When The Carnival Queen Came To Call

Isn’t it funny how something can run through your life like a ribbon without you even noticing it sometimes?

Local papers can so often be batted aside like tomorrow’s chip-wrappings, but they are always there. When I was six years old, I remember staring at pictorial coverage of the Great Storm in 1987. I pored over the felled trees of my local park, feeling it was very strange that something so close to me should have made it into the paper, which as far as I knew was global and read by every human alive. And they were all looking at my park, my trees, these slain beasts I’d been sitting on.

I was similarly amazed when I saw pictures of the carnival queen and princesses a couple of years later, all got up in their finery. Only a couple of days before they had been in our toilet, weeing. They had naughtily hopped off the procession to find a bathroom and they found us, tucked away just off the seafront. I thought they were the most beautiful creatures, sceptred women of the world, but they were probably just 17 year old majorettes with bad perms. I remember standing in the hallway thinking that their ruffling their massive dresses in our kitchen while close to bursting was probably the most monumental occurrence since Russ Abbot filmed a car chase down our street, maybe even since I’d got a cabin bed. Seeing their pictures in the paper afterwards felt like I had been high-fived by history.

A couple of years later, my mum paid for a congratulations notice after I passed my 11+. I felt so proud, so validated, like the whole world was open to me. Later still, Mum got a job at the Evening Echo as it was then, as a rep selling advertising space. She had never been more fantastic to me. She got a sassy new haircut, drove a red Ford Escort company car, and shook off her post-divorce sadness and low self-esteem. She, and we, flourished.

I’ve had words printed about shows I’ve done, events I’ve been involved in, even details of my ill-advised wedding. I’ve read about friends doing brilliant things, I’ve chuckled at oddities, raised an eyebrow at stupid news, yawned at boring news, and sighed along with strangers’ sad stories. Now writing my weekly column is one of my favourite things to do. I get to write words! It may once have been easy to not spot the local papers before in the rush of a busy life, but now glimpsing them on a table is like bumping into an old friend.

My history buff boyfriend said the other day that historians worry in the modern age about ephemera being lost; that when we look back in years to come we might not get a full picture of our time and people because our emails/texts/phonecalls will all have been lost in the ether. That there is so much we will not leave behind.

This made me panic. I get scared of losing things. I wish everything could be preserved and kept safe. I think of our towns changing, of all our stories being stitched together like a humble patchwork history. This paper fastens our fleeting lives to the pinboard of the world awhile. I like that it is all printed and kept and scattered to attic stacks. I like to think of it still being around countless years from now. It will watch us all growing old and passing on, but it will always be as new as every day it is printed.

Were you a carnival queen or princess in the late 80s? Did you hitch up your massive dress and pee in Sadie’s toilet? If so, get in touch.

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