Well done, ma’am


As the nation celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Wanstead resident Eileen Flinter reflects upon her memories of the monarch’s 70-year reign

When I was six, I saw my mother cry for the first time. We lived in a tenement in Glasgow and I was in bed suffering from chickenpox when Mum came into the room, wiping her eyes and crying. “The King is dead,” she told me. It was February 1952.

By June 1953, we had moved and our home was a fish and chip shop in Manchester. My parents, like millions of others, bought their first television to watch the Coronation. I can remember perching on the arm of a chair in our crowded sitting room as the young queen was crowned and family and neighbours watched in reverent silence.

My brother and I were two of the many children who were given Coronation mugs at school. We used our Coronation mugs on a daily basis for years. One of the mugs still survives. As the Queen passed more and more milestones, this shabby piece of crockery was elevated to the status of family treasure and put away for safety.

By the time of the Silver Jubilee in 1977, I was married and living in Dublin. This was not the easiest place to look for red, white and blue bunting or Union Jacks, so I watched the events in Britain on the BBC and spoke to my parents on the phone.

When the 2002 Golden Jubilee took place, I was living in Wanstead. My daughter remembers that everyone in the estate agents where she then worked was told to wear red, white and blue that day. She also remembers I bought her Union Jack shot glasses which she and her friend used as ashtrays when I was out one night. Apparently, I was mad with them for abusing the gift – and for smoking!

Ahead of the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, my granddaughter was taken to see the Queen and Prince Philip in Valentine’s Park. Niamh had her photo taken wearing a Union Jack hat and clutching a flag. This photo is stored in her memory box, along with the mug she got at the Cranbourne Avenue street party, and the 1953 mug from her grandmother.

Fast forward another decade to the Platinum Jubilee. From Brexit to the pandemic and an 11-year-old asking me if we are going to have a nuclear war, the intervening 10 years have been tumultuous and unsettling for many, and tragic for some. And the Queen has not been exempt personally, losing her husband and enduring the most tragic of all funerals for anyone, let alone doing so in the glare of cameras. She is left dealing with the fallout of the shameful behaviour of her favourite son and the absence of her cheerful grandson.

Around these landmarks, I have grown up and grown old, but the young girl who inherited the Crown whilst on holiday in Africa has gone on doing the same job, day after day and year after year. It is a formidable employment record. For all of us, there have been good times and bad, happy times and sad over the last 70 years.

Royalist or republican, it is hard not to offer the Queen respect and admiration for a life lived in complete dedication to a job and way of life that came to her accidentally. Elizabeth’s recent birthday photo with two ponies signalled the life she would have chosen for herself. Most of us have no memory of another monarch. So familiar that she is just there, an unconsidered part of our lives. We owe her our very warmest wishes. She has done us proud. Take care, ma’am.


House of Snow


Local artist Chris Thomas explains the background to his exhibition of Himalayan landscapes on show at Wanstead Library this month

Nepal is a country in the Indian subcontinent and the Himalaya forms its northern border with Tibet. Its history has been filled with political instability and its geology unpredictable. Despite all this, the people have remained hospitable and welcoming, and the mountain scenery awe-inspiring. The people of the Himalaya belong to a variety of ethnic groups: Gurungs, Sherpas, Rais and a bewildering variety of other Tibeto-Burman nationalities.

I first visited Nepal in the mid-eighties and made a trek in Annapurna district. Since then, I have returned many times and trekked in the Solu Khumbu, Langtang and Annapurna districts on many occasions. Over the years, I’ve seen many changes with roads making ever deeper incursions into the mountains and hotels becoming increasingly sophisticated. The hospitality remains the same and the scenery is always spectacular.

For many years, I recorded my experiences with a trusty Pentax K1000 camera. Analogue moved to digital, and so did my photographic endeavours, but on the last couple of treks I decided to take a drawing book and water colour box to supplement my photography.

All the paintings in the exhibition were made in London using my own photographs and the visual notes I made while trekking. However, perhaps the most important references were the memories of these experiences.

When I was a student, drawing and painting the landscape was an important aspect of my work, and over the past couple of years that interest has been rekindled. I’ve always maintained an interest in the genre through looking at paintings, natural history and essays on aesthetics. Burke’s work on the sublime and the beautiful played an important role in my consideration while engaged in these paintings.

The paintings are concerned with elements of formal composition and the notion of the picturesque, with a reference to foreground interest and the inclusion of features such as habitation, architecture and cultural references in the form of prayer flags and chortens (Buddhist commemorative monuments).

The Himalaya has a limited reference to the context of the European landscape tradition. Explorers such as Joseph Hooker and Edward Norton made topographical renderings of the mountains. Edward Lear painted Kanchenjunga from Darjeeling. William Simpson made descriptive watercolours and Nicholas Roerich engaged the viewer in his mystical and romantic vision.

As Nepal was a closed country until the mid-20th century, it received few visitors, and those permitted entry were limited in their movement outside the Kathmandu valley. Photography became the preferred medium for travel and expeditions and, as a consequence, Nepal’s Himalaya has been largely neglected as a subject for painters.

Landscape painting is just one aspect of my interest in the visual arts; portraiture, the figure and narrative are also important parts of my work.

Chris’s exhibition of Himalayan landscapes will be on show at Wanstead Library until 20 March. For more information, visit christhomasart.co.uk


Help local Rotary Club find new ways to support the community


The Rotary Club of Leytonstone and Woodford are keen to welcome new members to progress their charity work in the local community and further afield.

“Despite the cancellation of two major fundraising events, our club continues to meet via Zoom and find ways to help the community at large, and we are still making important decisions benefiting charities… One of the heart-warming aspects to the present crisis has been the amazing public response to support our wonderful NHS,” said Rotarian John Bracken.

Call 020 3597 2921