The King's Wife - one small relic

Heaven lies under the feet of your Mother.

[Words of Muhammad (pbuh)]

Whenever, or if ever, I wonder where my love of language comes from, I only have to remember my lovely Mother who always encouraged me, although I wasn’t even aware of it at the time, by her example.

She was born in the village of Crynant in South Wales, and as her family and all the neighbours were Welsh speaking, and the school she attended was a Welsh speaking school also, she didn’t speak English until she was about sixteen years of age. But she had courage and tenacity, and enormous intelligence, and also a great love of culture and literature; not only that of Wales, but also of English; both the spoken and written word.

So in time, whilst never turning her back on her Welsh beginnings and its glorious heritage of poetry and the great Eisteddfods, she groomed herself in the language of the English.

She read widely, and her spoken English would have been acceptable in the highest strata of society. In fact, when she married my father and became a Memsahib, in British India, she shone in her eloquence and her manner of discussion in any subject, from the most mundane to the most complex. British India in the late Thirties must surely have been one of the last bastions of manners, correct speech and the “right” accent in which to express oneself.

Nancy Mitford, I am sure, would have clasped her to her ever so “U” bosom.

On the verandah - Dehu Road Cantonment, 1948

Source

What a magical childhood I had

When I was a very little boy, she would entertain me with her sharp wit and love of literature and of words. Both my parents would read, time and time again, all four of the A. A. Milne books to me, not only “Winnie the Pooh” and “The House at Pooh Corner”, but also the books of poems, ‘”When We Were Very Young” and “Now We Are Six”.

She also “scribbled a bit”, but had low estimation of her abilities, and as like as not, would destroy nearly everything she wrote, and although I have dim recollections of those poems and stories, they are just dim recollections of words used in a way that would charm, fascinate and astound.

I have recently rediscovered this short poem that she wrote for me so many years ago. I can remember her writing it on her typewrite, and watching it unfold in front of me. Of course I read along as she wrote, and apart from a couple of words, this is the result.

It is not great poetry... Of course, it isn’t, but apart from the poem, “Goodbye” which she wrote when we were about to leave India at Independence of that wonderful country, I have nothing whatever to read of hers, apart from a very few letters which are personal, heartbreakingly funny and deliciously sad, and monuments to a craft that seems to have died except in a few enclaves of written integrity.

I make no aplogies for a lack of illustrations - I don't think they are needed for this poem.

The King’s Wife

The Queen, she stamped her foot and frowned

And said, “Dear dear where is my crown?

The King is coming home to tea,

And now it’s nearly half past three.

He’ll be so very tired too,

Working all day at that smelly Zoo.

Bathing the Elephants, trimming their nails,

Washing their ears and curling their tails.

Feeding the Ducks and Oiling the Cranes,

Powdering the Lions and combing their manes.


“Oh dear me the fire’s out.

Won’t my poor dear rave and shout.

I’ve burnt his potatoes and spoiled his broth.

Now where did I put that tablecloth?

The knives and forks are not washed up,

Nor yet the plates and spoons and cups.


“My Princess Mary has torn her frock.

I haven’t the wool to mend her socks.

Prince John ruined his velvet coat

The day he fell into the slimy moat.


“I think I’ll run down to the corner shop,

For bread and cheese and raspberry pop.

A bottle of cure for my King’s sneeze

And rheumaticky ointment to rub on his knees.

A jar of honey to spread on his bread

And a piece of red flannel to wrap round his head,

For a crown is such a cold thing to wear

And a KING can’t very well go out headbare.


“I’ll buy some blue wool to mend that wee sock

And a patch of fine silk to sew on the frock.

Prince John will have to wear his Dad’s cloak.

We haven’t the money to buy a new coat.


“I’ve just remembered, though it gives me much pain

That I left my best crown out in the rain.

There it is hanging on the back fence

And to think it cost me a pound and six pence.


“Oh how I wish I were a fisherman’s wife.

I’m sure she has a much easier life

In her cottage small, trim and neat

Instead of a castle as big as a street.”


Ann Dorking-Clark

Ann and Laddy - Quetta, Baluchistan, North West India, 1939

Source

A layered personality

No one is simple. Some people are just one and two dimensional; hardly reaching a third dimension. Many, as is the case of my Mother, here, are constructed of layers and layers, like a rose which opens from a tight bud into a full bloom: layer after layer of sweet charming petals, colours and scents.

Some others souls that one meets, are more like onions; also layered, but perhaps, not so sweet to the eye and nose.

