The maxim of the British

One of many tourists who pose with the Queen's Guard. Windsor Castle, August 2005

One of many tourists who pose with the Queen’s Guard. Windsor Castle, August 2005

“The maxim of the British people is ‘Business as usual.'” — Winston Churchill

This quote, and the photo posted above, capture one reason why I love being in England.  I must not be the only one, because the now-ubiquitous, quintessentially British wartime quote “Keep Calm and Carry On” has been revived and printed on all sorts of items.  It’s now also cleverly parodied by more than one producer of novelties.  The legendary “stiff upper lip” is admirable to many of us, it seems.

Contrary to what some believe, the Queen’s Guard (one of whom is involuntarily posing with a tourist in the photo above) are not just a ceremonial detail, but are fully operational soldiers.  When I saw the tourists taking turns posing beside the guards, I thought it was funny and decided to give it a try.  I thought better when I got a bit closer and saw the razor edge of the bayonet and the barely noticeable tightening of the soldier’s hand on his rifle as I approached.  I felt a bit disrespectful, and more than a little edgy.  So the only photo we have of me with this same solder shows me standing a few feet off, looking ready to run, with a sheepishly undecided grin on my face.

Can you imagine what it must be like to stand silently and endure the constant stream of tourists for hours on end?  These men are fully armed and responsible for the safety of a castle full of people (to say nothing of being a potential target for some deranged attacker), yet they are expected never to move and supposedly never to crack a smile.  What if that huge hat gets unbearably itchy underneath?  What if he had too much tea and needs to go to the loo?  What if he has to sneeze?  Business as usual, which for the Queen’s Guard, means keeping a poker face and standing firm in all sorts of irritating circumstances.

I over-react far too often, so this trait is something I need to cultivate, and I have had a great example in the past year. It’s been amazing to see how Jeff has taken the “business as usual” maxim as his approach to life with stage IV cancer.  Almost every day that he has not been in the hospital or at a treatment appointment, he’s been busy working at the clinic by day and at home by night, going about his routines as if none of this nightmare had ever hit us.  He manages to restrict how much we discuss it or even mention it, far from the obsessive worrying that I tend to do.  It must be his British ancestry coming out.

In any case, the next time you are dealing with unforeseen and unpleasant surprises, or maybe just the annoying presence of distracting people, remember the stony endurance of the Queen’s Guard.  Business as usual.  Keep calm and carry on!

ADDENDUM 10-23-13:

OK, by popular demand (meaning at the requests of people who are popular with me), here is the photo of me with the sheepish grin.  In posting this photo I am breaking two blog standards: 1. use only photos that are focused and attractive; and 2. if I am in the photo, it has to make me look better than I actually look in real life.

Without further ado, see the following three photos:


Do I appear to be gritting my teeth here?  Well, this couple seemed to share my hesitation:

Wary Couple

But this guy in the yellow shirt seemed to have the best idea:

he's outta there

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Did you try to make him laugh? Most do.

    • Alan, I might have tried if I hadn’t been scared away. I’ve heard of people trying, but never heard of anyone succeeding!

  2. I love those last three photos in series even better than the first!

    • Yes, it’s a fun memory. Much more interesting than if I had just posed for a quick snapshot and left.

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