My Teenage Crush On Harold Wilson

This week, Frank makes a confession…

In one of her recent Dispatches From The Former New World, Rita Byrne Tull confessed to having had a teenage crush on Harold Wilson. Readers – and no doubt Rita herself – will have chuckled ruefully at such youthful folly, but for me there was the shock of recognition. For I, too, had a teenage crush on Harold Wilson. In my case, please understand it was not some heady brew of politicohomoerotic infatuation. It had more to do with my arachnophilia.

A lonely child, sometimes bedridden when I occasionally and unaccountably lost the use of my lower limbs, I developed an intense relationship with a spider which used to patrol my bedroom. I suppose I adopted it as a pet where another child may have lavished their attention on a cat or a dog. I was also a precocious reader, and I would often pick up and pore over the books my parents brought home. One such was The Pencourt File (1978) by Barrie Penrose and Roger Courtiour, which told of the two journalists’ investigations into the events surrounding Harold Wilson’s sudden and unexpected resignation in 1976. One evening, shortly after his announcement, Wilson invited Penrose and Courtiour to his house on Lord North Street, served them stiff drinks, hinted at mysterious forces at work in the land, and charged them with uncovering the truth. One passage in particular struck me, when Wilson reportedly said:

“I see myself as a big fat spider in the corner of the room. Sometimes I speak when I’m asleep. You should both listen. Occasionally when we meet, I might tell you to go to the Charing Cross Road and kick a blind man standing on the corner. That blind man may tell you something, lead you somewhere.”

I immediately identified my own fat spider with the former Prime Minister. Lying abed, I began to engage in long conversations with it. Though it never told me to go and kick a blind man on Charing Cross Road, or anywhere else, and though I did most, or all, of the talking, the spider became my closest confidante. I called it “Harold”, or more respectfully “Mr Wilson”, and I cut out of the newspaper a little photograph and, by adding a loop of thread, fashioned a little Harold Wilson mask for it to wear. I even began work on making a tiny pipe for it to smoke.

Used as a verb, the word “crush” has a more literal, physical meaning, of course. It so happened that one day, when I had regained the use of my lower limbs, I rushed up to my bedroom to impart some important, now forgotten, news to my beloved spider. It was, however, not in the corner, but skittering across the floor, and I did not see it, and in my hurry, I trod upon it, and crushed it underfoot. Decades have passed, but still I feel the pangs of a lost love. RIP, Harold Wilson, the spider which brightened my teenage years. Well, a couple of weeks of them.

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

3 thoughts on “My Teenage Crush On Harold Wilson

    December 2, 2011 at 09:31

    That is a very strange quote from Wilson. In fact, it sounds like one of Thom Yorke’s lyrics.

  2. Gaw
    December 2, 2011 at 13:41

    I laughed very much.

    I can’t help wondering what happened to the little spider pipe, though. Was it ever finished? I imagine you would have had the devil of a job inserting it between his mandibles. Perhaps it was all for the best.

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