THE CORONATION OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II
June the 4 Coronation Day! This date was surrounded by coloured crayoned stars in school girl diaries all over England, and for months and months before the date actually arrived. Everyone talked about this day of days to come. My cousin and I talked about it. All our friends talked about it. The most important question, the only question was always ‘have you got one?’ No one needed to add what it was that their family did or did not have, because we all knew it was that amazing thing - a television. My cousin and I felt safe, for not only were we as a family already the proud possessors of televisions - not one but two – our Grandpa having bought one years before, but my mother too had bought one in order to write for the new medium.
Naturally, being cheerful little girls, we supposed that we, in common with our boarding school friends, come the beginning of June, would be streaming out of the school gates and going home to joyous family celebrations of the beautiful young queen’s crowning. We wrote home, but received no reply. We wrote again – different mothers, different addresses - but no response from either. Nevertheless being young and cheerful our hopes remained high, until it was quite apparent that time was running out for us. We wrote yet more letters, eventually even running out of treasured stamps. What time would we be picked up, we asked, anxious to be diplomatic? Where would we be watching the television? Who would we be watching it with? Finally we BEGGED to know. Equally finally came the response, different mothers, different addresses, but the response was the same. We were to be left at school for the whole holiday. They were both going away to be with friends, children not wanted. It was too awful to even cry. Desperation set in as day and night we carefully questioned friends as to what their plans might be. Would they perhaps be staying at school for the holiday?No, no one seemed to be staying at school, exceptus two. Quickly realising that no sane mother would take two of us into their homes, that would be asking too much of any parent, but someone just someone might take one of us. We made our approaches separately, and eventually we were rewarded, two mothers of separate friends would take us on. We would not be left with teachers looking at us with saddened eyes, we would not be left kicking around empty classrooms imagining, always imagining, what It was going to be like. How was the gold coach going to look even in black and white? How would the young Queen look in her crown? Would the sunshine on the cheering crowds? The sun did not shine, but I was taken home by a friend, and we shared a bed, and read Little Grey Rabbit stories to each other, and her mother baked beautiful food for us, and then we all went to a large house and watched the Queen being crowned, and ate ice cream which was out of this world, and admired the Queen of Tonga for not closing off her coach as all the other dignitaries had, but kept smiling and waving to everyone, despite the rain pouring down on her lovely headdress. Eventually we went back to their house again, and fell asleep so happy there was not even time to finish Hare Joins the Home Guard, or any of the other delightful Grey Rabbit stories. Needless to say the rest of the holiday passed in a euphoria of delight and gratitude. As we were growing up, my cousin and I were always trying to think of ways to pay back the kindness of those two mothers who adopted us for that June 4th weekend. Even today I can never watch the Coronation without tears of gratitude falling. It’s not just the sight of the beautiful young queen, so slender and graceful, but the memory of the relief of being taken home by a friend with a kind family who, I suspect, knew just what they were doing, and who needn’t have done it – it was indeed the kindness of strangers. As for Hare Joins the Home Guard. It is still one of my favourite books.