In 1977 my mum and I were living in Corby’s Grenville Close. This was a much anticipated ‘Royal’ year: a national celebration of the Queen’s silver jubilee. A few months earlier I’d met my future wife when my friend and I had gate-crashed a grammar school 6th form ‘bash’ at Corby’s Strathclyde Hotel, remarkably having gained entry by the use of very poor photo-copied tickets. My mum took to Madeline from their first meeting which made me feel as if, for once in my life, I’d at last got something really right! Pleasing mum was always a bit of a coup. Our neighbors in Grenville Close helped make it a little enclave of happy living. One had the feeling of security and safety in what was, in effect, a little grove of modest, tidy, semi-detached bungalows. It was this sense of close-knit community that lead to talk of a little street party to celebrate the Queens jubilee. It had been a tough six years for mum since my dad had died in 1971: even her widow’s pension was liable for tax. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive any government for doing that to my mum. Yet, in 1977, it was as if she’d decided it was time to enjoy a moment in the sun. She got fully involved in helping put together our little street party, even to the point of having bunting and little union flags dangling from the front of our home.
On the day of the national celebrations, Madeline and I had been somewhere, probably shopping, and, as we turned the corner into Grenville Close, I’ll never forget the sight that greeted us. My mum was sitting on a wall with one of our neighbours sipping her way through a libation of some description or other which I suspect had not been her first. Her cheeks were rosy, her smile was to die for and, in all honesty, I don’t think I’d ever seen her looking so happy and carefree. I should say that mum had never been a drinker apart from perhaps the odd sherry at Christmas and I’d certainly never ever seen her under the influence of anything. It was as if she’d decided that perhaps there is some truth in the old saying ‘eat, drink and be merry’ etcetera. I was so happy to see her so happy, though, I have to confess, she was very, very funny when she was tipsy. Mum died the following year. In 2002 I’d been living in Gretton for 24 years, Madeline had died in 1994, and I had remarried in 2000. It was time for another jubilee, this time golden, celebration. A huge street party took place in Gretton’s High Street which really was a fantastic, colourful and an amazing communal affair, with flags, bunting, hats: you name it. Our home even came second in the best decorated house competition. I distinctly remember thinking at the time just how far away the diamond year of 2012 was.