A letter was written in London, England recently under a partly cloudy summer’s sky. It was written on stationary that has at the top of the page simply printed in blue ink “Buckingham Palace,” and above that is imprinted the Coat of Arms for Anne, HRH The Royal Princess, in the same blue ink of royalty. There is no address. Every post person knows where Buckingham Palace is. The letter was folded perfectly and placed carefully inside of an envelope. It feels exciting just to hold it in your hands.
This journal (blog) is, in one respect, a chronicle of Le Tour de Jeffrey/Free to Move Journey (Le Tour). It seeks to outline the progress of Le Tour, but it also seeks to get to know individuals whom Jeffrey Beausoleil meets along the way. The people that we meet will be like milestones along the journey. We hope to explore such meetings and chance encounters, and in particular their associated acts of kindness. The journal is also a journey of discovery, learning new things about Jeffrey, but also about the people and institutions he and Le Tour comes into contact with. The journal is open to new ideas, and places. It is certainly open and curious about a letter from Buckingham Palace.
This all reminds us of a line in the poem by Robert Frost entitled “The Road Not Taken.” It is a very well known poem, perhaps one of his most famous. Herein he describes a hiker in the woods who comes to a fork in the path. There is no apparent difference in the paths, but he, after a long pause, brings himself to choose one over the other. For our purpose here, the important line is contained within the stanza:
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
Frost is so very right in this. Way does lead on to way. We make one choice and that inevitably leads to an entire host of circumstances and outcomes, to certain people and places and opportunities and to still further choices. What fascinates is how one bend in the road leads to another. And in the process we find that our vision of our destination becomes all the clearer.
This letter from Buckingham Palace is a case in point. It is the outcome of the choice of the Community Association for Riders with Disabilities (CARD) as one of the charities to which the funds raised by Le Tour would be shared. The letter is a response to a letter sent by Le Tour inquiring as to the possibility of interest on the part of the Royal Princess. When the Le Tour decided to designate CARD it learned that in 1979 Princess Anne had attended the opening of their new and current facilities. On that occasion the Royal Princess kindly and generously donated a horse by the name of Chuck. In view of this, Le Tour decided to reach out to the Royal Princess and was favoured with a reply from the Royal Princess’ Assistant Private Secretary, Commander Anne Sullivan, MVO, Royal Navy.
In this age of electronic communication, the experience of receiving a letter has become somewhat of a luxury. Indeed, the experience of holding an envelope that was physically present with its sender is now rather an exceptional one. It is easy for one’s imagination to get carried away. It would seem from the letterhead and the markings on the envelope that this letter was actually crafted within the Palace, that it was physically present within it. This leads our imagination to wonder whether the letter passed on its way to the post, for example, some of the great works of art that are housed there? Did the letter pass, for example, Rembrandt’s “The Shipbuilder and his Wife,” oil on canvas, on its way to the Royal Mail? This masterpiece in particular drew my attention when I visited Buckingham Palace a few years ago. It was, admittedly, the first time I believe that I had seen a Rembrandt. I had always wondered what all the fuss was about. But on seeing this painting first hand I immediately knew.
The picture is large, measuring 113.8 cm x 169.8 cm (width).
When one stands a few feet back, it is as if one is there in the scene. It is as if the man receiving the note from his wife was immediately in front of you, as if he could speak to you in a whisper and you would hear him. It has the effect that you feel you are looking not at a portrait, but at a window. It is as though you could step right into the scene, or that you already have. It is more real than any high definition photograph. But you also feel the presence of the Master. You feel the creator of the artwork to be there embodied within his work. You can almost feel the heavy breath of Rembrandt intent upon his painting.
On the other side of imagination, there are, however, things that we can discern with some degree of certainty from the markings on the outside of the envelope itself, even before opening it. The postmark reads “Buckingham Palace” printed in red ink. There is a calm, even elegant, simplicity about the mark, conveying a sense of resolute purpose and permanence. To the left of it, there is imprinted the Queen’s crest “E II R” with a crown atop it. The “R” stands for the Latin word for Queen, “Regina,” thus the marking reads “Queen Elizabeth the Second”.
On the bottom of the face of the envelope we find the postmark where the letter entered the English mail service. The envelope is marked “Royal Mail,” and we do know that it was cleared at the Royal Mail Mount Pleasant Mail Centre on Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, London. The Royal Mail Mount Pleasant Sorting Office is one of the largest postal facilities in the world and covers over 7 acres. Indeed, there was an entire underground rail system, 10.5 km in length, called the “Mail Rail,” or “Post Office Railway,” solely dedicated to the movement of mail from 1927 to 2003! Mount Pleasant was one of the Mail depots that was serviced by this system.
Thus the term “Royal Mail” would seem to have two meanings on the same envelope, one designating mail directly originating with Royalty, the other the general mail service of the country which itself is in service to the Monarchy.
Of particular interest to Le Tour, too, and its emphasis on mental health for Canadian youth, is another marking on the envelope placed there by the latter, general Royal Mail service, which reads: “Royal Mail supporting youth mental health with Action For Children”. This is an initiative on the part of the Royal Mail to raise funds for Action For Children, a British organization which is helping children deal with the plethora of problems besetting today’s youth. Their motto is, “We help children live their lives their way by doing what’s right, by doing what’s needed, by doing what works.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ky7zmYjBV8&t=2s and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXKarGorYiQ-xnLYDtr4rZw It is interesting that the letter from the Palace is marked by this message of support for mental health for British youth, an interesting confluence of interest between Action for Children of England and Le Tour. It is one more example of way leading on to way.
The receipt of the letter itself is a kindness. We have learned a considerable amount from its few markings. Maybe it is, moreover, the young lad Parker, who appears at the end of the first sited video about Action for Children who should have the last word this time. Parker suggests, with a wisdom beyond his years, that “Love’s inside of all of us, and at certain times it gets to the outside as well.”
Way leads on to way. Love leads on to love. Kindness leads on to kindness.
We are excited to announce that one of the RSE Guest Bloggers, Doug Allen, will be following along, writing, and sharing Jeffrey's journey with us all along the way!
WHY DOUGLAS ALLEN?
Douglas Allen has known Jeffrey for almost three years now! Over that time he has been deeply impressed and encouraged by Jeffrey’s growth as an individual, one who has the courage to recognize and surmount his challenges. Doug is excited to have been invited to chronicle Jeffrey’s progress as he prepares for and embarks on his tour across Canada and honored to follow first-hand his friend Jeffrey, on the "Free to Move" journey.