Friday, June 12, 2009

Mirth and Woe: A Portrait of Her Majesty the Queen

Mirth and Woe: A Portrait of Her Majesty the Queen

Don't talk to me about portraits of the Queen!

As a teenager, my parents got me out of the house twice a week by sending me to the local Air Cadets squadron.

We had our own drill hall, where, at the back, the powers-that-be let us have a mess room. In truth, it was a large room with a load of sofas rescued from skips, with a kitchenette at one end where we could rustle up a cup of tea.

A large HM Stationery Office portrait of Her Majesty The Queen - painted in the days when she was a hot, hot monarch - looked benevolently over us as we threw penny chews at each other and learned new rugby songs, the lyrics of which we would change to include the names of the current officer corps.

God bless her, but she must have witnessed some terrible things in that room.

There are - you will be interested to learn - various classes of Queen portrait available depending on the rank of the person or persons it is destined for - something common across all ranks of government service. Senior officers and civil servants would get a beautifully-framed portait behind glass. Ours appear to be little more than a poster framed in cardboard, one step up from that tennis girl scratching her bottom.

Cut to the chase: One evening we were discovering how many junior cadets we could jump over by lying them on the floor, taking a run-up down the corridor and flinging ourselves into the sofa. A noble sport, destined to become a demonstration even at the 2012 games.

These were the years before I discovered beer and cake, so with a blood-curdling cry of "KAYATOSHI!" (that's Japanese for "Banzai!", FACT fans), I managed a creditable seven before slamming into the chair to whoops of delight.

Alas, my prodigious leap also knocked Her Majesty off the wall, and she fell - corner first - directly onto my temple.

If there's one thing I can tell you about Her Majesty, it's that she's sharp.

"Ouch," I said in some pain, "Ouch!"

My comrades thought this all very funny, and decided it would be even more hilarious if they could plant the picture over my head, Laurel and Hardy style.

So, the treacherous devils did, just as our Commanding Officer came in to find out just what the devil all that noise was when he was trying to take tea with the visiting Air Vice Marshall.

That noise being gales of laughter, as I stood - caught like a Treen in a disabled space cruiser - my head sticking through a portrait of Her Majesty The Queen, possibly in contravention to several clauses of the Treason Act.

"COLEMAN!" he bellowed, "COLEMAN! You're on a charge!"

For the next four weeks, my parents kicked me out of the house two evenings a week so I could clean the toilets at the Drill Hall and weed the parade ground. I also recognise that a knighthood is entirely out of the question.

So: Don't talk to me about portraits of Her Majesty the Queen.

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