I’ve been to Portsmouth a few times, and whilst not meaning to be disrespectful, it’s not exactly St. Tropez. Cosham has its charms, but it’s an unlikely destination for a member of the Tanzanian royal family.
Coincidentally, I had a great aunt from Portsmouth who had 9 cats and spent more than the gross domestic product of a small country every year on Whiskers. We used to go to stay and bring our own flea powder.
Half a century ago, on the island nation of Zanzibar, famous as the birthplace of Freddie Mercury and for having an excellent name, trouble was brewing. A former protectorate of Great Britain, the country became independent in 1963 and had a revolution in 1964. As is always good practice in these matters, the ruler, the Sultan of Zanzibar, ran away to live in England. The British government gave him £100,000 to re-settle somewhere so he bought a semi-detached house in Southsea. I bet they didn’t see that one coming.
I imagine he thought his exile would be temporary and hoped that he’d be reunited with his family, now living in Muscat. It lasted for 56 years. We really don’t know much about how he spent the next five decades but I like to imagine him riding the big dipper and playing on the 2p slot machines, eating fish and chips on the beach and watching Coronation Street.
Perhaps he was lonely and in shock at his fall from grace. I wonder whether he made friends, fell in love or made peace with his new modest life. He must have missed his family, not to mention all of the bowing and scraping from the proles.
I’ve talked here before about those isolated at Christmas time. The elderly and those in care homes have suffered terrible losses this year. The virus has hit the homeless population (estimated at 320,000 by Shelter UK) hard as well. As is always the case, those living in poverty have suffered the most. So, what can we do about it? There are charities such as the Trussell Trust that need all the help they can get.
We all have our fingers crossed for a vaccine and a return to our old way of life but we also have to make the best of the here and now. There will be many people who can’t go home to spend Christmas with their families, people in care homes and hospitals that have no one to pull a cracker with. If we can’t see our loved ones then we need to be creative about how we reach out to them. I’m still thinking about that one.
This year, aged 91, the former Sultan of Zanzibar joined his family in Oman after a change of heart from their government. I wonder how they greeted him at the airport. I wonder whether he took them presents. Perhaps they all got a stick of rock and a kiss me quick hat.