The stream of people, nearly four miles long, flows quietly beside the River Thames.
Wends its way through history, to make history.
From Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, through the site of the Festival of Britain, The London Eye, past the Covid Wall of Remembrance, onto Lambeth Palace, whose high walls hide a garden with an ancient fig tree…
… across Lambeth Bridge, painted red, to match the red, leather benches in the Lords. Westminister Bridge is Green, matching the Commons.
Zig-zagging through Victoria Tower Gardens, past the Buxton Memorial, marking the abolition of slavery.
Finally, Westminister Hall…
… with all the splendour that only the State can muster. Scarlet, gold, silver and purple. Spotlights and diamonds. The coffin made of oak from the royal family’s Sandringham Estate, draped in the Royal Standard…
…a step back in time. The tradition of lying in state stretches back to the 17th century.
A moment of quiet reflection. Then walk-on, into the pale sunlight of New Palace Yard, with its lime trees and Portland Stone, hiding a five story underground car park, for Members and staff. Life goes on.
Why do it? Why queue? Why wait?
Are we mourners? We aren’t family… unless there is such a thing as a national family.
Are we a United Kingdom? United in grief or curiosity? Wanting to play a bit-part in history that no one will notice.
To whisper a silent message of thanks, or perhaps admiration. A visit in the memory of a loved one.
Or just to say, ‘we were there’.
Whatever you think of the thousands in the queue, they have determination, curiosity perhaps… a desire to be with people.
The comfort of strangers.
What does it all mean? The end of an era or continuity? The beginning of something new or, if there is such a word, uninterruptedness?
Close on half a million people are telling us something. If only we knew what it was.
Is it something about values, attitude, beliefs, duty, standards, integrity or honour. Maybe all of that.
Whatever it is… it’s good.
Perhaps now is not the time to fathom it. Not the time to say. Now is the time to feel. Saying what we feel never quite works. Words can be so clumsy.
Just let it be.
We know, its roots are founded in goodness and goodness, young or old, rich or poor, never fails us.
See you next week, have the best weekend you can.