Journey through space to the Planet Fabulous, where the Ruler of the Universe will see you shortly.

Friday, December 19, 2003

I Got The Key! I Got A Secret!

With the fabulous gala premiere of Cold Mountain occurring last night (I’m sure my invite got lost in the post) dear Nicole Kidman was on hand to be unutterably fabulous and just darling, wowing the crowds with hints dropped about her sham marriage to Mary Cruise. And, joy of joys, Nicki (she hates it when I call her that) was given the prestigious honour of the keys to the city by Sydney mayor! How lovely!

From what I gather, the keys to the city used to be actually quite important, being the only way through some of the more imposing gates barring the way to get in (London) or get out (Liverpool). Heaven forefend you lose them: one instance is at the end of the 18th century Sarah Brocklebank, daughter of Thomas the gatekeeper, lost the keys to the city whilst playing a game, and as a result her father lost his job. He never spoke to her again.

I assume this ‘game’ was the incident played at the end of the night at the Halfcock Inn, where everyone throws their keys into the centre of the room, and Sarah managed to get the door key of a Mr Nevelle Shanksdip and was heard singing ‘Greensleeves’ in soprano through the wall at five-past three in the morning.

Anyway. Sarah became obsessed with finding the keys and spent her life searching, until, as an old lady, she finally remembered where they were. She burst in to the Lord Mayor’s parlour to tell him, but dropped dead before she spoke. Oh, irony of ironies! You won’t get poorer timing this side of a Cheeky Girls record, do you? Fortunately, this incident set a new standard, and now cities are happy to always leave a spare set with the neighbours. In this case, the charming market town of Harrogate is more than happy to come in during the holidays and water York’s plants.

Nowadays the keys to the city are beautiful yet completely useless (c.f. Phixx) with the only benefits being you can sit in the Alderman's court (that barrel of laughs) and drive your sheep through the precincts. Those of you whom have been to Croydon will know that you don’t need a key to allow you to steer your brood through the shopping area; merely a hair scrunchie and a benefits book. And the keys are presently not only worthless, you can get them for the most unlikely of reasons. For example, in 1916, Samuel Born won the keys to the city of San Francisco for inventing a machine that mechanically inserted sticks into lollipops. Yet while my initial reaction was ‘How daft is that?’ on closer inspection, perhaps the residents of this city saw this wonderful device and instantly thought of new and exciting applications for it. Voila! Instant award, and the midnight sounds of ‘Greensleeves’ in soprano coming through a multiple of walls.

Ah, happy days.

In confidence, I myself was awarded the keys to the city on two occasions, though these things never turn out well for me. I was awarded keys to the city of Atlantis (whoops), as well as the keys to Cambridge in 1992. Yes, um. It was all rather embarrassing, in truth. I’m sure you older readers are aware of the difficulties in getting in through your front door when drunk; that interminable time when you’re trying to put the key in the lock and keep missing time after time after time? Well, after a night on the shandybooze, I was there for a full hour attempting in a staggeringly wearisome manner to get the key in the city lock. And what do you know! It turns out I’d been trying to use my car keys after all! Oh, how I laughed - until worse happened: I managed to get the key in and turn it before I figured out it was the wrong one, only to find I’d left the whole city in gear! It was now rolling down the hill towards the river!

Thank heaven we caught it all on camcorder, though – that £200 quid from ‘You’ve Been Framed!’ paid for a lovely new hostess trolley.

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