How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
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A strangely, princely, eccentric evening
I've just had the strangest, most interesting, distinctly eccentric and enjoyable evening. I am writing this on the train home, in a slightly inebriated state, so please excuse any befuddled language, for indeed I feel rather odd. I'm also in a quite truthful state so pin your ears back and here it comes.
I've just had dinner with Prince Philip. As in the husband of Queen Elizabeth of England. I greeted him and sat opposite him and we exchanged pleasantries. Nice chap, as they say, though goodness knows what he thought of it all. Actually, his body language said he was having a good time, which is rather nice.
Let's get things straight. He wasn't my immediate guest and I don't normally hobnob with royalty. In fact he's pretty much the first person in the British royal family I've met. Was I star-struck? Yeah, a bit. I'm not proud. And yet also I suffer the curse of having studied psychology whereby you step back and watch what is going on, including in your own head. I've found this a blessing, by the way. In understanding people you tend to appreciate them more and accept and marvel at how they manage to function in the face of all the complexity that is thrown at them.
What must it be to be a royal person? To be unavoidably and always in the glare of the media? Prince Philip has long been in the spotlight and yet also in the shadow of Her Majesty. Even whilst being 'His Royal Highness', he has always been number two or maybe less as his children and their partners have walked into the limelight. I've always admired the way he has not taken himself too seriously whilst getting into hot water for saying what he thinks without thinking too much about what he is saying. He once described himself as a master in the art of 'orthopedontery' -- the practice of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it.
The event was at the Eccentric's Club in London, about which I've blogged a bit before. I love the club and its members, who are often truth incarnate, without the false dressing of excessively polite society. I sat between Lyndon and Roy, who were both wonderful company.
Roy was a member of the last incarnation of the club (which has started and stopped since the 1750s -- think about the paradox of an eccentric's club). He was a stunning sales person in his time as well as a sailor in the second world war, and who still has all his marbles and then some. He told me stories of changing minds that would blow your socks off. He would walk into situations with charming bravado and, in doing so, made great friends with people like Count Basie, Ray Reardon and others that us normal (!) mortals might call celebrities. Lyndon is a very smart engineer and a 'proper' eccentric who builds Heath Robinson contraptions just for the challenge and delight of the task. He is probably one of the few people who has been ogled by the Queen and who then waved, regally, back from his wickerwork car. I loved listening to the stories of both.
Prince Philip, for me, is an inspiration. I may not agree with everything he says, but so what. Nor do lots of people. But that's the point. He isn't bound by public opinion. He's his own man. He says what he thinks, which I find rather refreshing. People say that's eccentric. I say it's truth. Truth is as you see it and say it and, very importantly, is about being true to your self. How often do we lie (yes, lie) and otherwise tell ourselves stories to justify a disharmony between our thoughts and our action?
And Roy also displayed through his stories and Lyndon showed through his being that honesty and respect and eccentricity are highly congruous. Which is why I had such a great time (and silently thank them for their lovely company).
ps. I also want to say a massive thanks to Imants who organized it all. Top fellow.
...and equally massive thanks to Brian Clivaz, who's done so much and
then was too ill to attend the Dinner... such a pity!
Well done David!
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