The Student Princess

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a vast kingdom called Farington which for centuries had been divided in two, one half being known as Far Farington and the other as Near Farington, depending on the half you happened to be in at the time.

In this kingdom lived a poor student who got up one morning to discover she had been transformed by her fairy Parish Council into the Jubilee Princess of the northern half of the kingdom. But when she got to the County Primary School where she was to meet her kind benefactor the doors were locked and she and her attendants were shut out.

"Oh dear!" said one of the Councillors, hammering on the door with his fist. "We are locked out and it is starting to rain!"

After a while, a wizened old man appeared as if by magic from a house across the playground and with a flourish opened the door, mumbling the magical and mystical words "Eeh! folk don't tell me nowt!" He then locked the door against intruders like the unfortunate Evening Post photographer, who later tried with all his might to get in. When at last he succeeded he wandered around the labyrinth of gloomy corridors until someone accidentally stumbled across him. Then he discovered that the wizened old man had cast a spell on his flash gun, which would not work.

A wise man who was greatly revered by the whole assembly then puzzled for minutes on end as to how he was to assign four tasks to two pairs of attendants, and finally emerged triumphant from a heap of screwed-up scraps of paper.

The princess was warmly thanked for her attendance and left, wondering at all she had seen.

She was once more summoned to meet with her Councillors, this time in the half of the vast kingdom which she knew well. It had been decreed that there was to be a dress rehearsal for the Jubilee Gala and the Princess of the South had arrived with her attendants.

"Oh dear!" said one of the Councillors, peering through the window anxiously. "We are locked out again!"

The princess carefully handed her velvet train to her attendant and hurriedly went in search of the caretaker, who was having her tea.

As the rain began to gently pour the royal party was let in and the rehearsal began. The poor princesses had neither crowns nor flowers and carried only copies of the agenda rolled into cones from the imaginary coach (or horse and cart, as it came to be known) to the imaginary stage, where the make-believe Mayoress crowned them with children's library books from 'velvet cushions' complete with P.E. Kits. This solemn and dignified ceremony was repeated until perfect, but the poor princess was almost strangled by her velvet train held by her attendants because she would start walking without first attracting their attention.

"Never mind." said the wise man, seeing her blue face. "It will be alright on the day."

The final assembly of the noble, the wise and the brave took place in the castle of the Princess of the South. It was a fine evening and the doors were open but of the wizened old man there was no sign at all. Presently the Council arrived with two tiaras and two velvet cushions, and the final rehearsal took place. One of the attendants of the princess was ill and could not be there to proffer her imaginary flowers to the imaginary Mayoress, so they all imagined she was there, and the wise man had saved the day again.

A voice in the company then asked the wise man what was to happen if it should rain on the Great Day. He thought for a moment, then pronounced sagely, "We shall all get wet." But he promised that it would not rain, and behold!, lo! it was as he had decreed.

The day of the Gala dawned hot and sultry. The princess greeted her attendants and the Princess of the South, and barely half an hour later their their landau arrived, and soon the procession got under way.

The procession was slow and the sun beat down on the princesses in their heavy velvet trains and long dresses. The princess was sitting with her back to the 'engine' and began to feel a little bit sea-sick.

"This is a fête worse than death!" said the princess, staring at the massive shire horse behind their landau which was snorting down the neck of the Princess of the South. The marching escort of Air Cadets removed their uniform jackets to a man and cast them at the princesses' feet. The pungent smell of horses rose about them and the band struck up 'Colonel Bogey'.

As they were drawing near the entrance to the field a red-faced agitated councillor ran up with a box of posies for the royal party, which had been forgotten at the start of the procession. The princesses smiled and thanked him.

Arriving at the field, the princesses alighted gracefully from their carriage, surreptitiously kicking aside the heap of jackets, and found the stage was not arranged as it had been for the rehearsals. As a consequence, the attendants each presented their bouquets to the wrong lady, but none save the wise man and the princesses noticed this. The princess' tiara kept sliding over her forehead and temporarily eclipsing the scene, but she smiled, and did not seem to mind at all.

"Look!" said a mother to her daughter, "there is a princess."

"But she is not a real princess, mummy," said the child solemnly, "she is only a pretend one."

The princess sat and watched the dancing, judged the bonnet competition and watched the ladies' football match. She watched the dancing and listened to the band. She spilled lemon squash on her white dress and blue velvet train when a safe was detonated very loudly in the Police Dog display. She watched yet more dancing and saw a fierce Aikido demonstration in which men screamed and attacked each other with metal swords, just like they do on Saturdays in Manchester. They avoided each other very well, but one skilful warrior gashed himself as he was putting his sword away, and the delight of the St. John's Ambulance Cadets was a wonder to behold.

At half past six the wise man and the councillors appeared and took away the princess' tiara and train. They disappeared in a puff of smoke and she never saw them again. The student picked her way through the litter-strewn field and thumbed a lift home.


Lorna Harrison

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