Queenie of the High Roadby Karen Vallerius
You are beloved by both kith and kin. Your positivity inspires and your wisdom is renowned. It is therefore with admiration that I pen this record,
Queenie is the dearest Mother of a brace of offspring. Followed by a gaggle of grandchildren and a nest of great grandchildren. The much loved wife of the late Jimmy Jones, a man who never forgot his Essex roots even after decades working for this London Borough.
Queenie has celebrated her 86th year. However instead of mellow days devouring scones oozing jam and cream, ruffling little people’s locks and setting the world to rights with friends and neighbours, the globe has unexpectedly jackknifed on its axis. Queenie now shields indoors, alone.
Queenie hears the spaceship whirr of the electric milk float humming through the early morning, sparrows scattering in its wake. A vagabond fox slinks home from the bins on the High Road.
Queenie peeps out, a leading lady checking the auditorium. Too late. Frank, the milkie, sees her as he places a pinta on her doorstep at number 29. He calls, ‘Queenie, this is your two minute warning. If I see you in your housecoat for a third time this week, you’ll have to marry me.’ Laughing, she waves back, ensuring the curtains hide her dressing gown.
Queenie misses Tomasz, the cheerful driver of the mobility bus. Meeting her friends at the cafe in the day centre was so lovely. But her clever daughter bought some tiny bags in the posh grocers’ so Queenie can prepare delicious fresh coffee and watch the vibrant panorama unfurl past her very own front room window.
The first, the only person Queenie sees face to face, and not like a goldfish gawping through its bowl, is Josie, her carer. They enjoy mugs of steaming coffee as Queenie eats buttered toast and surveys outside.
Queenie’s son, Archie, visits. Her two grandchildren whirl coloured windmills as they skip up to the window, bright little faces painted with rainbows. They blow kisses which Queenie catches in her hand, to save for later.
The deep boom of bass notes heralds the doorstep fitness class. The young man at number 28 demonstrates clever moves with brooms and tins of beans. Queenie’s neighbours puff in unison, calling yoohoos and encouragement.
‘I’ll join in tomorrow,’ quips Queenie through the open window. The neighbours clap their hands. Queenie gives a little bow.
Queenie waves as her friend, Barbara, is pushed past by Barbara’s daughter. ‘They’re a bubble on wheels,’ she explains to Josie.
The doorbell rings. Lunch o’clock. Josie fetches the containers of curry and rice prepared by the community kitchen before leaving.
After lunch, Queenie puts on her lilac cardigan and settles down to watch the cavalcade.
The Thursday evening applause ebbs as Jimmy smiles up at her from the wooden frame. Who’d have dreamed they’d both end up watching life through a sheet of glass? Queenie kisses his dear face before offering thanks for a day well spent.
Karen lives in Rutland, England’s smallest county, “multum in parvo”. She loves historical needlework, reading (Jane Austen of course!), writing and her two little rescue dogs, Duke and Marley.
Inspired by the Stamford Georgian Festival and after undertaking several community based historical costumery projects, Karen decided to write a series of historical novels, which she has been working on in 2020.