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...a sweatshop of moxie

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Windsor Castle

I'll be watching "Windsor Castle: A Royal Year", coming on my local PBS channel tonight at 8 PM EST.

Check your own listings, as PBS affiliates vary.

I have an unusual love for Windsor Castle.

I went there as a child on a school field trip, and since that time, few edifices have gripped me more, than this old pile of brick, stone and mortar.

I've been to Buckingham Palace. Found it boring.

I've been to Versailles. Found it fussy.

I've been to the old Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Found it dank.

But Windsor Castle does something to me.

I find myself somewhat sentimental, even protective of it, like when I saw the tourist tschokes on sale in the Windsor Castle gift shops.

I don't know what the Queen feels, and for all I know, she loves it -- after all, she approved their existence and oversaw some of their designs --, but when I saw a Windsor Castle tea beaker, Queen Mary Doll House tea cozy, and Queen Victoria fridge magnet being flogged not 200 yards away from where William the Conqueror used to hunt, where Elizabeth I's odious father, Henry VIII, is buried, and where George III lay imprisoned in mad glory after losing the land where I now live...

...my blood boils.

I know the Royal Family did so to raise funds after the Windsor fire in 1992, but even so, that's disgusting.

I also recall this same revulsion overcoming me, inside the Castle one day.

I was on the tour, going from room to room (no guide), when suddenly I saw a sight which made my mouth gape.

A man (British, not a tourist) took a swig of a plastic Coke bottle, finished it, and instead of putting it back in his rucksack, he set it down...behind a bust of Queen Victoria.

So irate was I, that I felt like going over to him, and punching him in the nose.

Instead, I collected myself, drew a breath, and pointed out the bottle to a guard.

To my astonishment, he sighed and said that happens all the time.

I stored that in my head, and moved on.

But you know, the incident stayed with me, and some years later, I recalled it, when (being yet again there, to see the progress done with St. George's Hall, which had been burnt to a crisp in 1992), I saw someone sit on top of the tomb of Queen Mary and George V, before one of the St. George's Chapel ushers told them to get off.

It occured to me these people exhibit signs the opposite of Jerusalem Syndrome, that famous term for that curious sensation which overwhelms a person, say, in front of a statue like David in Florence.

Panic. Fright. Even dizziness ensues, because they have a feeling of seeing something they had only ever seen in photographs, before, and it can overwhelm some.

But these people -- they could care less.

They litter and defile these places, with all the insouciance of vandals.

That's when I told my mother, a psychiatrist, about the two events which I had personally witnessed.

She said, some people are not being piggy or careless just to be disrespectful, but rather manifesting symptoms of envy, by lashing out in a passive-aggressive fashion at these monuments.

I knew she was right, for in the same day I saw the plastic Coke bottle perching next to Queen Victoria, I heard some American tourists behind me say, in their high-toned American accented whispers,

"I can't believe people live like this!!".

Perhaps it is a kind of Jerusalem Syndrome, after all.

I'll update this after I watch the programme, which has just started.

UPDATE: I cleaned up the post, grammatically, and changed "jealousy" to envy, since I spoke to my mother after watching the episode, and she stated she had used the word envy, not jealousy, in our previous conversation.

She also recalled that she had mentioned the incident where a man took a hammer at the David statue, and knocked out a toe from the Michaelangelo masterpiece.

Reason? Because it's too perfect.

Obviously, this is a deranged way of acting out on your particular moral precepts, but one can recognise a bit of the same impulse, in the littering/disrespecting incidents I mention above.

One way people who feel themselves at a disadvantage or envious even without stating it outright, can go about redressing that situation, is by lashing out at inanimate objects.

Graffiti artists, the kind to be seen from East LA to your local neighbourhoods, surely are showing these very signs, when they spray paint or disfigure buildings, walks, and other structures, in some way.

Quite apart from the fact that many people enjoy graffiti art, and even the ugly gang sign graffiti can be championed by some people, who feel that these "artists" are underprivileged, and thus have only this outlet to express their artistic impulses publicly, it still doesn't take away why they choose to scribble on walls in public.

And no, it doesn't have to do with territorialism, or challenges to authority, etc. Those are the effects, not the causes.

It comes from two reasons, I believe.

Feelings of worthlessness, which in turn, lead to fears of being ignored.

Graffiti thus is a way of drawing attention to the person that, no matter how insignficant general society feels THEY are, and moreover, their opinions are, they will strike out and make their presence, their speech, and their points of view, known.

Showing respect, and disrespect for something is in some way, a call for attention to your opinions of whatever is the object of interest at that moment, which by force, is not you.

Be it a wall...or a room in a Castle which is almost 1000 years old.

Obviously, some gestures are more intended than others, but you can be sure that the man who placed the Coke bottle behind the bust of Queen Victoria, thus breaking the PERFECTION of the room we were in, with its gilt-edged chairs, with its Holbeins on the walls, with its in-your-face ancientness and tradition, was being less lazy, than making a personal statement of some kind.

Else he certainly would have placed the Coke bottle, in the rubbish bin near the exit, located not 4 feet away...

...and the 2 people sitting on the King and Queen's effigies would have used the pews just behind the sarcophagi.

P.S.: Upon reading the update, I arrived at the conclusion that if the Coke bottle chap had thought about it a bit more, he might've realised that just the mere fact that he and I, and every tourist who goes to Windsor Castle, is in some way, breaking up the "perfection" of the setting.

Windsor Castle was built for the usage of one family alone -- the Royal Family alive at that moment.

Just the mere fact that there are tourists visiting the Castle, is a statement of challenge to that status quo, to that social class structure, which it represents.

That's obviously not my way of thinking, since I don't feel insignifcant, nor have ever felt at a disadvantage at any time in my life, but in putting on my cap of a microhistorian for a moment, which analyses these small gestures and tries to seek meaning which might go unperceived, it is easy to focus on one minute example and truly examine it as we usually don't in daily life.

Actually, stay tuned for more of the same in a forthcoming post.


  • Is this the same place where Queen Elizabeth allows the corgis to poop and pee, knowing that the servants will pick up after the dogs? That is, after all, what servants are for, right?

    By Blogger Ruth Anne Adams, at Wed Feb 15, 11:15:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Is this the same place where Queen Elizabeth allows the corgis to poop and pee, knowing that the servants will pick up after the dogs? That is, after all, what servants are for, right?

    Oh I get it.

    You saying the man I saw was really the Queen in drag, littering her home because that's what servants are for.

    Good one!


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Feb 15, 11:54:00 pm GMT-5  

  • No, Victoria. I had heard that the Queen knows her corgis by name and her horses by name, but the servants, not so much.

    I also heard the corgis had the run of the castle.

    This I heard from an American corgi owner/lover.

    Not true?

    By Blogger Ruth Anne Adams, at Thu Feb 16, 09:39:00 am GMT-5  

  • If Vicky has piqued your interest, British Airways is having a sale on London Vacations. :)

    Thats for Toronto but they may have offers from other cities.

    I though the price of 35mm film at the gift shop paid for the entire restoration! They must have moved to kitschy items with the increase in digital cameras.

    I'm not sure this was disrespectful but my friend once triggered the alarms at the British Museum when he sat down. Turns out he was sitting on some ancient stones and not a bench. :)

    By Blogger Renato, at Thu Feb 16, 12:05:00 pm GMT-5  

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