I have no particular relationship to the Royal Wedding one way or another, neither fan nor critic. I did however want to write a live story of the other side of the media-generated fairytale, seeing as we are in the midsts of a deep economic crisis, we are still fighting wars in the Middle East and Asia, Nature has stepped up her reprisals towards mankind for ravaging her (and who can blame her in our arrogance?) This is a fictional tale, written throughout the course of this Wedding day, about the other side of the festivities.
The fairytale wedding of Prince and Princess a sozzled, distant televised memory, the street parties up and down the land too had run their course for the day. Except for one.
Though there was a lack of residents now in attendance, only a knot of uniformed police at either end of the street. Preserving the scene while a couple of white-suited SOCOs went about their business. But this scene had intentionally played host to an enormous crowd a few hours earlier, so that the cast offs and parings were almost unlimited. Empty bottles, half-full glasses, paper plates, remnants of food, crushed cigarette packets. All the standard signifiers of a right royal knees up. Having to dig over the detritus of a shindig. Less searching for a needle in a haystack, than a particular shell casing at the Somme.
No doubt up and down the country, the parties had already been tidied away. Trestle, occasional and card tables had each been restored back to their surface duties in people's homes. Bucket seats, deck chairs, sun loungers had all been repatriated to the gloomy interiors of garden sheds and conservatories, having never seen so much light of day and the commerce of nestling so many different people's posteriors.
The rubble of food and drink, celebratory ribbons, confetti and ticker tape, presumably now swept into tidy little pyramids garlanding the gutters, awaiting the street cleaning leviathans. Some mounds were more prodigious than others, but all would be uniformly triangular. An ancient echo of the warning beacons that used to dot the coast of this island nation. A more modern reverberation of the street refuse lit up in desultory public protests. Guy Fawkes' bonfires were ineffably larger and more imposing.
Only the bunting would still be in place. Billowing the vestige of the good feelings and unity from earlier in the day. Overhead lines of red, white and blue arrowheads, pointing accusatorily as people congregated beneath them. A rainbow array of ethnicities who for one day at least had come together, but were fingered for their skin deep affiliations from above once they retired behind their closed front doors. Files of shark's teeth, demurring from clamping down on some choice victim morsel. The subject of some parochial grudge lodged within the community awaiting a less prestigious red letter day to spill red. Rows of flimsy plastic Union Jacks, that most ugly and cluttered of flags, blowing in the wind. For the Celtic Fringe, many wished to streamline the flag by removing their standards from it, but of course they wouldn't be having Royal Wedding parties anyway.
Pictures of the happy couple, at least where they had been left in place and not snatched away as a going home present, a reminder of the day's communal warmth. Although in this one restant fin de party scene, there is a picture of the newly weds with their eyes punched out. Unnerving, but perhaps indicative of nothing but one individual's inebriated rage uncorked, but lacking for real focus to settle upon. No one wants to start an affray at a street party of all your neighbours do they? The police treat it for trace evidence and bag it anyway.
For the party under consideration, the denizens had blocked off both entrances to their road. Impromptu barricades to keep the cars out and render the road child safe (how ironic). Not exactly the Paris Commune, but tiny evidence of what could be done. Resourcefulness in action. The collective memory in Ulster wouldn't have had to reach back too far to disinter the recipe. But this wasn't Ulster. This was Tamworth and Truro, Colchester and Carlisle.
The blockages had been struck like a theatre set by the Police as they poured in earlier in the evening. Now a less than convincing buffer had been erected by parking a car at either end and sealing both entrances with their own incident bunting. Two-colours instead of the festive three.
For today has all about securing succession. A royal heir to the throne for the generations to come. A fundamental enough instinct, that one way and another drives most parents. But here where the police are securing a crime scene, the lineage for one mother may have been irrevocably snapped. There concern is that this may be one in a succession of crimes perpetrated by the same individual. A succession they must break.
Eight hours is a long stint for any young child to be kept entertained. Even peppered with plentiful intermissions for food and drink. But as the whole street in attendance, parents were relived of superintendence duties through there being sufficient youngsters to keep each other engaged. So parents were able to let their guard down along with their hair.
Yet the evening ineluctably drew on and the crowds started to thin out. That calculation of preserving and experiencing a moment of history, balanced against the need to get children home already way past their customary bedtime. Both weighed and usually leavened by the continued wish to keep drinking and wring every last drop out of a rare bonhomie among the neighbourhood.