Several of my hubs mention this remarkable lady in detail; others just see her from a distance. Please feel free to share my memories and experiences of her here.

More by this Author


Comments 15 comments

Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 3 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

Oh darling! I would so have loved to meet your mother … she sounds wonderful … and so talented, just like you.

I know you think you haven’t got any of her writing, however I think in reality you have ... they are in you.

All love … mwah!


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

Not only was your childhood 'magical,' Ian, but based on her clever, funny verse, so was your mother. What a lovely tribute you have written to her.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 3 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

Thank you, Angie. This was an exercise in pure self indulgence, and I think the Old Mater would have loved you too.

Many things that you have said and done, reminded me of her mindset, also.

Mwah


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 3 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

drbj, I thank you on behalf of my dear Mother, and also on my behalf.

It was a very easy tribute to write... to know her was to love her.


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 3 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

I’m honoured, m’dear ...


kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Heavens lies ... (have trouble with where) but when your old friend makes an appearance on HP with a hub.

I'm coming back to actually read it a bit later.

An interesting choice of the topic - my mother's birthday is coming up (on the 18th) and I am a mother myself feeling that for my son (while he is still young), nobody can take my place. Not yet.

See you later,

My Disappearing and Dear Friend. I've thought of you very often. I worried, too.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 3 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

Svetlana, my very dear friend. You know, as well as Daniel knows, and as anyone who knows you, that you are a wonderful mother. An exciting mother. I should imagine that no-one could replace you in that lovely young man's heart... ever.

Mothers have a special quality that means that they can take up a space in our hearts that do not exclude others; no matter who they are.

I think of you often too, Svetlana.


kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

My dearest Ian, it is a very touching piece, it is something from your mother and even if it were awful, it wouldn't be for you.

I am so glad that something survived and such a delicious treat at that.

Every time I debate whether to throw some insane piece of my writing or not, I go for "no, leave it for now".

I forgot who said "A writer wastes nothing". I am sure your mother was just the way you described her and I have this feeling that I wish that I knew her.

Such a warm and wonderful hub!


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 3 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

Thank you, my lovely friend. Whenever we get in touch and I hear of you doing something with Daniel I think how much like my mother you are at times. You talk to him and not at him. You make his life exciting and so very different.

You have an amazing way with words. I would love to imagine that many years from now he picks up something that you have written for him and with him and says, "I remember when we did this together".

Much love and admiration from me to you.

ian


khmazz profile image

khmazz 3 years ago from South Florida

So beautiful and heartfelt! I really enjoyed this, voted up! Wonderful!


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 3 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

How very kind of you.

Welcome stranger.


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 3 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

I am just going to look at your hubs,

Regards,

Ian


SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 3 years ago from Philippines

That must have been a candid shot taken of your mother on the verandah, perhaps by your father? I get nostalgic when I look at our old family photos. Color and digital films don't seem to evoke those kind of memories that black and white, especially when they turn a rich sepia do.

From that photo I hazard a guess that your mother was a very private person. Preferring the sanctuary of her books or a good conversation by the fireplace or verandah. Maybe the movies I've seen of English high society in formal events are a stereotype but I do not doubt that she would have held her own. Looking at the photo of her and Laddie, I can't help but think that this is one feisty lady who would not stand for any insufferable pomposity. Many puff up person must have felt the sharp barb of her wit and repartee.

She must have had a great sense of humor, judging from the poem she wrote for you. I would have to disagree with you that it isn't great poetry. Have you considered publishing it as an illustrated nursery rhyme book? I have grandchildren and I can imagine their delightful laughter and glee at silliness of the king with a crown on his head "bathing the Elephants, trimming their nails, washing their ears and curling their tails"


Twilight Lawns profile image

Twilight Lawns 3 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. Author

Silent Reed, I was brought to tears when I read your comments on my mother and her little poem.

I could almost imagine that you knew her... and knew her well.

You have described her so beautifully that I think that she would have been amazed at your description of her. She was, as you have said, a very private and deep person, and didn't wear her heart on her sleeve, so it would have taken a very deep and introspective person to gently take away the coverings to display her inner character... that, my friend, must be you.

She was everything that you say of her, and more.

Thank you for having the perception to see into her soul so cleverly, but also in such a kind and unobtrusive manner.


bethperry profile image

bethperry 3 years ago from Tennesee

I love this poem; it is simple, yet brings up a lot of imagery. And this imagery, I feel, gives the reader the feeling your mother was definitely her own person and her sense of what is important in life transcends the artificiality around her. Enjoyed it very much, and also the photographs!

Voted up.

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