The Queen is due to pass by in just minutes, and somehow we’ve managed to find a place to stand at the front of the crowd on the corner of Alder and Mossley. Mum is hanging onto me by my neck with both hands, not so much afraid of the unruly, wriggling crowd around us as she is of her unruly, wriggling four year old.
“Can I wave my flag Mum?”
“Of course you can, go on!”
I wave my flag. It’s plastic and smells a bit like Dad’s records. Mum waves hers too. Almost immediately the crowd goes bananas.
A slow parade of cars begins to pass – white, shining, spotless, filled with strange old people and bored-looking men in military hats. A few minutes pass and the crowd goes berserk as a new car approaches, this one black and roofless with bright, fluttering flags of its own on each of the two front corners.
“There she is!” Mum shouts in my ear.
I hold my flag high and wave harder than ever. If I’m honest, I don‘t really know who this person is or what makes her so important, but I’m infected by the people around me and I jump and flap in accord. And then I see her. I see the Queen.
And the Queen sees me.
She stares right at me, making full eye contact and waving with what I would one day understand to be uncharacteristic enthusiasm. Her eyes sparkle and her teeth shine. All I can do is grin and wave and shine back.
When she’s too far away to see any more I look up at Mum: “Did you see her?”
“I did,” Mum replies. “And I tell you what,” she continues, looking down at me with a grin, “she likes redheads.”
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