THE QUEEN'S FACE
'The Queen's face doesn't look too straight on this one,' said the stewardess, bending over a crisp fifty pound note the lady had just handed her as our plane approached Gatwick. The inevitable, boring old 'Duty Free' goodies had been wheeled out just as I felt the need to use the toilet before touchdown. Once again, the usual constriction in the aisle would bring on a mild panic as I wondered for how long I could contain myself. But here was an amusing situation that somehow took my mind off my basic requirement. I remained in my seat a while longer, and watched the proceedings.
The lady opened her handbag a little wider, and peeled off another fifty pound note from the wad she had stuffed in there. For all the world, she could have passed for a fairly convincing 'Ronnie in Drag'. And we all know how many of those there are to choose from. But the lady's voice was soft, feminine, and educated. She continued to maintain she'd been given those notes by none other than Barclay's at Gatwick before her trip to Spain. She just hadn't used them all, and if The Queen's face was getting to be more like her portrayal on 'Spitting Image' every year that passed, so what? But the suspicions of the hard-nosed stewardess had been aroused. 'I'm sorry, madam. The captain will have to report this to the authorities at Gatwick.'
Sure enough, on touchdown the police were ready and waiting. I longed to hang around and find out the truth. But I began to feel sorry for the lady who appeared embarrassed by the speed and efficiency of the investigation. And so I walked on across the tarmac towards the terminal building and into the unfailing blandness of my first day back in England.
Just before 6 p.m. I turned on my television set with a slight expectation of seeing, perhaps, a short report of the 'incident' on the plane. But there was nothing save for the usual fare of world strife. So, after consuming a good juicy steak with spinach which I cooked on my Baby Belling, I relaxed, watched a couple of harmless films, showered and turned in for the night.
The next day I attempted to gear up for my music gig in the restaurant. I dragged myself along to the venue, and 'did the gig'. But I couldn't really get going. And so, by break-time I was indeed ready for that pint of Young's - topped off, of course, with a large Laphroaig whisky: most things look better after that. Then, treating the guys to a round, I waited for my change. 'What's this? I gasped as the bar-girl diffidently handed me a new fiver. 'What's happened to The Queen's face?' And then it dawned on me. The years had passed, and The Bank of England could hardly be expected to issue endless pictures of a vulnerable, beautiful young new queen of 1953.
© 1990 TONY SHARP