15st 10lb, zero units. I took a copy of The Journal around to my next door neighbours before I set off on the return journey from Northumberland to Cheshire, and admired the brace of partridges gently defrosting in their kitchen with the innocuous words “They look nice.” Cue immediate insistence on giving me a similar pair from the nine or ten they said they had in the freezer, which was not my intention at all. I was reminded as I walked to the car with my booty that today was their 64th wedding anniversary, hence presumably the catering for a modest celebration. This set me thinking of anniversaries. My parents would have been married for 74 years on Sunday, and my father would have been 102 yesterday, if he had not spoilt his chances by pegging out with a heart attack in 1982. Presumably the wedding date was set next to his birthday to increase his chances of remembering it. I do not recall whether the ploy worked or not, but I shared an office for years with a man who consistently failed to send his sister a birthday card – an omission about which we were all quite sympathetic in an “it could happen to anyone” sort of way, until one year he foolishly revealed that she was his twin. He was not joking, either.
I turned on the car radio in an attempt to lighten my journey and caught the news of the royal engagement, which immediately raised my spirits as I contemplated the addition of another shelf-full of commemorative tat to my cabinet full of Windsor memorabilia (my personal favourite is the mug depicting King George V and Queen Mary with the sepia legend “Rulers of an Empire on which the Sun Never Sets). It took me straight back to the Best Years of My Life in the early 1980s, when the boost to national and personal morale from the wedding of Charles and Diana was swiftly followed by the naval taskforce steaming out of Portsmouth to retake the Falklands (how I wish I had kept and framed that Time cover of HMS Hermes with the headline “The Empire Strikes Back”), the triumphant return of those liners requisitioned as troopships and Mrs Thatcher’s famous khaki election victory of 1983, capped for reactionaries everywhere by her creation of the first hereditary peerages since 1964. Everything seemed possible then, from getting my leg over my secretary to aspiring to an earldom. I was even fooled for a while into believing that Britain’s relentless twentieth century decline could be reversed as the clock was apparently put back through the sale of everything from council houses to the monolithic nationalized industries.
Now all we need is a genuinely Conservative government and an Argentinian invasion of South Georgia. It’s a shame that Dave has just decided to scrap our one remaining functional aircraft carrier, of course, but no doubt the Dunkirk spirit will prevail and we will muddle through somehow, pretending that a humiliating defeat was, in a strange sort of way, an unlikely victory for the people who had right on her side.
I completed the 235-mile drive in excellent spirits, sucking Rowntree’s fruit gums and listening to back numbers of the Archers Omnibus on my iPod. Something I definitely could not have done in 1981, so I suppose I must tip my Lock’s tweed cap to this small example of progress. The Dog did not wee himself in the car, either. Which was nice.
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