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Friday, 1 June 2012

The Queen and I

So, I've been racking my brains (or what's left of them) trying to think of occasions when the Monarch and I have encountered each other.  Not unsurprisingly, these events have been somewhat distant, few and far between.  However, there is at least one and it features in Steady Past Your Granny's (see below)

“When I was a child, I thought like a child…”

It came as quite a shock the other day to discover that I wasn’t ‘fair of face’!

I don’t mean in reality.  A quick check in the mirror would have disabused me of that notion long ago.  No, I was always convinced that I had been born on a Monday; hence ‘Monday’s child is fair of face’.  However, apropos nothing in particular, I was trawling back through an electronic diary when I had nothing better to do and discovered, to my delight, that you can view the calendar right back to the beginning of the last century.  Being of an egotistical bent, I naturally trotted back to the year of my birth, 1954, and there I found that August 30th fell on a Tuesday.  I would have bet good money on it being a Monday, although it always seemed to me that the evidence of my own eyes tended to wreck the predictive validity of the rhyme.  I suppose my confusion arose because I remember being told that my Mum was ‘doing the washing’ (bearing in mind that this was still an all-day chore for a Monday) when nature decreed that I would make my presence felt.  I imagine, in my childhood naivety, I assumed that the onset of labour would be almost instantly followed (after a few brief moments of discomfort, I wasn’t that naïve) by the arrival of me.  Until now, when I realised that my arrival was obviously a lengthy affair culminating some time the following day.  And that’s another problem, I have no idea when I was born!  Not for me the definitive astrological chart, pinning down the exact position of the planets in the celestial firmament at the time of my deliverance in downtown Burton upon Trent.  As both of my parents have long since passed on to that other country where zodiacal predictions are of considerably less importance, I don’t suppose now I will ever know this crucial piece of information.

The point of all this rambling is really to do with childhood misconceptions and how they can follow you through life.  Is it really true, for example, that as a child in the late 1950’s living in Anglesey Road, I was held up to look through our front room window to observe the Queen passing by?  I don’t mean by this that the Head of the House of Windsor was ambling along to the Cooper’s Arms for a pint and a packet of Park Drive.  I just have this vague recollection of a black limousine sweeping past our house and I can’t imagine why I was being held up for this event unless it was some important personage whose itinerary could be predicted – hence my belief that it was the Queen.  Of course, I could have dreamed the whole thing up.  Childhood imagination is pretty fertile soil for the propagation of fantasies.

I remember watching a cartoon or some such when I was small that somehow instilled the notion in my mind that there was some awful nameless beast living in the toilet that was biding its time, waiting to capture unsuspecting children.  Somehow this notion then became contorted into the conviction that, in order to avoid the clutches of this horrific (and probably foul-smelling) nemesis, I had to get downstairs before the toilet had finished flushing.  Our bathroom in Anglesey Road (yes, we had a bathroom!  Posh, weren’t we?)  had been created by converting the back bedroom of what was, originally, a three-bedroom terraced house, and the toilet was at the far end of this room, by the window.  This meant, for the aspiring junior flush racer, a frantic pull of the handle, followed by a sprint across the linoleum, up two steps to the landing and then along the landing and down the stairs to the relative sanctuary of our living room.  This may not sound particularly daunting or challenging but you need to know that I was pathologically scared of heights (also widths, depths and just about any dimension you can imagine) and was desperately trying not to make my way downstairs by sliding from step to step on my bottom.  Timidity on the staircase does not fit well with panic-stricken flight and it’s a wonder that my childhood did not come to an abrupt end with me in a crumpled heap behind the stair’s door.

Its funny how, as a child, you never share these nameless dreads with your parents.  Somehow you and this mystical fear are in cahoots against the adult world.  I suppose it boils down to an even stronger fear of being ridiculed (even though every fibre of your infant being tells you that the thing you fear is most definitely real).  For example, I was never afraid of the dark.  I simply avoided it.  Lying in bed with the covers clamped over my head, eyes tightly shut and thumb firmly fixed in mouth, I knew that the dark could not hurt me.  Imminent suffocation under all of those blankets, sheets and eiderdowns was far preferable to whatever lurked on the other side of my eyelids.  Now, I would never have dreamt of telling my parents about this.  I just assumed it was a fact of life, like those ancient maps marked with ‘Here be Dragons’, the map of my childhood world bore the legend, ‘Here be Nameless Dreads…and here…and here’.

Perhaps I had a particularly repressed childhood?  Could it be that my 1950’s compatriots were eagerly recounting their fears and fantasies to their understanding and sympathetic parents in an open, non-condemnational forum?  Somehow, I doubt it.  The post-war parents of the baby boom generation had, themselves, been brought up in a ‘children should be seen and not heard’ environment and whilst they might have progressed to a point where the sight and sound of children could be tolerated, full and frank discussions would have to wait for the onset of more liberated attitudes in the 1960’s.

So, I have to live the rest of my life in the knowledge that I am neither predicted to be, nor in reality, ‘fair of face’.  Now I have a new prediction to live up to, namely that I am ‘full of grace’ (whatever that means).  Cancel the plastic surgery and book me into a retreat, if I can get my inner child back our from under the bedclothes, I think its time for a session of self-discovery.