I knew my visit to the Burne-Jones exhibition was going to be fun when I was greeted by two giant festive slugs, complete with sparkly cables of lights, on our arrival at the Tate. It was a totally unexpected sight! Here is one of the magnificent gastropods:
The drawings and paintings were as beautiful as ever and I wished, not for the first time, that it was still fashionable to have wild hair, hair that does its own thing, even, dare I say it, frizzy hair? These beauties hadn’t spent their time straightening their locks or taming their tresses with Frizz-Ease. They could just be themselves. Sigh.
Though for sheer volume, for really wild hair, I refer you to this picture, ‘The Bridesmaid’, by John Everett Millais:
Or maybe this one, ‘The Lady Of Shalott’, by Holman Hunt:
All this has reminded me of one of my stories: ‘The Woman with the Funny Hair’ from Miss Peach’s Dream.
Here it is:
What was I doing, head back, screaming at full throttle, clinging to a total stranger on the Dragon Ride at Legoland?
The day had started peacefully enough.
“Mum! Where’s my school jumper?”
“Mum! Tina’s pinched my tights again.”
“Mum! Have you ordered that stuff from the internet yet? I need it for tomorrow…”
“Jane! Where’s my tie? Keys?”
“Hang on,” I bleated. “Listen! Isn’t that the phone?”
“Hello, Jane? It’s me. Are you coming to visit today? Why not? You know they’re not looking after me properly, don’t you? I can’t think why you dumped me in this home… and ‘home’ is too good a word for it, why, the tales I could tell you about what goes on in this place, they’d make your hair curl…”
“Sorry Mum, sorry everyone,” I whimpered. “I’ll sort it, I promise. Whatever it is you all want, I’ll do it. Yes, Tina, yes, today, of course, I won’t forget.”
I had just five blissful minutes to myself once they had all left – time to slap on some anti-ageing serum. My God! I averted my eyes from the mirror quickly. When would this stuff begin to take action? And it’s costing me a small fortune, I thought guiltily. I ran my fingers through still damp hair to give a bit of root lift. Should I use that conditioning spray I had bought? Where was it anyway?
I managed to get to work looking vaguely respectable, although the house was a bomb site.
“Hi Miss!” called Darren cheerfully as I passed him in the corridor.
“Hello Darren,” I whispered. I had noticed a couple of mothers waiting for me by the coat hooks outside my classroom and so quickly pressed myself against the wall, beside a cupboard, hoping they would give up and drift out to the playground.
“She’s late again, I expect.”
“But I really need to speak to her – Jacintha wasn’t happy in class yesterday – bless her, she’s such a special child.”
“Everyone’s unique, no one’s special,” I muttered from my hiding place.
“There you are Mrs Worm,” boomed the Headmistress. “I need you to go on the trip today with Miss Kirby and Mr Grip – we need a mature member of staff present – so I’ve covered your class for the day to make you free.”
“Thank you,” I gulped, “I think.”
Once on the coach, I soon fell asleep. I was on holiday in the south of France with George Clooney, I was sailing across an azure sea, fluted champagne glass in one hand, my eyes sparkling attractively with the merest hint of intriguing laughter lines…
“Miss! Miss Worm! Me and Daisy have eaten our packed lunches and now we don’t feel so good…”
“Could you stop the coach?” I begged the driver.
“Not on the motorway, no,” he barked. “Deal with it.”
The day passed in a blur of queuing – for entry, for toilet stops, for rides and for snacks. We worked our way across the park until we arrived in front of the Dragon Roller Coaster, next to the Castle.
“No,” I said firmly to the row of imploring faces in front of me. “You’re too small to go on this. Well, some of you are, so it wouldn’t be right for anyone to go on it.”
“Not fair,” sulked Darren. “Never get to do what we want.”
“I wanna go on the Dragon Ride,” whined Daisy. “Why can’t I?”
“Not fair, not fair,” chorused the children. “Dra-gon Ride, Dra-gon Ride, not fair, not fair…”
Then suddenly, unexpectedly, something in me exploded and I turned, turned to face the children and staff.
“You don’t get to do what you want? You don’t? What about me? When does anyone even ask what I want? Maybe I want to go on the Dragon Ride. Have you ever thought of that? Maybe I will go on the Dragon Ride!”
With a hysterical cackle, I ran to the tunnel where the last passengers were getting into green plastic carriages, pushed a couple of startled people aside and leapt onto the train.
I had the time of my life, shrieking and wailing with the best of them, chugging up the narrow rail and plunging down, down to the depths, all with twenty five beady-eyed children and a couple of bemused colleagues amongst the audience. It was only when the ride stopped I realised I was attached like a barnacle to the man next to me in the carriage.
“You’ve made a bit of a show of yourself, haven’t you?” said the man’s girlfriend sitting opposite. “Put him down now. He’s spoken for.”
“Don’t know why you care,” I replied loftily. “He’s not exactly George Clooney, is he?”
With that, I jumped out of the carriage pretty smartly and fled. It was a shame I had to slink back a few minutes later to retrieve my bag.
“That’s her, the lady with the funny hair!” shouted a little girl to her mother.
“It’s rude to point – don’t they teach you manners?” I retorted, fleeing the scene for a second time.
On the way home, Miss Kirby gave me a picture from the photo booth next to the ride; it showed a red-faced woman, frizzy hair streaming in the wind and eyes mad with fear, reaching out to a man who was shrinking away in obvious terror.
“Mr Grip and I bought this for you,” she explained. “It’s already on the internet, along with a few other action shots.”
I glanced behind me and saw that every child on the coach was bent over a mobile phone.
“What made you do it?” asked Miss Kirby. “It was so out of character.”
“No idea,” I laughed, looking proudly at the picture, “but it was fantastic, fabulous fun!”