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Hello, I'm Sophie Heawood, does my column need a title? If John Doran is MENK then I could be MILF. Or maybe MILF TEETH. I don't want motherhood to define me.
MILF TEETH #11: HOW I DIVIDED THE ROYAL FAMILY AND BROUGHT DOWN NEW LABOUR
I am six. The Pope has come to York – it’s Pope John Paul II in his Popemobile, which is one of those big papal cars with a special standing-up bit so he can wave at his devoted followers. I’m a bit confused by everyone saying Popemobile, as my family all call me Poph instead of Soph, so I’m hearing Pophmobile. It’s my car! Also, as documented in a previous column, I’m starting to get some deep messianic stirrings at this age and I think that this Pope dude is probably my guy. We are not Catholics, we’re barely even Protestants, but I persuade my mum to take us. When we get to the racecourse, where thousands of people are waiting for a sighting, I’m told that only people in yellow T-shirts (i.e. stewards) are allowed on the other side of the barriers. Big holy dude finally approaches and I nearly wet my pants when I realise that I am in fact wearing a yellow T-shirt! And so I’m allowed to push through these people’s legs and just climb underneath this barrier here and run into the way of the oncoming Pophmobile and – oh! That’s not nice! Get these yellow weirdos off me. Mummy. Help.
About five years later, York is once again visited by greatness, and once again I persuade my mum to take me. This time it’s Prince Andrew and Fergie, who have been crowned the Duke and Duchess of York. There’s already been a huge front-page furore in the local paper that he was photographed giving her a bunch of red roses, not white – how could our own Duke rep for the evil Lancastrians like that? (The Wars of the Roses: still going strong in the age of Mr Blobby and the Pizza Hut salad bar.) Anyway, as we walk through the medieval walled city to once again join the happy throng, a gypsy stops us to try to push some lucky heather into our hands. Now there are large numbers of gypsies – the vast, vast majority – who do not in any way fulfil the pervasive and offensive stereotype of a scary toothless hag who wishes to put a curse on your and your family for generations. This woman, however, is right on the money. We’re in a rush but she’s so persistent that my mum gives her some coins and off we dash, heather in hand.
Somehow we end up right at the front and when Prince Andrew walks past he comes over to shake hands. When he reaches for my hand, it has lucky heather in it. “Have this, it’s lucky heather!” I say. “Oh!” he says, taking it. “What is it?” I tell him again that it’s lucky heather. “Oh!” says the Duke of York, walking onwards. He turns back to me. “WHAT is it?” he asks me, clearly hoping for third time lucky in the comprehension wars. Funny, but it’s starting to look like this royal prince has never had a gypsy thrust flowering twigs into his hand. I tell him that it is lucky heather and off he trots, clutching it close between his fingers. Really, I’m just relieved to have palmed it off on somebody, as it was starting to scratch.
And so it comes to pass that Andrew’s wife goes on to bring shame and opprobrium on the royal family, their marriage crumbles, bankruptcy and chat show humiliation follows. More royal divorces, the Queen has an Annus Horribilis, Diana dies in a tunnel. Some corgis even get into a fight with Princess Beatrice’s terrier. Millions of people across the world scratch their heads and wonder what terrible curse can have been inflicted upon the Royal Family. All along, I remain silent. I am the only one who knows.
Then, when I’m about 17, my brother, two years older than me, invites me to accompany him to a New Year's Eve Party at Windsor Castle. His uni friend grew up in a house that actually forms part of the castle, as her dad works for the Queen. She is allowed to sign overnight guests in and have a rager when her parents are away – we drive through the gates to the Queen’s castle and the men sign us off their checklist. Needless to say, I get quite overexcited as there is more free alcohol than I have ever seen on one table. After making a noble attempt at drinking all of it I go upstairs and make friends with some cool guys who are smoking a bong in a bedroom. These dudes have wavy hair and they understand that our Western world is controlled by the Illuminati and that it’s better to like, exist in the Third World where people are free, living their bliss outdoors. So I smoke some of their bong. (I think they actually have bongos AND a bong. May you live in enlightened times!)
Suddenly, I know that I am going to be sick, but there’s someone in the bathroom and there’s someone in the toilet across the corridor and as I run from one door to the other banging, banging, begging them to come out, I inevitably puke all over the corridor and down my raw silk dress. Not quite sure what happens after that. But in the morning I locate a washing machine. I shove my dress in, and then think aaargh – you can’t machine wash silk – and it won’t switch off mid-cycle but I manage to yank the door open by pulling quite hard. The water pours and it pours. The floor gets wetter and wetter. Anxious, I do the only decent thing, and walk away, whistling. Escaping to the kitchen, I find lots of well-educated people eating breakfast, so I put some bread in the toaster. Turns out old-fashioned queenly toasters are manual, not automatic – who knew? About ten or maybe 15 minutes later there is an unmistakeable smell of fire, as smoke fills the room. It is at this point that my brother’s friend from home, who has also come with us to the castle party, comes bursting through the door trying feverishly to explain that he misunderstood about the security rope and accidentally wandered into the Queen’s private garden only to be chased away by security guards or beefeaters or something.
People from Yorkshire should just be left there really. We aren’t safe in polite company.
Some years after this, I am an emancipated adult and have decided to go to live in Hong Kong for a bit, having dropped out of uni in London and gone a bit mad and run away to the South China Sea. I’m living on a little island called Lamma and have made some friends who are English teachers at the British Council offices on Hong Kong Island. Somehow they conspire to sneak me in when Tony Blair comes on an official visit to the British community who are now under Chinese rule. All I actually have to do is get the ferry to their island from my island, and hang out in their offices at the right time. Amazingly, this works. Except I have to kill some time in a department store first, and I get so engrossed in the books dept that I am now late, and run to the British Council with some books still in my hand. Stealing, you might call it. If you like.
Anyway, Tony and Cherie are covered in make-up. Both of them. I’m quite surprised by how much orange foundation the man has got on in such a hot and sweaty tropical country, but perhaps that’s the point. Anyway, us English teachers (I’m pretending to work there and nobody seems to have noticed) all form a line, and as the TV news cameras start rolling, he walks along the line asking everybody what they do for a living. “I’m a teacher!” says the first one, beaming. He does the same to the second, and the third. I’m about ten down the line so I start plotting. As I don’t actually work there, I decide I will answer Tony Blair with “I’m a socialist – what do YOU do?” Yeah Tony, I think. This one’s for my fellow betrayed Yorkshirefolk. This one’s for my comrades in the struggle back home. You big orange smirking wang.
Tragically, by the time Blair has asked nine other people what they do and they have all answered with “I’m an English teacher!” he’s realised what a stupid question it is, so he doesn’t ask me, he just says hello and shakes my hand, and I’m so confused that I try to give him my other hand, the one with the stolen books in it. And I want him to take the books – just like Prince Andrew took the heather – because in a flash it occurs to me that I may have been caught on CCTV nicking those stupid books. So I think, if I turn this into a political protest to try and get Tony arrested, maybe I’ll, like, not get into as much trouble as if I was a common thief. We are living under Chinese rule and the policemen here ARE quite scary. (And I should know, as I was, in a quite spectacular error of judgement, going out with one.)
Anyway, suffice to say Blair’s rule also went quite wrong after he met me. I’m so sorry. I’m turning over a new leaf, starting now.
Follow Sophie on Twitter: @heawood
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