Oprah Was Born Too Late

by Bob Sparrow

King Henry VIII

Much of the world was watching Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on TV – it is said to be the most watched event in the history of television.  I watched some of it, but soon tired of the bagpipes and pomp that accompanied the ceremony of a truly magnificent queen.  Queen Elizabeth II, may have been the longest reigning English monarch, but her reign was far from the most interesting.  Yes, we’re wondering if Harry and William will patch things up between them, if the ‘royal family’ will ever really accept Megan, or if King Charles will ever be forgiven for his distant relationship with Diana.  But if you think there is drama in today’s royal family – this is nothing!!!

Here are a few ‘royals’ that Oprah would have given anything to interview back in the day.

I’d say King Henry VIII is probably at the top of the list of ‘most interesting monarchs’. He took the thrown when he was only 17, six weeks later he married Catherine ‘The Cougar’ of Aragon – who was 23 and happened to be the widow of Henry’s brother, Arthur.  She was the daughter of Spain’s Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II, and their marriage was an arrangement to strengthen the English-Spanish alliance.  Like a good king’s wife, she bore him three sons and three daughters, unfortunately all were stillborn except one girl – who would become Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary) – another great interview for Oprah.

Those who have a smattering of English monarch knowledge know some of the history of the five wives that ensued, each with their own story.  Although some of Henry’s wives lost their heads, several of the marriages were annulled, with Henry breaking from the Catholic church and forming the Church of England.  Additionally, Henry was known as the ‘Father of the Royal Navy’ – starting the dominance of England on the seas, that lasted for centuries.  There is so much more, but let’s move on.

The ‘Virgin (?) Queen’

Two years before Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, was beheaded, she and Henry had a girl, which he essentially disowned after the beheading because she was not a male.  Henry’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr, encouraged Henry to bring the daughter back into the fold, which he did.  She, Queen Elizabeth I, became one of England’s most accomplished monarchs.  She was called the ‘Virgin Queen’, although we’re not sure about that, but we do know that she never married.

Back to Elizabeth’s first cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic, who many thought should be the Queen of England.  Her relationship with Elizabeth was rocky, at best, in fact ultimately Queen Elizabeth had her imprisoned for 19 years!  After her release, Mary was plotting to overthrow Elizabeth to become Queen of England, but Elizabeth found out and had her beheaded.  Oops!  Elizabeth’s reign was looked at as ‘The Golden Age’ of British history, both in exploration with Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, as well as literature, with William Shakespeare.

Plump ‘Queen Victoria’

Then there is Victoria, the 18-year-old, 4 foot 11, portly queen, who married her first cousin, Prince Albert.  They had nine children and she sat on the throne for 63 years, (obviously a very sturdy throne!) a record broken by Queen Elizabeth II, who was her great, great granddaughter.  But the record for all monarchs is held by Louis XIV of France, who took the throne at 4 years old and served for just over 72 years.  They say, “Long live the king”, but Charles would have to live to be 145 to break Louis’ record!

And who can forget King George III, the king who married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a German, whom he met on their wedding day?  Their marriage lasted . . . are you ready for it?  Got ya!  Fifty-seven years!!!  They had 15 children!  We, here in the colonies, of course, know George then best, along with the ineptness of the Earl of Sandwich, for losing the Revolutionary War.

Oprah would have had a field day!


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Anglophiles the world ’round are sad this week with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.  I have had an interest in her life since 1960, when as a naive 9-year-old, I saw the headline banner on the newspaper my dad was reading that screamed, “QUEEN IN LABOR”.  My first thought was that the Queen of England had embarked on ditch digging.  But even at that age I knew that couldn’t be right, so I asked my parents what “labor” meant. I still recall the uncomfortable look they gave each other, as if to say, “Are you going to be the one to tell her?”  In any event, that is my first memory of the queen.  I subsequently studied English history in college and over the years I grew to appreciate the majesty that is the monarchy.  I know that we fought a war to separate ourselves from it, and I wholeheartedly support our divorce from the motherland, but given today’s bitter political infighting I sometimes think it would be nice to have a non-politician above it all who could say, “Stop your childish bickering and get on with the job.”

There is no better example of the benefits of a monarch than when Queen Elizabeth outfoxed Margaret Thatcher on the issue of apartheid. On several occasions during Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister, the Queen urged her take a strong stance against the apartheid laws in South Africa.  Thatcher dragged her feet, suggesting that the “time wasn’t right”.  For Thatcher, the time would never be right. By 1990, the Queen, frustrated with Thatcher’s inaction, took matters in hand by inviting Nelson Mandela, the foremost anti-apartheid leader, to the United Kingdom.  At the time, that was groundbreaking.  The apartheid laws were repealed the following year, in part due to the support exhibited by the Queen. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be seen with Mandela.  Even Thatcher, never one to miss a photo op, had her picture taken shaking Mandela’s hand.  Elizabeth and Mandela enjoyed a life-long friendship; he was the only person outside of the family that referred to her as “Elizabeth”.

I was very sad to learn of the Queen’s passing and I admit I shed a few tears.  She was part of the “greatest generation” who exemplified duty, humility and serving others, combined with some increasingly rare common sense. Elizabeth always understood that being royal was not about celebrity or attention-seeking, but about doing her best for her fellow countrymen.  In a time when slacking off has become fashionable, Elizabeth still stood by the virtues of hard work and commitment to one’s obligations. Not many 96-year-olds are still on the job, but the Queen stood by her promise to serve until her death.

