I’ve lived in Kingston since the early 1980s, but have known it all my life. My maternal grandparents lived here, and in fact my family now lives in the same house – proud owners of the house since it was built in 1935 for £750!
Kingston has its fair share of attention, with one of the Royal Parks nearby, a coronation stone, and an architectural history to rival many cities (apart from the torturous one-way system, but we’ll draw a veil over that).
It was the market town where Anglo Saxon kings were crowned – see the coronation stone on the right c 1893 -, was built on the first crossing point of the Thames from London Bridge, and was the earliest royal borough. In the Domesday Book, its assets were: a church, five mills, three fisheries worth 10s, 27 ploughs, 40 acres (160,000 m2) of meadow, woodland worth six hogs. It rendered £30. Maybe that’s what the policitian meant who scorned it as a rich, complacent, “leafy borough” :).
Nowadays it has some of the best secondary schools in the country, both state and private, a shopping centre that’s second-tier to the West End, riverside developments (where my family’s £750, even in current inflationary rates, wouldn’t buy you a garage door), and a new theatre – where Son#2 does voluntary ushering now and then!
Its famous “children” include John Galsworthy, Eadweard Muybridge and Jacqueline Wilson. Mr Knightley in Jane Austen’s Emma regularly visits Kingston (!) and Nipper – the dog in the HMV logo – lived with his owners in Kingston and is buried in town under Lloyds Bank.
There’s much excitement in town this weekend due to the Olympic Bike Trials, which will run over Kingston Bridge, out past Hampton Court and on to Walton. Bradley Wiggins will be whizzing through my town! Son#2 and I are trying to work out the best place to stand to catch that glorious 6 seconds of Olympic glory :).
So, in celeration of Kingston’s involvement in the Olympics, here’s some free fiction!
MAMIL by Clare London (2012 Olympics)
Frank looked at Vince and bit his lip. “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Vince sounded belligerent. It was a difficult tone to carry off when clad neck to knee in yellow Lycra.
“I’m not sure.” Frank tilted his head and frowned. “You know I’ve always supported you and your hobbies.”
“But … what?”
“I didn’t say but.”
“Every damned mote of your being said but, Francis.”
Frank’s gaze ran over Vince’s form-fitting jersey, the sponsor slogan on his back from the local gay outreach scheme, the thigh-clinging leggings, the tight black fingerless gloves, then back up to his burly sideburns.
Vince pressed one of them against his cheek, a little defensively. “Is it straight? The sweat loosens the glue. All the fans are wearing them.”
“I know,” Frank said gently.
“The right gear makes all the difference.”
“I know,” Frank said again.
“I reckon twice around the park each morning and I’ll soon be fighting fit.”
“You’re pretty fit already.”
Vince scowled. “Finish it, Francis. Finish what you really want to say.”
“Oh for God’s sake… you mean pretty fit for my age.”
Frank frowned. “Ever consider that’s what you think, Vince, not me? You seem to go on about it a lot. We’re the same age, remember. But I don’t feel the need to wear Lycra and cycle with my arse off the seat and my head so far down on the handlebars I can barely see what I’m doing…”
“Just once,” Vince said, quickly. “Just once, I hit that lamppost. The bike was new, remember?”
Frank moved across the room to stand in front of Vince. He ran a hand almost aimlessly across Vince’s hip. Vince sucked in a breath.
“You must realise that Lycra is never going to be flattering,” Frank said softly.
“You mean my bum does look big?” A smile was tweaking the edge of Vince’s mouth. He turned his head so his temple rested on Frank’s forehead.
“Big and yellow, like a ripe quince.”
“And just as delicious.”
Slowly, a flush rose up Vince’s neck, peeking over the yellow turtle neck of his jersey. “Pervert.”
Frank chuckled. “Thank God.”
Vince sighed. His hand trailed over Frank’s as if considering whether to push it away or fold his fingers around it. “I should get going.”
“You should. If that’s your plan.”
Vince swallowed. “Is that bacon I can smell cooking?”
“And the new Italian coffee?”
Frank nodded again.
“I suppose I could delay this morning’s session–put in double work this afternoon.”
“Or not,” Frank said.
“Get thee behind me–”
“You want ketchup on your bacon bap?” Frank interrupted, apparently innocently.
Vince growled and started to peel off his gloves. Frank turned and walked slowly towards the kitchen. His hips sashayed very slightly, though both of them knew he didn’t have the flexibility he used to.
Vince gave a little yelp. “Help.”
Frank turned, surprised. “What?”
“I can’t do this, Frank.”
Frank’s face twisted into a momentary expression of guilt. “I’m sorry. If you really want to exercise…”
“No, not that!”
Vince grimaced, and tugged at the Lycra crotch of his leggings. “It took me 45 minutes to get this outfit on in the first place. Are you going to help me take it off again?”
*MAMIL = Middle-Aged Man in Lycra – a new phenomenon spawned by the desire for fitness, and obviously encouraged by Britain’s great success in bike events!