I’ve just been out to Holy Trinity Cathedral to pay my respects to Sir Ed, currently lying in state in Parnell.
It’s a hot, muggy night, with a persistent light drizzle – not cool enough to offer any respite from the sweaty closeness. And even after 2AM, there was a queue across the courtyard.
That people would be out on a night like this, at this hour, I think this tells you all you need to know about how so many of use felt about our Ed.
He truly was one of the last great adventurers. No one can really be the first to do anything now, all they can do is add more and more qualifiers – first to ski to the north pole backwards, first to drive a rocket-propelled ute over the Victoria Falls (and later, his brother would become first to drive a rocket-propelled ute over the Victoria Falls – and survive), first to summit Mt Everest while engaged in a 3-legged father/daughter race, oldest bilateral amputee on Mars.
The mood, in line and in the cathedral was very quiet, very solemn, and very respectful. I noticed a very discrete police presence outside, off the grounds, with New Zealand Army soldiers inside standing in vigilin their role as the honour guard, and distributed around the pews.
It was … Sad, I suppose – but that’s not quite the right word. It all felt right somehow, everybody there wanted to be, everyone was quiet, with many people sitting in the pews watching the seemingly endless procession of people paying their respects. It was nice. It was appropriate.
None of this matters to Hillary of course, affairs of the flesh are no longer any concern to him, but it matters to me. It meant something to all of us there, and everyone who had been there before me, and those who are still there now.
These few moments we can share as a nation are special – and I don’t mean that all 4-odd million of us are crying, or even really mourning in the more common sense of the word, but I think that a lot of use can feel that the passing of this man means something more than the passing of most others.
Even if Some Guy in your office persists in making stupid ‘jokes’ about “Dead Ed”, it’s still special to the rest of us, we non-imbeciles.
These special moments can sometimes turn into moments of change. But the thing is, outside of honest-to-goodness revolution, we don’t appreciate how great a moment is until time has blessed us with the gift of perspective.
For instance, you never know what might make people ask why we have some unelected fat Indian dude representing an unelected old Englishwoman as Head of State on our fair isles. And so who can say that, 15 years from now, we won’t be able to trace the birth of our shiny new Republic back to the day our Monarch failed to pay her respects to one of our greatest national heroes by sending one of her boys (or whoever) down on the direct flight from London town.
Seriously, how many other Companions of The Most Noble Order of the Garter do you think won’t have an actual dyed-blue-in-the-wool member of the royal family in attendance? This is the single highest honour that can be bestowed on any citizen of the Commonwealth – bestowed by the queen herself, there can be no more than 24 living Companions at a time – and they didn’t even send some piffling little prince down?
Regardless, and moving on from this aside, it doesn’t matter which royals are or aren’t here. It doesn’t matter if some ridiculous social upheaval doesn’t kick off (Republicanism is inevitable, but I don’t really expect Sir Ed’s death to hasten it along, I was just sayin’, you know). Because what has happened is important enough by itself – the passing of a normal New Zealander, who did truly extraordinary things, for his entire life. Let’s all try to aspire to do the same, in whatever way we can. For instance, I will aspire to inappropriate rants on my website and peeling rubber in front of friends’ houses late at night. With a Massey Ferguson.
Anyway, I took a nice camera along for the ride tonight, I should have time to cut something together over the next day or two.