One mother turned around while still perched on a fold-up chair, looking to locate her young son. While there were plenty of people still milling about, there were few blindspots for him to remain screened from her eyes. The few gaggles of children certainly didn't include his capering form either. She rose wearily from the seat and began approaching the adult collocations and asking them the question even though she could see he wasn't with them. Then she approached the kids and asked them if they'd seen her son recently. None made for very good witnesses, overdrawn at the end of the day stock full of impressions and bustle, rubbing their eyes and shrugging their ahistorical shoulders.
Even though her son didn't have a key and she hadn't left the front door open, she returned there to search anywhere. She made a special scrutiny of the back garden in case he had simply taken himself off to curl asleep there. But he was nowhere to be found. Her untrusting instinct that had ensured she locked up her property this morning, hadn't translated to monitoring her son. Now she began to fear the worst.
This time when she pulled on the elbows of people wrapped up in talking, there was a panicked urgency to it. several times she spilled the drink that the people were nursing in their hands while they were talking. People shot her daggers, which barely softened when she explained what might have happened. They were drunk and felt she was likely so as well. One or two started to make cursory searches under the tables and behind bushes and shrubs along the street. But there was no coordinated posse, nor did most choose to break off their chit chat. Some unwittingly mocked her through lifting up empty bottles and glasses in the hunt for replenishing alcohol. Irritated at the edge being taken off their spiffing day. Dragged back into the grimness that the festivities had offered them a respite from.
For the street parties had been extolled and exhorted by the leader of the country himself. A temporary burst of colour from the greyness, a pomp and ceremony in a land blighted by concrete mundanities. Of course no monies were forthcoming from central funds to help the populace celebrate and transmogrify. So everyone had been encouraged to bring a bottle and a dish, confident in the assumption of a return of at least two bottles and a full stomach. The very never-never economics that had placed the country in its state of current asperity in the first place. The world owes me a living, or a plenitude of comestibles at least, sense of entitlement now being demonstrated by the late night dregs drinkers, feeling imposed upon by the desperate mother's importuning. The rapport sealed with royal approval had become unglued and society sagged back into its misanthropic gloom.
Eventually some bright spark had the idea of calling the Police. They were somewhat dilatory, unsurprising seeing as they had a myriad of street parties to deal with. When two officers finally did show, they listened to her version of the narrative of events, which had most of the details missing, since her boy had been excised from the gathering without her or anyone else seeing. They asked her for some photos of the boy, but she only possessed images on her phone. They debated whether to ask her for the phone, but she clung on to it determined it might remain an inlet for redemption. Even though her son was too young to know her number and everyone she knew was either stood around uselessly in the street, or had retired for the night.
The two officers began door-to-door inquiries, but elicited no more information than the mother had by her elbow to elbow cross-examinations. Those who had left the party to return home, were now knocked up and roused from their beds and furious for the intrusion. They blamed the mother for her rank carelessness.
The Constables called for CID and a family liaison officer who whisked the mother away back to the goad of her empty house. The detectives considered the range of possible scenarios. They discounted the boy having just wandered off, since the blockade on the street would have proved insurmountable for his tiny frame. Therefore they could only contemplate a more sinister advent. Be it he was snatched by a sexual predator and salted away to a dungeon somewhere. Or that he was now a commodity in a market for under-age flesh. Whether still as a sexual transaction, or maybe like that couple out in Portugal, to become ensconced in the bosom of a new family, but then they still didn't know that for sure either. It was unlikely that he had been kidnapped for ransom, this simply wasn't the right economic demographic. Of course the kid could already be murdered and disposed of.
What was certain that foul play was involved. Today of all days, under the gaze of the whole country, someone had weeded out a child from a mass gathering. Were they an opportunist, seizing their chance to meet their desires? This was the day for opportunists.
No, more than likely they acted out of cold, deliberate calculation. They reckoned on having the pick of children out unconcerned in the street amid the comfort of strangers and neighbours. Was he a stranger to this community, or a local? it was impossible to deduce from their doorstep interviews. He would have counted on the open camouflage of today's conviviality. Of throwing the doors open to one and all.
Back to his motivation then. His cynical carpe diem. Was he after competing for column inches? He must have known he'd never bump the Royal Couple from the front pages, that it was simply impossible to give them a run for all the money lavished on their event. But maybe he would be content with second billing?