my television was tuned to the Royal Baby Channel – whichever one had “live coverage”.  It’s been worth it, waiting to see that little bundle in the arms of both his parents.  Also worth it have been the hours and hours of filler patter by hosts and guests on the broadcast specials.  I find you always learn something new about British and Royal history and protocol when guests have to fill airtime.

There is a photograph, I learned, from the last time there were four generations in the direct royal line.  It is of Queen Victoria, her son who would be Edward VII, her grandson London,-Royalty,-Four-Generations Queen Victoriathe future George V and her infant great-grandson the future, and fleeting, Edward VIII.  Let’s hope it works out better for this newborn when it is his time to be king.

Something that struck me as very interesting in the analyst chat on CNN yesterday was about the question of when this future king’s time will come.  Repeatedly, people said with amazement that it might well be 70 years before it was his time.  Amazing indeed considering that, in 70 years, his father William will be 101 years old.  Even with the good genes of the Windsors, still being a reigning monarch at that age would be remarkable.

I think having three generations already in line for succession actually means is that there may not be a reign as long as that of Elizabeth II, or Victoria, in this century.  That is, of course, assuming that these future kings live out their assigned ‘three score and ten’ or more years.

my-tv-screen CTV Prince George leaves hospitalLooking at the number of direct heirs doesn’t determine how long it will take for them to reach the throne anymore than only counting heads in a grocery store check-out line tells you how long you have to wait to reach the cashier.  You also have to look at how full their shopping carts are.  With the line of succession, you have to look at the age of the heirs as well as the number of them.  The best estimate you can make is how long their reigns might be.

Queen Victoria had three heirs lined up after her because she had come to the throne at the age of eighteen and she lived a very long life.  Her son’s reign was only 9 years.  His son came to the throne already a grandfather.  His reign was 26 years.  His son, the present Queen’s father, died when only 56 so Elizabeth came to the throne at the age of Mom's Royal Scrapbook photo D Stewart25, much younger than she or anyone else expected.

What is significant about these four generations is that, all things being equal, it is likely that people alive today will never again see a young monarch or such a long reign.  The last generation to see the fairy-tale story of a young princess, or prince, being crowned will have been the age cohort of Queen Elizabeth.  That being said, Long Live the Queen – and the future King and King and King.

Queen’s Secret: Review

Last week I saw a book called The Queen’s Secret by Charles Templeton.  Curious to see if it was by the late Canadian journalist of that name, Amazon link for Charles Templeton The Queen's SecretI pulled it off the shelf.  Yes and even better, due to my being in a Royal mood with the expected arrival of HRH Baby, the plot hinges on the line of succession to the throne.

It was published in 1986.  Its queen is a fictitious Mary III who has one heir, a daughter.   References are made to previous monarchs, including Elizabeth II and her father and uncle, and to periods in their reigns when conflict between personal life and duty to country caused crises for the individuals, the monarchy and the nation.

The book is set in an unspecified future, one in which scientific discoveries and technologies now commonplace clearly have not been invented.  Problems that have beset the monarchy in past and present times move the story along.  Those include the political and religious aspects of marital choice for Royals, especially those who are heir presumptive or apparent, and the intrusion of media Daily-Mirror-July-1982 queen finds prowlerattention into the private lives of Royals and the governance of the country.

According to the book jacket, Templeton got the idea for the book after news broke in 1982 about a man breaking into Buckingham Palace and succeeding in getting into Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom.  When The Queen’s Secret was published, media attention on the Royals, particularly on the wives of Charles and Andrew, was high.  It was before the apex of attention, and tragedy, was reached.  A 1987 review of Templeton’s novel considered the plot outdated. “[T]he glory days of royalty are clearly waning,”  the reviewer said, calling stories about mésalliances of Royals “quaint and archaic to a generation weaned on People Andrew_Sarah_wedding_1986-07-23_wikimediamagazine and prime-time soap operas. The British nobility itself is now in decline…”  Little did the reviewer know in 1987 that the Royal soap opera had barely begun.

The solution to the problem of reconciling the personal and political given in the story would not be possible now due to a change in succession protocol made by the Queen in anticipation of William and Kate’s baby.  As the firstborn, their child, whether female or male, will in time be the heir apparent.  Prior to that change, a firstborn daughter of the monarch would be called “heir presumptive” because the birth of a younger brother would displace her in the line of the succession.

Templeton’s heir presumptive is named Victoria, something that pleased me because that’s the name I’m betting on if William and Kate’s baby is a girl.