Date: June 16 2012
Over the years Her Majesty the Queen will have noticed, as she's gone to the piggy bank for some coins to take down the corner shops for a loaf of bread, a pint of milk and some Chum for her corgis, how her face on Britain's coinage has changed as she's aged.
The Royal Mint has just issued the Official Queen's £5 Diamond Jubilee Coin on which, touchingly, one side bears the portrait of her as a youngster used on the first coins of her reign (from 1953). On the other side there is a new portrait of her as she is now, no longer a spring chicken. On the mint's website you can see this jubilee coin gently spinning, giving you the 1953 grouse sheila one moment and the 2012 matron the next.
In recent days I've had my 2012 face photographed for a workplace security pass and find myself wishing that it had the boyish Ian of 1953 on the other side. This would be nice for one's passports and driving licences too. It would show those who need to see these things that one hasn't always been old and ravaged but was once, like the Queen in 1953, smooth and beautiful.
On their coins the queens of England don't age gradually, like the rest of us, but in spurts. The Queen's youthful likeness was kept on some coins from 1953 to 1968, then a more mature likeness was used from 1968 to 1985. Then another took over for 1985-1997. The latter portrait earned its artist, Raphael Maklouf, the criticism that he had made the Queen look ''flatteringly young'' but he said that, no, he'd made her ''regal and ageless''.
I asked the young man taking my photograph for my new security pass if he could make me look regal and ageless but he apologised that, no, there was no technology available that would permit that miracle.
I am so old that I can remember as a child in England penny coins with Queen Victoria's head on them were everywhere in circulation. She had died in 1901 and I had begun bringing joy into my parents' lives in 1945, but her pennies were everywhere. Nor were they collectors' items. One used them, mixed up with other pennies with other heads on them, to buy things such as a 1d pack of candy cigarettes (since banned) and to put in slot machines that were primitive versions of today's pokies.
And in those days there were still in use Victorian pennies of the young Queen Victoria. They were minted from 1838- 1887 and numismatists call these Young Head coins and they jingled in our pockets and nestled in our grimy urchin hands alongside the Old Head pennies minted from 1893-1901.
There were ''Bun'' pennies too, minted from 1860 and showing the hitherto pony-tailed young Queen with her hair in a bun. Would that I could have arranged my own hair into a pony tail or a bun for my recent Old Head security pass photograph, but alas, there's not enough of it left now to make arrangements with.
Which reminds me that, visiting my local apothecary (pharmacist) earlier this week with a prescription for a potion for a disorder that afflicts old men, there prominently displayed was an advertisement for a hair restorer. It contained before and after pictures of a man pretending to have had his hair restored by whatever it was. Given that hair cannot be restored (any more than the dead can be raised, or the future told with tarot cards) this kind of snake-oil charlatanism ought to have no place in a pharmacy, in a professional pharmacist's repertoire of medicines.
As a journalist, with a sacred professional obligation to only ever deal in the evidence-based truth, I'm affronted by this nonsense. I toyed with the idea of making a scene (for it can be an exhilarating, cleansing thing to do) but decided against it because there were no other customers there. A scene is as wasted on an empty shop as a performance of Hamlet is wasted on an empty theatre.
But in any case these sorts of battles have been lost, and the forces of superstition, ignorance, hair-restoring, hair-tinting and mumbo jumbo are in charge now. Rationalists and sceptics, like me and my friend (and occasional co-star of this column) Professor Richard Dawkins, are eclipsed now. The world is in an awful, superstitious state and so thank goodness then that this ignorant world as we know it is going to end and be transformed for the better on December 21, in accordance with plausible-sounding ancient Mayan prophecies.
Polls show one in 10 Australians believe in this, and I am that one in the 10. Who could fail to believe it? Listen to how the Zapotec prophecy, representing the solar deity Tonatiuh (who magically has never gone bald), rings with authority.
''After Thirteen Heavens of Decreasing Choice, and Nine Hells of Increasing Doom, the Tree of Life shall Blossom with A Fruit Never Before Known in Creation, and that Fruit shall be The New Spirit of Men.''
Uncanny. The Thirteen Heavens is an obvious reference to the Howard years, the Nine Hells Of Increasing Doom to the recent Labor governments, with the coming Abbott government holding the promise of the Tree of Life that will Blossom With A New Fruit. Bring it on.
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