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Sick of ants

As a very young child of about 7 years of age my school in Bournemouth was to be honoured with a Royal visit and I was the chosen one to be the little boy who would present flowers to the Queen. Around the same time I won a competition run by the Co-op with a painting titled ‘Santa and His Donkey’ perhaps the start of an infamous career you may have thought. There had been other triumphs, an egg and spoon race brought in a new paint box and later Blue Peter badges were destined to be prized together with letters and a signed postcard from Valerie Singleton, John Noaks and Peter Perves.

However the thought of having to meet the queen wrenched at the pit of my stomach, I do not know if I genuinely had a stomach bug or it was the cumulative anxiety and nerves but I was very, very sick. I made my self sicker worrying and resisting the encounter with all my 7 years of becoming 7. The more the pressure was applied for me to ‘Stop being silly’ the more the knot in my stomach, bowels and bladder had resisted. The event had meant so much to my mother and family, I had been named Andrew preceding birth of the prince of the same name by five months. My mother was mortified that I could have possibly let my self and them all down.

I had been chosen as the good looker, charmer, sweetie, polite well behaved bright child but my nerves and adrenalin had gone into overdrive. If I was not in danger of being sick all over the royal shoes I was at risk of peeing myself or worse. Even writing this blog has brought back bodily responses reminiscent of the time but in lesser movements a more base version of muscle memory or involuntary response.

As the queen reaches her 90th Birthday the little boy in me remembers not meeting her, the adult wonders about some form of compensation for the trauma and abuse. As my parents would have said ‘Don’t be daft’ it wasn’t abuse it was your duty. I let them down or did I? Not meeting the Queen is a triumph for the struggle towards a better democratic full meritocracy. I will never know the criteria on which the decision that I was the chosen one was based. If I was told at the time I have long forgotten it, whipped it from my memory, and buried it deep in that damaged, bruised, traumatised little boy’s mind and heart.

Does the Queen or her attendant entourage know what they are doing tramping across the emotional stability of the primary school population forcing little children to smile, be inducted into the etiquette of royal curtsey or bow? Harm or Ham thank you Mam oops erhhghg……..chuck…up, mind yur shoes misses!

Years later I was due to meet her son Charlie in Shepton Mallet visiting one of his new build estates. I had been commissioned by the town centre manager through the development fund to come up with ideas for a public sculpture trail along a disused railway. I had created a range of Socially Engaged Arts projects. I had been told to tell no one that I would be meeting him, so I didn’t. Unlike his mum I was keen to meet him, he seemed ok had ecological, environmental friends of the earth resonances. He had a divorce so had I, in some naïve fantasy imagined us walking together talking along the track, conversing about global warming and the changes required, about bringing up kids in an extended family arrangement. I thought his experiences have paralleled mine, strong mum, family in denial, been a forces child, relationship issues and challenges, oh yes we would have had so much in common, yeh right……

I duly turned up and set out a presentation table and boards in the large crisp marquee, large fossils I had found from the land being dug over for foundations of the housing development. Putting up large display boards of the concept ideas and landscaping ideas with details of the engagement projects. It looked great but when I had finished I was asked to leave and return after Charlie had gone, about 2.00pm. When ‘there would be some food left over for me’ with only minutes before his timed arrival, I reversed my Astra Van back round what I had thought was a road, it turned out it was only stable in the middle the sides being filled with the same loose gravel to appear as a proper road. The entire left side went into the loose gravel filled void and the van almost rolled over on to its side. There was a commotion and shouts to get the fork lift and move this heap out of the way now. The workers and attendant security and builders released the van and I drove away. Embarrassment is not an easy word to say and write but the feeling can make you feel sick.

Was this Charlie’s mission from Mum many years later to repay me for not attending to her needs for flowers, clearly an obsession, how many flowers can one person need to receive? The very public show of total subject submission dedication and honour is farcical. No, neither of them knows that I exist, the boy who didn’t meet the Queen or the Man who didn’t meet the Prince the sick of ants show moves on and I am left unmoved in my resolve that my own sovereignty is paramount as a citizen, longing for a meritocracy.

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