The new year started after Easter, Betty was sitting on the lap of the Dance Master, the whole of the Eleven were sitting at a long table in the hall in the carnival club.
The Four Crosses Carnival Club was the biggest and the best in Bigtown. The club was very strict, nobody could ask to join the club, you had to be invited and you had to be good at heart. The members were called collectively the “Goodness” and a single member a “Part Of the Goodness” or a “POG”.
At the start of every year a small number of people were invited formally by post to attend the POG-presentation. It was a private meeting, no media, no pictures, no recordings. The President gave a short speech about the Four Crosses Carnival Club and being a POG, they were expected to be good at heart, give to charities, give to the carnival club and serve the carnival club for life. “Being a POG is not so easy; if being a POG is not right for you, please don't present yourself. But first a simple test.”
“Will somebody be the first and present herself or himself to the Eleven. Step forward, give your invitation card to the First Water Carrier and read aloud a short text out of this book.” It was usually the emotional bits from a yearly charity report – injured children, abandoned babies, helpless old people.
“Thank you! Next one please.”
Each of the Eleven held up a coloured card – the First Water Carrier noted the result. How the test worked and the meaning of the coloured cards appeared to be a total mystery. Actually it was simple – if the President and Betty held up cards of the same colour then the person was accepted.
The President always held up the same colour card. Betty did all of the testing. While the person was reading, Betty slipped into the person's mind, had a good rummage around and decided if the person was really good at heart.
“Thank you everybody. This year 23 people have presented themselves, 22 have been accepted. You will all be informed by post. Thank you again and good bye.”
Betty had joined the Eleven when she was eleven. She had been invited into the carnival club when she was four – she danced so well. She was the youngest ever member of the Eleven and the only female member in the history of the Four Crosses Carnival Club. She was the Boff, responsible for order, she had never been a Water Carrier.
The President read out the results of the poll for the new Eleven – not much change. The President got the most votes and remained President. The current Treasurer was very ill and did not stand for re-election.
The First Water Carrier became the Treasurer, the Second Water Carrier became the First Water Carrier, the Eleventh Water Carrier became the Second Water Carrier, and a POG with many years of service became the Eleventh Water Carrier.
Betty was sitting on the lap of the Music Director, the whole of the Eleven were sitting at a long table in the Great Chamber in the Town Hall. Actually four Elevens, all four carnival clubs in Bigtown were represented.
The mayor gave a speech – the importance of Bigtown, the need for more schools, kindergartens, swimming pools and so on and on – Bigtown needed money for good causes. The town had rich people, rich people give lots of money, especially if Bigtown was very nice to them.
Being nice to a rich man in Bigtown meant being royalty for a year – in return for donating loads of money you too could be the Bigtown Carnival Princess for a year – you also had to be married.
In return for a large fortune you could wear very colourful and gaudy clothes and a golden crown and appear at almost fifty balls, galas, processions and so on throughout the year and be stared at – the waiting list was long.
The mayor chose the candidates, a short list of three or four, and the floor, that is the four Elevens, voted for the new princess. Betty did not vote, she could not hear, but she knew it was fixed, the floor knew exactly who the mayor wanted.
But worse than that, the new princess was always not a good person, not very bad, but definitely not good at heart. There were no really nasty and evil people in Bigtown, Betty had made sure of that, she had killed them all.
Betty knew everybody in Bigtown, rich and poor, good and bad. Betty had to ask herself “Why always the bad people?”
Betty remembered the bad year: Princess Georgina the Seventh and Prince John the Hundred and Sixty-First, the prince was always named John, were just awful. Betty avoided them all year long, but the last day was a disaster.
In the morning was the Morning, the big procession with all the carnival clubs, extra bands, dancers, horses, fancy dress, big crowds; everybody was there. Princess Georgina the Seventh and Prince John the Hundred and Sixty-First were enthroned on float number eleven and thought that they were the stars of the show.
Betty was dancing on float number nine, she was the star of the show. Fortunately there was a large stoat made of papiermâché on float number ten. Betty did not know why the stoat had the head of the Prime Minister, but she was happy that the stoat was so big, she could not see the Princess and the Prince.
Disaster struck. Float number ten broke in half and the giant stoat rolled away down a side street. The heavies quickly pushed the remains of float number ten into the side street – the show must go on.
It was awful, Betty stared at the Princess and Prince, Betty thought what she really wanted: to glue them to the back of a long distance bus.
Disaster struck again. Float number seven rammed a street light. Floats number eight and nine braked hard, Betty nearly fell over, float number eleven rammed Betty's float and the Princess and Prince landed next to Betty.
The official report of the disaster blamed bad driving and badly maintained floats. That Betty had thrown the Princess and Prince off her float and that the two had run off down a side street and fled the town was not mentioned.
However this year was different, there was only one candidate on the list, this was a new idea of the mayor. This year's candidate was Mrs Pearson. Betty stood on the table and danced. Mrs Pearson was a very good person.
Betty insisted, she drove with the mayor to Mrs Pearson's mansion on the edge of town. There in front of all the media the mayor gave a speech and crowned Mrs Pearson as Princess Anna the Thirteenth and Mrs Tinge as Prince John the Hundred and Sixty-Ninth.
Mrs Pearson invited the mayor and Betty in for a drink. Mrs Pearson discussed her plans for Bigtown, Betty kept her ideas to herself. Time to go, but Mrs Tinge picked up Betty, “She's staying a bit.”
Mrs Pearson was happy, at last she was the Carnival Princess, she could do a lot for Bigtown, she was very rich.
Mrs Tinge was happy, because Mrs Pearson was happy and because Betty had clamped herself around Mrs Tinge.
Betty was happy, she was mostly happy, at last a good person as Princess and another as Prince, and it was good to be close to Mrs Tinge again. Betty was very grateful to Mrs Tinge, who had fitted Betty with a specially made bra, Betty had very large lovelies as Mrs Tinge called them.
Betty discovered that Mrs Pearson was as soft and cuddly as Mrs Tinge. Betty stayed the night.