Keep Being Curious
Photo by Zoran Karapancev
If you will forgive me the indulgence, it has been an unsettling couple of weeks. The death of Queen Elizabeth II affected me much more than I thought it would.
Though I accept the concept of a constitutional monarchy is absurd for a liberal democracy, it is what the British have, and I see no great need to change it. Apart from anything else, it gives us a point of continuity that stretches back to William the Conqueror, which is quite something when you stop to think about it.
Hers was a life of service. Whether you are a monarchist or not, whether you are British or not, you cannot but admire a woman who proved more resolute and committed, dare I say it, than the vast majority of the politicians and statesmen and women she has seen come and go: 15 British prime ministers, 14 U.S. presidents (13 of whom she met); five freely elected Hungarian PMs.
Continuity proved to be one of the watchwords of the period of national morning that followed the death of the late queen. In my mind, she was, despite her diminutive stature, the Long Queen, the only British monarch in my 55 years on this earth, one stable point in an ever-changing world. She seemed at once frail and indestructible, and I felt much the same about my mother, 92, and my dog, a rescued German Shepherd-Husky cross who is at least 15, quite possibly older.
But that’s the rub. The Long Queen is dead. My mother is unwell in hospital, and my dog is increasingly unsteady on her feet. The undeniable fact of the Long Queen’s mortality can only point to theirs. Queen Elizabeth’s death is unsettling even if there is solace in her own words: “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
But that is not the only factor behind my disturbed state of mind. Assuming you read this on our publication day and all has gone well, I will be back in the United Kingdom. I will, of course, visit my mother, though she may well not recognize me, but that is not the only reason for me being there. I will accompany my eldest daughter to help her move into her university accommodation.
It is, for her, a grand moment, the start of the next great adventure in her life; she worked incredibly hard for it and deserves all her success. But for her mother and I, it is also the end of something. My wife, given that special mother-daughter bond, will have her moment at the airport on Thursday; mine will be on the train on the way back from London on Saturday evening.
It is inevitable and natural. Parents across this country have already gone through the same as their children take up courses in hometown universities or further afield. It is a passing of the baton to a bright young generation. But still, it hurts. Only now do I know something of what my parents must have felt when I moved to Hungary all those years ago.
I was talking with a recruitment agency head last week and wondered what her advice would be to the cohort starting university this month. “Keep being curious,” she said. And not just now, get into the habit of continuous learning, she added.
As a journalist, I cannot help but like that. So, to my brave, clever and beautiful daughter Lili (she takes after her mother on all counts), and to all those starting their university studies across this country and abroad, I salute you, wish you well, and urge you to “Keep being curious.”
This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of September 23, 2022.
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