ing Richard the Third lay in state in much the same position as he'd lain in the carpark.
That day alone, 15,000 people had come. Come to look, to look at the box. They had filtered past, slowly and with solemn faces. They spoke in hushed voices, and nodded. A lot of people made the journey. 'The people of England have welcomed Richard into their hearts!’, one BBC correspondent had cried. ‘But wasn't he a child killer?' someone asked, close to the front. SSH! shooshed the Bishop of Leicester, on hand to point out troublemakers.
People had flown from Singapore! From Australia! From Wales! Visit Leicester were very excited and had hired 12 new employees on temporary contracts. The world’s media congregated outside the cathedral, leaning on the Vaughan Porch under the eyes of the seven sandstone saints. Some of the photographers rolled cigarettes, even though they’d been told under no circumstances are you allowed to smoke out here, guys. The ceremony had gone on for a week, this being the second day to last. Processions and visits, flowers from queens! All the trimmings. It was an extravaganza like no other!
From his all-but-final resting place, Richard sighed a small sigh. This is getting boring now, he thought.
What a dull day. What a dull week! Lying here, as they shuffled by, hearing them whisper.
He gave up trying to make out the murmurs, and instead quietly whistled Baker Street. Jacky the caretaker sang it loud late at night as he dusted the pews, and now he couldn’t get it out of his head. That damn Jacky! He’ll pay for this, schemed Richard. Of course, King Richard the Third didn’t know the song was called 'Baker Street', but he knew the tune alright, and was a beautiful whistler. Not even the experts knew that.
He had managed to get out and about at some points. In a sense.
After much negotiation (although Richard knew none of this), Leicester had conceded to allowing a short tour, as long as they were back in the city by 5pm and they steered clear of York. Ahh - fresh air! grinned Richard, as they hit the open road. Later they were often stuck behind tractors and caravans. His bones had BOOM rattled with the BOOM of a BOOM canon, fired enthusiastically BOOM on the old BOOM battlefield of BOOM Bosworth. Richard BOOM, his BOOM wool wrapped BOOM bones a-jiggling BOOM, was startled BOOM by it all BOOM because they BOOM didn’t have BOOM this in BOOM my day, and it’s BOOM getting a bit BOOM much now, perhaps BOOM that’s BOOM enough? BOOM.
But then he heard a man shouting it was some sort of salute, and he felt his sense of regal pride return.
On the march back through the city, Richard listened to the soft and sorrowful thuds of what he could only imagine were expensive single white roses landing on his coffin, thrown from well- dressed admirers in the crowd.
Heard of my glory, have you? Success always travels.
Yeah that bit was kind of fun, driving around, picturing the tear stained faces of his handsome subjects, as they lined the streets to weep a fond farewell. But now he was just lying around. And not even really stretched out, just in the way you might lie in a hot busy park: alert, but bored at the same time.
Of course this wasn't a patch on the time he’d spent under the council carpark. Not only was it warm there, from all the engines people left running as they did their makeup before work, or got things out the boot, but it was The Hotspot for gossip. How else would Richard have heard about how Diane fancied Michael — Diane! The Diamond of the Dangerous Dogs Department and Michael. The Council Tax Creep. And what about the rumour that Johnny Scott might be leaving Housing Benefit for a manager’s position at Sports Direct!! Info so hush hush that even his best friend Will who was also his boss didn’t know! Ah, how he did rejoice in such tales as these. He was privy to all sorts, knew who was getting the sack before they did, who was on course for divorce, who had bombed it at the Christmas party (Barry).
Those were The Salad Days of Our Entombment, lamented the king, his teeth chattering in the lead lining of the coffin. Did Diane and Michael ever ‘seal the deal’? Diane can definitely do better.
What has this got to do with a well? The people cry! Yes, I'm getting to that, Richard thought, irritated, for you really shouldn't interrupt a king.
So. It was the battle of Bosworth, the Year of Our Lord 1485, a Saturday. The usurper Henry Tudor was advancing with untold numbers. Things were hectic and fraught with peril and oo-wee! was Richard parched. He’d been shouting ‘Treason!’ all morning, and hadn't wanted to drink too much before getting into his armour. After you clapped on that bad boy it wasn't coming off. But soon he could stand it no more. Hearing rumour of a well nearby, he slipped away to get a wee swig before it all kicked off.
He found the well, bubbling gently in the morning air. But he was not alone. An old woman waited beside it, and smiled as he approached. She was wearing rags (aren’t they always?), and stood in a casual fashion, despite being in the presence of the King of All England. She curtsied, as much as her aged back would allow, and addressed the king.
‘Your Grace, this water is poison to all those who sup it. Turn back from this place, lest ye fall on the field after taking its waters’.
Richard frowned a noble frown. Why did these peasants always mumble so?
He rolled his eyes.
‘Louder, stranger’ he commanded, ‘for We cannot hear you all the way up here on our tall and glorious steed!’
She cleared her throat.
‘I said. Don’t be drinking from that well, Richard. Unless you want to end up buried in car park.’
Richard didn’t know what ‘cars’ were, or what park grasses they might graze upon. But he was so damn thirsty, woman, and is this how you speak to your king?? I’ll roll the dice and take my chances.
With a dismissive wave he dismounted from his horse and took a deep draught from the cool clear waters, gulp upon sweet gulp. And when, in time, he wiped his mouth and looked up, she was gone.
Richard shrugged, who was she to command a king? Quenched and feeling pretty upbeat, he climbed back on his horse. Onwards, to battle! And the rest, as they say, is History.
At this point, as is his right as a Heaven Sent monarch, Richard must interject: In case you don’t know your history, you didn’t do your homework or you don’t read the papers, I did fall on the field that day. Fell down and died, OK? And that’s what happens when you ignore an old woman by a poisoned well.
Indeed, Your Grace, indeed.
They were reading poems now, in the cathedral, and the box shifted, dropping a little to the left as they prepared to put him in the ground. Back in the ground, corrected Richard. The end was nigh. (Again). They lowered him, delicately, respectfully. It was getting colder as the earth closed in, the voices above ever distant.
Richard thought once more of the carpark.
Did Laura in Recycling ever find that cat she lost? What was it called, Jonathan? Was Peter from Equality and Diversity still not speaking to his dad? His beloved carpark! Would they ever put him back? Had he not been as dry as a bone, Richard might have shed a wistful tear, although this would have been quite contrary to his reputation. Who knew how long he’d lie here this time — in this spot — before they dug him up, rediscovered.