I’ve been a statue for a hundred years or so now. Prior to that I was a loose mixture of metals, a gang if you will. Very disorganised, a little shallow maybe, quite violent when in a heated situation. Young and unformed. Prior to that, well who knows? I don’t.
Anyway, I’ve been a statue for a hundred years or so, maybe more. Time’s not really something I keep track of. My job, if you can call it a job, is to look out over a square in the middle of what I’m told is a mighty city. I have a very serious expression on my very craggy face. I’m obviously important, and I’m holding what’s probably a very interesting book or ledger or somesuch.
At least that what they said when they erected me. Lots of speeches from men in frock coats with frankly hilarious sideburns, frockcoats and top-hats. They gave me a name, said I was the embodiment of something or other. I’ve forgotten who I’m supposed to be. No idea what my name is, I can’t read the inscription from here.
Nobody who ever walks past – rarely stopping – ever looks up and says:
“Look there’s good old Muggins! The grand old Duke of Muck! Look there’s Sir Alfalfa Moonstone! What that man did for this mighty city will never be forgotten. What a guy! What a mensch!”
Every decade or so someone comes along, a working fellow, and cleans off the pigeon turds from my head. Wipes away the traffic dreck from my plinth and the inscription that says who I am – I’ve never read it for obvious reasons not the least of which is that it’s down below my feet.
It’s rare for anybody else to read it out loud for me to hear. Maybe once every few years a mother will read it to a child who will shrug (I can just about see their little, shrugging shoulders) and pull the mother away to something more interesting like icecream or a puppy.
In the 1980s there was this very loud fellow, dressed in a frockcoat and remarkable top-hat who would stand in front of me declaiming at very small group of people. A different and diminishing group every night of the summer.
“Here is Sir Baron the Duke of Donkey!”, he would declaim. “Favourite son of our city who, in Eighty Eighty Eighty Eight (or somesuch) cleaned the roads of rats or barnacles (or somesuch) and lead the city fathers to victory in a match of cricket against the barbarians from the other city (or somesuch)”.
I stopped listening to him after the second evening. I hummed a tune in my head. “Don’t’ you want me baby? Don’t you want me oh-oh-oh?”. I’d heard it coming from several person’s vehicles. I could not get it out of my head for ages. “Don’t you want me, oh-oh-oh?”
As I say though, I’ve forgotten who I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to have done. Between you and I, that’s no hardship. I like to make things up. Right now, I’m a particularly gay (yes I am aware of the shift in meaning since the day of my august erection) actor called Barnett Swift.
I swept through this mighty city in the 1950s bringing joy and artistry and founding a pub called the Gay Hussar where people met, drank, talked, caressed and fell in love, as well as bitched, wept and clawed each other’s reputations. I died on stage at that theatre over there, the Theatre Royal, while performing a self-penned play about love and magic.
At least that’s what I’m telling myself this week. That was ever since a drama student stood in front of me, adopting my pose. I knew him to be a drama student because he kept telling his friend, a short girl with long hair and a huge bag, that he was a drama student.
Who knows what I might imagine myself as next week? A horse maybe? A suffragette? A black women? A sportsman or a nurse, maybe a suicide? I’ve seen them all standing in front of me telling me their stories over the decades. The days run into the nights that run into the weeks, the years, the decades, the centuries. I don’t mind my job, looking out over a mighty (if a little tatty nowadays truth be told) but between you and me, I could do with a change. A reformation of my particles. A new outlook.
Which is why today is so exciting. At last! A group of young people have gathered and they seem to know exactly who I am, and exactly what I’m here to commemorate. As far as I can tell, this means that my job is done and it’s now time for me to move on. They’ve got ropes around me, they’re actually noticing me for me! They’re pulling me down.
I could not be happier! I have a future it seems. That reformation I was mentioning. That change. That moving on. God bless ‘em!
See you again soon, who knows what I might become? Oh, and much luck to whoever stands here next.