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13 April 2008 @ 01:50 am
"... being a conservative American, I assume that I won't be leaving the room alive. So be it."  
It's been a long time since I've posted, and a lot has happened, so we'll take things in order of importance, excluding the last item, which has been dominating my thoughts today and is actually the most important event of the last few weeks.

*****

So I met the Queen.

By this, I mean Herself - Elizabeth II.  Of England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland Queen.  Queen of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  Lord of the Isle of Man.  Head of the Commonwealth.  Paramount Chief of Fiji.  Etc.

She wanted me to tell Miss Huddleston "Hi."

Herself came to the Queen's University of Belfast for the Centenary celebrations, which also came close to coinciding with the ten year anniversary of the Belfast Agreement.  I called in every marker I had to get to meet her, and it payed off.  After my invitation was secured, the University prompted me to tell her all about what a wonderfully international institution they were, and were eager to show off their first non-Irish Union Speaker.  In any event, I was the first person in the room to be Presented to Her Majesty.  I was even given permission to speak to her.  And she offered me her hand.

It may sound a bit petty, especially that last bit, but come to find out it's a fair big deal.  Lord Trimble was there, and he didn't get to speak with her.  The richest man in Ireland was there, and she didn't offer him her hand.  (I know because I watched closely).

Needless to say it was an amazing experience, in no small part because she's a genuinely impressive woman.  Beyond the titles, fantastic hat/dress ensemble, and entourage, she was just... impressive.  Sure, she's been born and trained to it, and has decades of experience in these situations.  But at her age, the sheer force of presence she exuded was unexpected.  The skill and grace with which she managed people and conversation was flawless.

In most situations in which I'm introduced to new people, I study their eyes for a moment and arbitrarily decide whether or not they're interesting.  Of course, since she's the Queen of England it's a foregone conclusion that she's interesting, but nonetheless I started off by looking her in the eye to see what I could read there.  They were a clear striking blue; bright and reserved but not icy or stiff.  She looked up at me (she's rather small) holding my eyes without blinking and took my measure in the exact same instant I was reflexively taking hers.  It was surreal to find that she was analyzing me in much the same way I was analyzing her at the exact same instant, and I'd've given anything to know what she thought in that second and a half after I bowed and straightened to look her in the eye.  The moment passed and she asked me who I was, what I was, where I was from, what my thoughts were on Belfast and the United Kingdom in general (it didn't escape me that, after a fashion, she asked "So, whaddya think of my place?")

It was very brief.  A short few bits of conversation and she was moving on towards others waiting to meet her, leaving me to reflect smugly on having been first, and to wallow in the experiential whirlwind of the pomp and circumstance of the event.

Best of all?  Two buddies of mine (the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland chaplains for QUB) said that she mentioned me when speaking to them, a whole seven minutes later!  I figured I'd've been dismissed from her mind within a half-minute!

I win at life.

I also got to meet Prince Philip, Lord Trimble (architect of the Belfast Agreement), the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the richest man in Ireland, and a swath of other important type folk.  Good times, good times.

(Michael was furious that I got to meet the Queen and he didn't get to see more than her Land Rover and Prince Philip.  I think it took him a good three days to forgive me.)

>>>edit: Correction, Michael has not in fact forgiven me for this yet.

*****

I turned 23.  Not as exciting as you might think.

<<Edit - Michael's gracious, intelligent, insightful, and artistically inclined girlfriend Ruth made me a cake.  It tasted like joy.  Also, Michael broughe me the gift of Coleraine cheddar!  Not as good as the cake, but there you have it.>>

*****

Max came to visit me for a week, which included St. Patrick's Day (we went up to Londonderry) and my birthday.  Good times, good times.

I took him about Northern Ireland, and then we went on a road trip with two buddies o' mine, Sarah and Shane, to wander about the interior.  Mostly County Meath.

Good times had by all.

*****

Two weeks ago I went out with the Queens delegation to NUS, the National Union of Students in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

It was horrible.

