Going the distance…

Buckingham Palace

“Buckingham Palace”; there are probably no two words that remind us of the nature of the British constitution nor that brought it home to me of exactly where I was and who I was talking to than those, but nonetheless they were the words that greeted my telephone enquiry one early September morning. For 18th September 2014 was to be an highly significant day in more ways than one. To us (as LLB students taking CLRI) & in my case a British citizen (albeit living many miles from home) it marked the day that the British constitution was possibly going to be irrevocably changed, and we are talking “changed” as Scotland faced its independence referendum. But for me it meant something far more important; my parents had been married for 60 years… “pause for effect”… and hence the call to the palace; as after such an “innings” you are entitled to a letter of acknowledgement from Her Majesty; and so on the morning of 18th September 2014 it duly arrived:

Congratulations letter from Queen Elizabeth

Mr and Mrs Pummell opening letter from  Queen

“I am so pleased to know that you are celebrating your Diamond Wedding anniversary on 18th September 2014. I send my congratulations and best wishes to you on such a special occasion.”

Elizabeth R

As always with significant days there is the danger of being underwhelmed & perhaps somewhat disappointed but not so in this case; I had travelled from China with my wife and our daughter Catherine and quite the opposite was true. I got to see my parents’ wedding certificate and there it was 18th September 1954 (just a little over a year after Elizabeth II’s coronation (2nd June 1953)) and I felt quite the contrary, an overwhelming sense of love and pride. And I got to reflect on the notion of enduring, lasting, “going the distance…”.


Spending time with the grandparents!

And so too with the Scottish referendum; I was surprised at just how troubled I was by the thought of a Yes vote!!! Now in case your history escapes you England and Scotland united in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. It had been a pretty bloody journey, lots of civil wars (the wars of Scottish independence) which raged across the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries followed by the union of the crowns in 1603 when James VI of Scotland became James I of England. So we were not talking 60 years, we were talking 307 years; and in spite of myself and without really knowing it (and I’m guessing the same emotions applied to a lot of people around the world) I really cared about it. The politicians did what they do best, politic; but try as they may the British contingent couldn’t conceal the panic in their voices… they jumped around, squirmed and in fact (if you know anything about psychology) did their very darndest to put it into the hands of the Yes faction. The only person who stayed cool throughout the process was yes, you guessed it; Elizabeth R. I loved her comment; as she left Crathie Kirk near her Balmoral estate after the Sunday morning service she reportedly told a well-wisher:

“Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future.”

Catherine ready to fight for queen & country!!!

The rest is history but the lessons are immanent. It takes a long time to build something of value; a marriage, a constitution and of relevance to us all as International Programmes students –  a career. Sitting at my desk most mornings and looking at the family photos that flash across my Sony S-Frame I garner great strength from this thought as I brace myself to open that case book, chase down that soon forgotten reference or add a few more words to an essay in progress.

Often misattributed to Aristotle it is actually Will Durant that tells us:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”;

and so it is with our studies we have to keep at it, endure our low times, accept our failings, not beat ourselves up over our mistakes, we have to “go the distance”; sometimes sharpening those pencils when we least feel like it, revisiting that chapter when all our senses are telling us to call it a day, having the courage to tackle that section on “promissory estoppel” that we couldn’t make head nor tail of the day before. But as with marriage I think it’s something that needs to be done with a sense of joy and discovery and perhaps even a little irreverence so on that note I’m going to give today’s last word to Paul McCartney:

Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl
But she doesn’t have a lot to say
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl
But she changes from day to day

I want to tell her that I love her a lot
But I gotta get a bellyful of wine
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl
Someday I’m going to make her mine, oh yeah
Someday I’m going to make her mine


“pause for effect” – Despicable Me; Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment


Will Durant; The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers (1926) [Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books, 1991, Ch. II: Aristotle and Greek Science

Her Majesty; Abbey Road 1969 written by Paul McCartney

Mark is studying the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) by distance learning in Shanghai, China.

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