The very first time that I remember being annoyed with my mother was when, without preamble, she announced: ‘Our British soldiers are the best at marching. They’re that smart. None of they foreigners can match them.’
What did she know about soldiers? When I played soldiers, it was a boys game. Not girls, not mothers. Yet here, in front of the new television that my father had bought specially for The Coronation, with money he’d won on the fixed odds coupon, we watched rows of faint figures on the tiny screen, parading through London streets, and my mother’s voice soared with pride as if she was personally involved.
The room was full of women. We had the first television in the street, and to celebrate our good fortune my mother had invited all the neighbours in, to watch The Queen . They were packed into the tiny living room. They brought their own chairs, and, once seated, it was impossible for them to move. My mother had borrowed cups in advance, and early in the proceedings, a dangerous serving of tea had taken place, during which a teapot was passed around, and cups filled to overflowing. Milk and sugar (bottle and packet) followed, less likely to cause accidents but even more prone to spillage.
No other children were allowed, although from time to time waifs would knock at the door and whine for admission. The responsibilities of motherhood were abandoned for the day. The callers were told: ‘Away you go and play. Your mother’s busy.’ I was the only child watching the spectacle. For what seemed an interminable time, I sat on my mother’s knee admiring the matching men, the cavalry, the carriages with their oddly-dressed passengers, the excited onlookers, the falling rain.
When my patience evaporated, I was dumped on the floor to explore the dark forest of chair legs, nylon stockings, worn leather shoes and grubby slippers, with their strange miasma of feet; occasionally, there were fascinating glimpses of suspenders and naked hips, mysteries of femininity that have haunted my dreams through subsequent years.
Submitted by Gordon Gibson, 72, Troon