I've never seem such an extremist public event in my entire life.  People at the lectern proudly called themselves revolutionary communists.  What the hell...!?  I always thought western communists were like big-foot; you hear about them, but no body ever really proves that they exist.

Needless to say, 'conservative', 'right-wing', and 'capitalist' were all spoken like dirty words.  Finally a motion came up that I just couldn't ignore, in no small part because one poor fellow got up and made some practical points that got him labelled a right-wing nutjob.  Incensed, I managed to get the next speech allocation, and went into Phillip-mode.  A friend of mine recorded the speech on his cell phone, so there's a video of it somewhere or another.  Amongst other things I said, "I realize that I've taken my life into my hands here.  I'm arguing against the motion, and I'm publicly admitting to being a conservative american, so I assume that I won't be leaving the room alive.  So be it..... are we real people here, or just jumped-up adolescents playing at being grown-ups?  How can any of us expect to be taken seriously when anyone who makes a practical argument is dismissed as a right-wing nutjob?  Consider that it is only in our diversity that we find strength; every additional voice - even if it dissents from the view of the majority here - makes us stronger.  And every voice that is silenced by animousity, personal attacks, and intimidation, every voice lost, diminishes us all."

Essentially I berated them for being freaky liberal extremists and rhetorically couched it in the idealism of the 'tolerant left'.  I got no heckling or booing, and a fair deal of applause as a result.  We all left early so that I wouldn't be torn apart by a mob though.

On the second day of the conference we just left and went to the Blackpool Pleasure Beach.  Roller coasters!  Ah!  Good times.

*****

I've been totally and abysmally swamped for quite a while.  Last week alone I had five speaking engagements, a council meeting, a meeting of the Belfast Rotary Club, and three strategy sessions over coffee/pints with Michael plotting his campaign for the NUS/USI presidency.

I did get a lot done, though.  My speeches were very well recieved, the Council meeting went very well, and I formally appointed Michael as Deputy Speaker.  Good stuff.

Next week I have speaking engagements on monday and tuesday, then I leave for Ballymena for the NUS/USI conference on wednesday, to be back on Friday.  Egh.

But tomorrow!  Football game!  US against LIMERICK, on our home field!  HAHAHAHA!

*****

I was kindof hoping that the US economy would magically fix itself sometime last week.

It didn't.

Lame.

*****

I took Ciarnan Helferty to meet with one of the Rotary Clubs in Belfast the other day.  I want to get him set up to put in a winning application for the Ambassadorial Scholarship available for Ireland.  It's the same scholarship I won, and the competition is fierce.  If he wins (which I think he very well could) he'd probably study for a year in the United States.

Good times.

*****

A couple of days ago Max IMed me to tell me that Pops has developed prostate cancer.

After talking with him and e-mailing with Mum, the situation doesn't look good.  It could be a lot worse, but it's not good.  Pops had a biopsy done on wednesday, and he's very weak and irritable, and he developed a bout of septicemia.  The options range from chemotherapy to surgery.  Luckily it looks like it can be contained and repaired, and there's time to consider the options.

From what I understand the current plan is to wait until he's strong enough for surgery.  They're telling me it looks like it'd be in July sometime.  At least I'll be home then.

... for the first time since I left Mississippi, I feel as though I really am three thousand miles away.
 
 
Current Location: 26 Mount Charles, Belfast
Current Mood: discontentdiscontent
Current Music: 'Goodbye Sky Harbor' - Jimmy Eat World
 
 
 
rachaeljack on April 13th, 2008 04:31 am (UTC)
HAY QUEEEEENIE!!!!!1!!

omg. fabulous.
(Anonymous) on April 13th, 2008 10:38 am (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather - not nice.

No mention of cake?!

Michael Shilliday
phillipos: Green Lanternphillipos on April 13th, 2008 12:14 pm (UTC)
Pops = my father.

And I've edited in an appropriate bit about the cake. My mistake.

- Phillip