The ‘happily ever after’ bit by Bill Kirton

An embryonic prince...
OK, it's election day in the UK. The day which decides which particular line of bitter, divisive rhetoric will soften and which, in its frustration, will become even more strident and destructive. Tomorrow the UK will be full of sickening triumphalism and gloomy despair as hapless voters (and non-voters) contemplate a state of affairs that few of them wanted. I hope I'm wrong but I'm resigned to five more years of lies, hypocrisy, platitudes, an ever-widening gap between haves and have-nots, and further proof that not only can we not live the dream, we can't even dream it any more.

But this is no place for political speculation, so instead, I’m combining the election with that other great UK (and, it seems, global) news item - the fact that the Cambridges have spawned again. Serendipitously, I have a blog I wrote a year ago which, with some adjustments, will serve as a commentary on today’s double-whammy news. The original was a response to the reporting of remarks reputedly made by Richard Dawkins about the negative effects of reading nursery rhymes to children. (He was quoted out of context, of course.) Here’s the revised version.

(There’s a frog sitting on the wall outside my house, right on the corner, near the gate. He spends a lot of time there. I always say ‘Hi’ when I go out and when I come back. He doesn’t often reply and when he does it’s more of a grunt than a greeting. Today, though, he was looking around a bit. I thought he looked sort of anxious, so I stopped for a wee chat.)

‘Morning,’ I said. ‘You seem a bit … different today.’
‘I s’pose I am.’
‘Seen the paper?’
‘Oh, you mean the election.’
‘Well, that, yeah. But it’s the new kid I mean.’
‘Ah, right. You a royalist then?’
‘Do I look like a fan of the Saxe-Coburg and Gothas? Course not. For me, it’s like voting. It’s all about self-interest.’
‘What d’you mean?’
‘Duh. What do princesses do?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Kiss frogs and toads, don’t they? Change ’em. So an extra one may cost you lot a fortune but it ups my chances of a snog and a makeover.’
‘What d’you mean?’
‘Well, you’ve seen me here, haven’t you?’
‘Yes. Lots. You’re always here.’
‘And why d’you suppose that is?’
‘I dunno.’
‘’s obvious, innit? Balmoral’s just up the road.’
(He’s right, I live on the road that leads to Balmoral, but it’s nearly 50 miles away.)
‘So what?’ I said.
‘Well, if I’m going to have any chance of getting kissed by a princess, I’ve got to hang out in the places they go to.’
‘So that’s why you’re here? Waiting to be kissed by a princess?’
‘Any particular one?’
‘Well, the new one would be nice. She doesn’t even know she is one yet. But I’m not fussy. I won’t be hanging around afterwards anyway.’
‘Why not?’
‘Well, I’ll have changed, won't I? I’ll be a prince. I’ll have money, status, women. Why the hell would I want to sit on the corner of a wall talking to the likes of you?’
(I let the insult pass. Frogs and scullery maids are clearly further up the pecking order (geddit?) than blokes.)
‘But that only happens in fairy tales,’ I said.
‘Maybe, maybe not,’ he said.
‘Oh come on, really,what are the chances of a) a princess seeing you and stopping? And b) actually giving you a kiss?’
‘Oh, statistically, not a  hope in hell. Look at any opinion poll. But you’ve got to dream, haven’t you? The destination may be miles away, out of reach, but the journey… well.’
‘Eh? I don't get it.’
‘’s easy. Have you bought a lottery ticket today?’
‘Right, so right now, you’ve got a chance of being rich tomorrow.’
‘Well, I suppose…’
‘And have you voted?’
‘Well then, same thing. You’ll be rich tomorrow.’
‘Oh come on, I…’
‘It’s true. Make the most of it, before the results are announced and reality kicks in. For instance, any minute now, some chauffeur-driven limo could pull up here, some woman in a tiara might get out, pick me up and kiss me. Just on the cheek, that’ll do. Doesn’t have to be tongues. And I’ll be a prince.’
‘No, listen. Is that theoretically possible?’
‘Is it?’
‘I suppose, theoretically, we …’
‘Right. Trouble with people is they just focus on conclusions, results. It's statistics everywhere – and they miss the nice bits.’
‘What d’you mean?’
‘OK, listen. There’s four mice living in your cellar…’
‘Are there?’
‘Yes, and every so often they get changed into horses and they get to pull a big carriage to balls and that. And the lizards down the garden, they get to be footmen. And that rat who lives in your garage, he’s a coachman. Brilliant.’
...but the wait goes on.
‘Yes, there’s always a “but”. That’s the trouble. It all sounds great, doesn’t it? 
But just think about it. The mice – all of a sudden they’re white horses and they’re big and beautiful, and they gallop away for miles. And the lizards and the rat are clinging on, having a great time. Carefree, all of ’em. Living the dream.’
(He really did have a dreamy look on his face as he described it. Then his expression changed.)
‘But all of a sudden, it’s midnight and they all change back. And they’re standing round by this pumpkin. And they’re bloody miles away. Takes them hours to get home.’
‘I don’t see what…’
‘That’s reality. Nothing wrong with the dreaming. It’s the “happy ever after” bit. That’s the real problem. People want things to make sense, mean something. Well, obviously, that’s crap. I just want the bit before the “happy ever after”. If I could…’

(He stopped. I looked at him. He was staring across the road. A Rolls Royce had pulled up. Something was fluttering on its bonnet. It was the royal standard.)


Susan Price said…
I'm with you, Bill. I shall be voting today for a party I no longer believe in, or trust - but because of our crap, FPTP system, if I vote for any other party, where I live, it will be handing my vote to parties I not only distrust but hate and despise.

Oh - and the party I DID want to vote for turns out to support a policy of intellectual property theft.

So it goes.
Nick Green said…
'I met a girl, she was a frog princess
And yes, I do regret it now.
But how was I to know that just one kiss
Would turn that frog into a cow?' - The Divine Comedy

(Sue, forget the people in the party at the moment. One should always back the underlying ideology I think. Whose interests, ultimately, do they have at heart?)
Jan Needle said…
No tongues. I like it!
Lydia Bennet said…
I agree, Nick. And Bill, lovely story, I personally love frogs am not that keen on princes but I suppose the pay is better so I don't blame your amphibian buddy for his ambition!
Nick Green said…
As I've grown fond of saying, better a well-meaning incompetent than a competent meanie.
Chris Longmuir said…
And like all good stories, it ended on a cliff-hanger! So, did the frog get his kiss? Did he turn into a prince? Or has he joined the mice in a protest march?
Kathleen Jones said…
Lovely post for election day. I will be carrying on dreaming whatever the outcome. I live in a constituency that would vote for a frog so long as it was wearing a Tory rosette! they're all for hunting, hanging, shooting and humbug round here.
Bill Kirton said…
Thanks, all. Unsurprisingly, I share your reactions. Yes, vote for the ideology, Nick, but my party mislaid it a while back. Like Susan, I've voted for a party which lost its way when it became 'New'.

Chris, the cliff hanger will be resolved in the next couple of days but I suspect it won't favour the mice, lizards, rat, frog or many of the rest of us. But the princes, princesses and other elevated life-forms won't suffer, so that's all right.

As for tongues, Jan, come the revolution...
julia jones said…
What a great post. Wish I'd read it at the time!
Bill Kirton said…
Just as well I didn't know then what I know now, Julia. The mice, lizards et al would have met a much gorier end.

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