It is 1962.
In Vietnam the US Air Force spray South Vietnamese forests with Agent Orange.
Margaret, aged ninety-two, is dressed all in black. Her widow’s weeds are not of the regal flouncy variety once favoured by Victoria and her progeny but the simple black of a working-class Welsh woman and therefore almost identical with her counterparts right across the mainland of Europe.
Over many years, in her every spare moment, Margaret has used her best sharp scissors, to painstakingly cut out colourful photographs and illustrations – the brighter the better – magazines, as well as from birthday and Christmas cards. Now, sitting in her armchair beside the coal fire she is revelling in the fruits of her labours: scrapbooks. These, she hopes, will be passed down through the generations as heirlooms and she will be remembered.
Anthony Burgess publishes ‘A Clockwork Orange’.
She sees a world of thatched cottages, rustics around maypoles, babbling brooks, castles, stags at bay, kittens, puppies, bluebirds, robins on sparkly Yule logs, peat fires in enormous baronial halls, chandeliers, huntsmen riding to hounds, glittering angels, red berried holly, stagecoaches at wayside inns, men in frock coats, women in crinolines, bouncing babies festooned with frothy lace, dray horses with great furry feet, roses around cottage doors, royalty, the Queen Mother wearing an enormous feathery hat while fondling a horse.
Adolf Eichmann is executed in Israel.
She is delighted by innumerable reproductions of dreadful paintings representing Lake Lucerne, Buckingham Palace, guardsmen bedecked in bombazine bearskins, ersatz Constable hay wains, more castles (some in Bavaria), tumbling cataracts, horse drawn ploughs with circling birds, herbaceous borders, tinselled Christmas trees, hollyhocks, retrievers mouthing pheasants, rosy red cheeked little lord Fauntleroys in purple velvet breeches, wedding cakes.
The first nuclear warhead is fired from a Polaris submarine.
She swoons over Loch Lomond, orchards, sleeping shepherds amidst grazing fleecy, never to be eaten, sheep, cows jumping over moons, happy yokels chewing straw, plum puddings, mistletoe, gentry on their estates, salmon leaping, soap adverts – I’m forever blowing bubbles – geese flying in formation, more castles, and is moved by selected lines of romantic doggerel penned by Fay Inchfawn, Kathleen Partridge, Wilhelmina Stitch, and others of their ilk and crosses herself looking at Jesus in a crown of thorns holding what appears to be a Davy lamp.
The Cuban Missile crisis ends and nuclear war is postponed.
Margaret’s fantasy world mirrors the lie she constructed that her husband, Richard, had died while working overseas. He hadn’t. He’d abandoned his family, unable any longer to tolerate the disjunction between the world in which Margaret imagines herself and his life of hard labour that allowed her to enjoy, what he thought of, as her self-indulgent madness.
Marilyn Monroe dies of a drug over-dose.
When her children open the boxes containing the scrapbooks, they smell of Black Magic chocolates and Turkish Delight. On the bonfire her fantasies burn easily and are quickly forgotten. In contrast, her children stayed in constant contact with their father until his actual death.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.