A NEW MUM
When they’ve gone, arm in arm, Harry Secombe and Princess Grace, walking away down the street to the bus and then to the train and then to Daddy's regiment and then to the church where they’re going to be married, I hop into the yard, and if I put my foot down they’ll miss their train and Dad won’t get her to the church in time which is one of his best songs, so I don’t put even a toe down. Aunty Nelly’s sitting on the step, with her big knees wide apart like Mr Chop The Butcher in Happy Families and she pats one fat leg and I flop onto it and we sit there, not saying anything for ages, Aunty Nelly stroking my hair, and breathing funny. My head is so full of so many words that I can’t pull any of them out at all but after a long time I say that Norah talks like the wireless and Aunty Nelly says she’s got marbles in her gob, but I know that’s not true because I saw her gold fillings. Gold. That’s how rich she is. Princess Grace of Morocco rich, which is where they wear fezzes and Daddy has one of those, brought back from Egypt, where I had a swing and we had a dog, left by a sergeant who'd gone back to England.
Kitty Lob comes to sit on Aunty Nelly’s other knee and we both stroke her, till she starts lashing her tail and sinks her teeth into my hand gentle and slow, with her eyes rolling. Aunty Nelly says ‘You bugger’ and shoves her off and she stalks away, murderous. Kitty Lob, not Aunty Nelly.
I try to tell everyone how beautiful Norah is, but they didn’t see her and I run out of words. I can’t believe not even one of them saw her when she was there for a whole afternoon. And then I remember that when the Queen Mother came to Scarborough and everyone lined the streets, me and Mammy were waiting bloody hours and there was no Queen Mum and no Queen Mum and no Queen Mum, and then I needed a wee but I’d already held it in for ages and I couldn’t hold it in any more and just as everyone was leaning into the road, at last, and there was a sort of rumble of happiness from the crowd, and down the street they started waving their flags and shouting, I had to tug on Mammy's arm, crossing my legs and dancing, ‘I can’t wait. I can’t.’ And Mammy looked bloody murderous and her teeth were together even when she was talking and she yanked me off to behind the hedge. And when we came back the Queen Mum had gone and everyone said she'd been a sea of blue. Remembering is good, and bad. The bad bit is Mammy talking through her teeth, and knowing that I ruined it all but the good bit is the two of us laughing on the way home and Mammy wiping her eyes and saying ‘Maybe she caught a glimpse of your bum.’ And maybe she did. Daddy said that made me ‘By Royal Appointment’ which is not at all like the dentist but something they write on syrup tins, next to the lion.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
Friday, 1 June 2018
The WRVS woman said that we must tape around our windows so that the radio active dust doesn’t seep in, and we must not, on any account, turn to look at the blast. She told us to tell our parents to make sure we had candles, tinned goods, bottled water and some house bricks. The house bricks are so that we can put them around a candle in a jam jar and make a stove on which we can heat baked beans…
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Hilary Bevan Jones
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