Now we must forge ahead with the new King, Charles.  As a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owner, I echo the sentiments I read from another owner that it is going to be hard to hear the words “King Charles” without wanting to add the word “spaniel” at the end.  Nevertheless, I am somewhat relieved at Charles’ accension.  For the past nine years innumerable people have stopped me and said, “Oh, you have a Prince Charles Spaniel.”  Perhaps now Dash the Wonder Dog will get his due respect.


A Flock of Sparrows

by Bob Sparrow

Sparrows in the 50s

Last weekend was a very special weekend, as it was a gathering of Sparrows.  My two siblings and I, along with our spouses, met at Jack & Sharon’s last weekend in Santa Maria.  As you might imagine, Suzanne and I communicate rather regularly as we have each other edit our blog prior to posting every Monday (guaranteed that Suzanne finds a lot more things to edit than I do!) as well as talking on the phone periodically.  Brother Jack and I usually talk on the phone about once a week, but during football season, it jumps to sometimes 4-5 times a day, as we have practice bets in preparation for real bets when we get to Vegas, which is in two weeks.  But personal visits are much rarer, once, maybe twice, a year the three couples get together – so last weekend was special.

What I think is most unusual about our sibling relationship, is that I can’t remember a harsh word spoken between us since . . . ever!  I truly love both my brother and my sister.  Some of you are thinking, “Duh”, who doesn’t love their brother and sister and some of you are thinking, “You don’t know my brother/sister!”  We have our parents to thank for creating such a loving home.

So, what do we do when we get together, you ask?  Eat, drink, laugh, share what’s happening in our lives, talk about our kids and grandkids, then eat, drink and laugh some more.

Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn

As fun as the weekend was, it didn’t start out well, given traffic for Linda and me going north on 101 through Santa Barbara – it seems for the last 20 years they’ve been widening that freeway, but it seems to get narrower.  Suzanne and Al experienced similar traffic conditions coming south from Nipomo.

Once settled in Santa Maria, the festivities began with a fantastic dinner and family history discussion at one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara County, Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn in San Ynez, where, after Jack and I hoisted a martini to our dad, I had the best Petrale sole I’ve ever had.  Everyone’s dinner was delicious!

Saturdays during football season is something the three of us love, so the day was spent in our ‘football jerseys’ in front of the TV.   Jack and I made some ‘pretend bets’ in preparation for Vegas; and like the week before, we killed it with our ‘pretend bets’.  If you don’t hear about our bets in Vegas in a couple of weeks, you’ll know why Vegas can keep the bright lights on all night!  The day went well, with Suzanne and Al rooting USC to a comfortable victory of Stanford, while Utah was able to handle Southern Utah 73 – 7.

Finally, before leaving for home, we took the requisite photo of the three Sparrow siblings.  You can see that we’ve hardly changed a bit!!

Sparrows in the 60s



Sparrows in the 70s







Sparrrows in the 80s

Sparrows in the 90s






Sparrows in the 00s

Sparrows with hats

Sparrows now








By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Well, here we are at Labor Day.  I know that because I saw the Christmas decorations up at Target this week.  I wish that we could celebrate one holiday – heck, one season – at a time but I suppose there isn’t any money in that.  Still, as a former Human Resources professional, I do give some thought to Labor Day and its origins.  Our annual honoring of labor dates back to 1894, when Congress declared that the first Monday in September would be set aside as a “general holiday for the laboring classes”. I think they assumed that a day off once a year might compensate for low wages and deplorable working conditions.  When I searched for Labor Day photos, I found this one of the Women’s Typographical Union float.  Ironically, our dad was required to join the typographical union when he first went into the newspaper business.  Fifty years later, when he went to retire, the Typographical union bosses had “mis-invested” his 50 years of contributions.  I have not been a fan of Big Labor since then, but regardless, I have enjoyed having a day off at the end of summer.

I like to follow the trends in employment, not because I’m considering re-joining the workforce, but because I am fascinated by the dynamic between employees and the companies they work for.  In the 80’s the trend to become an entrepreneur was popular, albeit some pretty wacky ideas stemmed from people who tried to out-invent each other.  That led to the “intrapreneur” phase, where people tried to be entrepreneurs within a corporate structure.  Let’s just say that didn’t go well.  In the mid-1990’s Fast Company published Tom Peters’ The Brand Called You.  The article became the launching point for the “Me, Inc.” phenomenon, whereby employees were encouraged to develop a personal brand that they could use to advance their careers.  Michael Jordon posed for Inc Magazine as the poster child for personal branding.  I’m not sure anyone working for a big company achieved the pinnacle of branding Jordan did and the idea died within a couple of years.

Now we are in the era of either “quiet quitting” or “quiet firing”, depending on your vantage point.  Quiet quitting is the act of doing the absolute minimum required to hold on to a job.  These people used to be known as “slackers” – expert at getting others to do all the work.  Today it’s been elevated to an art form.  There are several threads on social media discussing tips on how to fool your employer into thinking you’ve actually accomplished something. No doubt the COVID pandemic and the resultant “work from home” wave made it far easier to fool a boss into thinking work was completed when in reality the only work completed was the laundry. Perhaps as a natual reaction to that, employers have started “quiet firing”, whereby they withhold information, give interesting assignments to just a handful of people, and don’t provide a pay raise for years.  They stay just this side of “constructive discharge” to avoid lawsuits.

Lost in all of this “quitting” is that the people who actually do a lot of the real work in this country don’t have the ability to quit while still on the job.  They are the checkers at the grocery store, the truck drivers, the construction workers and God knows, the medical professionals.  So, I suggest that on this Labor Day we honor the people who do all the work that is often unappreciated and let the people in the corporate “quitting” wars throw their tantrums until finally, on some sunny day in the future, they learn to simply be quiet.