Not all great men are recognised in their time. Clearly, the message about me being the King of Eastbourne (my ‘Bourne identity) has not percolated down to the man in the street. Two men in the street, actually.
I was wandering back to the Plastic Palace last week, weighed down by groceries and a large quantity of liquorice allsorts, when I noticed that the Bandstand was under repair.
The Eastbourne Bandstand is very dear to me. We both came into being about 80 years ago, for one thing. For another, it houses the visiting brass bands that play every Wednesday in the season, culminating their efforts with the 1812 Overture. Fireworks take the place of canon, as the evening draws to a close, so repairs to the Bandstand are of grave concern to all citizens and their monarch.
I approached one of the men who were manhandling gigantic quantities of scaffolding which were to cover the ‘Stand.
“What are you gentlemen doing to my Bandstand?” I enquired, in a friendly manner.
The more senior gentleman looked at me, his face a mix of incomprehension and disdain. For a moment, he considered beaning me with a handy length of scaffolding. Having calculated that I wasn’t taking the michael, he explained that the concrete pillars holding up the ‘Stand have become rotten with age, or Dutch Elm Disease or something. He didn’t specify.
I chanced my arm. “And how long will this take?” I asked.
The other fellow, who had been eying me with malice aforethought, seemed stunned. “How long?” he said, turning the question over in his mind, wondering perhaps if I were commenting sarcastically about the lackadaisical habits of the working man, which I wasn’t. I am a working man; I just have a very pleasant job. It’s not my fault.
“It’ll reopen in Easter,” the scaffolder finally said, in a quiet voice.
“Thank you,” I said, and left at once for the Palace and the relative security it affords.
I thought about what had gone unsaid: my thanks for them taking care of an old friend, and their keen wish to see me locked up and prodded repeatedly with electrified objects.
Communication between King and subject is always fraught. One wanted to ask the two fellows whether they had come far, that sort of thing, but they’d probably come from quite nearby, being Cahncil workers.
Easter seems a long way off. First we must endure a vicious winter, when Mother Nature resets herself for the growth that will follow. Meanwhile, King or peasant, we hunker down in our homes and turn to our saviour when winter’s icy fingers are upon us: thermal underwear.
In the Dark Ages, Brits had themselves sewn into their underwear about this time of year, and were not cut out of them until the Spring. Even with thermals on sale at Primark for three quid a pop, this sounds like good strategy, so I shall keep on the pair I’m wearing until Easter, when the Bandstand is resurrected and the skies are once again full of magic.