I was 5 when I first fell in love. I was standing on the pavement when a blonde woman glided by, smiling and waving at me.
To be honest, as she was the Ilford Carnival Queen, she smiled and waved at everyone. She also waved at my dad who was stood directly behind me and he probably did one of those embarrassed, half-hearted, shy, “man waves” back so as not to upset my mum.
But it didn’t matter. I was smitten.
She was tall – when you’re 5, everyone is tall – beautiful, cheerful and, most importantly, a queen.
I didn’t even mind that she was sitting precariously on a hay-bale on a trailer being towed by a tractor because I liked tractors too.
Now, I don’t like them so much, which apparently, makes me an ex-tractor fan?
The carnival parade included many colourful floats, a fire engine, majorettes, jugglers, steel bands, clowns with silly balloons and candy floss sellers but it was the smiling, waving carnival queen that I remembered most.
I even remembered her name – Miss “Susan” Ilford. (I had no idea if her name was Susan but as I’d already ridiculously decided I was gonna marry a Susan, that would have to be her name).
As years have passed, carnival parades have become noticeably shorter. Processions that took forever, now pass you by completely if you bend down to tie your shoelaces.
When Whitstable recently advertised for a carnival queen to head their parade and represent the area, not one person replied.
Times have changed. Some people overlook their ambassadorial role and regard a carnival queen as archaic or think it’s morally wrong for a young woman to be paraded around the streets in her nice prom dress and be “objectified.”
But when you’re a child – and carnivals are for children – all you see and remember is a pretty girl in a fairy-tale dress that you either aspire to be or want to marry and what’s wrong with that innocent dream?