FOR 45 years, a quite magnificent Pearly King costume – jacket, trousers, cap and scarf – has had pride of place in a wardrobe at my mum’s house.

She made it for my little brother, Paul, to wear in a fancy-dress contest that was part of The Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations in London, where her sister – our Auntie Doreen – lived.

Resplendent with hundreds of red, white and blue buttons that she’d painstakingly stitched onto an old suit, it was truly a labour of love.

However, it came at a cost. You see, my mum was a postlady back then and, when she ran out of white buttons, she took to pinching them from the shirts the postmen wore as part of their uniform.

“Can I have the bottom two buttons off your shirt?” she’d say to one postman after the other. And before they’d had chance to protest, she’d snipped them off with her nail scissors.

Throughout the summer of 1977, dozens of postmen delivered their letters around Middlesbrough with their navels showing, but my mum didn’t care. She was desperate for Paul to win – and he did.

In fact, he didn’t just win the fancy-dress contest in London, he went on to win another two competitions back home on Teesside. It could have been me, but I was far too cool to be a Pearly King.

Anyway, after that, the pearly  masterpiece stayed locked away in the dark for 25 more years until The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations came along, and a fancy-dress competition was duly organised in our home village of Hurworth-on-Tees.

With a large bag of sweets up for grabs, our son, Jack, happily wore it and – just like his Uncle Paul – he emerged as the winner.

Before we knew it, another quarter of a century had flashed by, and The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee festivities were suddenly upon us, with Her Majesty and my mum both now in their nineties.

This time, it was the turn of our little granddaughter, Chloe, to star in the costume – though, naturally, she had to be a Pearly Queen.

The occasion was the Darlington Junior Parkrun, last Sunday, because the excited participants had been invited to wear Jubilee-themed fancy-dress.

Chloe needed a replacement pair of trousers because the original pair were too big. And a jacket bearing all those buttons is bloomin’ heavy for a five-year-old, so she only wore the full costume up the home straight.

Nevertheless, she looked fit for a queen as she crossed the finishing line, bright as a button, with a big smile beneath her sparkly cap.

My mum was there to cheer her all the way, with a tear in her eye, a lifetime of memories – and not a hint of guilt about all those buttons she pinched from the Royal Mail sew long ago.


THANK you to colleague Andy White for passing on some lovely ‘Things They Say’ from his five-year-old granddaughter, Lily.

“I’ve been learning the alphabet, Grandad,” Lily announced.

“Oh, that’s good – say it to me,” replied Andy.

“A, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, ella, bella, bee,” came instant the reply.

LILY loves her nursery rhymes too. Her favourite goes like this:  

‘Baa baa black sheep,

Have you any wool?

Yes sir, yes sir,

Big bad wolf.’

LILY celebrated her fifth birthday recently and was on a comedown after a few days of parties, presents and cakes.

She turned to Andy’s wife, Frances, and said: “Granny, I’m sad today.”

“Why, what’s wrong?” asked Frances.

“I’m not four anymore!” the little girl explained.