Auntie Doris’s Great Works of Art #14 “The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba” by Claude Lorraine Kelly – 1648


When I was packing my case to go away with my Raymond he always used to get impatient and say something like “Come on lass, we’re off for a couple of nights in Withernsea, it’s not  the embarkation of the Queen of ruddy Sheba!”

Obviously, I knew that, I wasn’t going to travel for days across the Red Sea to Jerusalem to pay tribute to and probably have carnal relations with King Solomon, I was going to be driven down the B1362 for about three quarters of an hour to maybe see a singer in the clubhouse, and listen to my Raymond’s snores echoing around the caravan all night.

But still, a woman has to pack enough stuff to last her the weekend, doesn’t she.

Of course, the queen of Sheba had a bit more packing than most. She was the ruddy queen for heaven’s sake, you couldn’t expect her to make one pair of tights last all weekend, and not be able to swap her shoes for a comfy pair of slippers at the end of the day. The queen of Sheba would have had a selection of slippers to choose from, and most of them would probably have had pompoms on them.

Besides, I wasn’t just packing for myself, I needed to take his ruddy slippers an’all, otherwise, he would have had a face on all weekend, and I couldn’t be doing with putting up with him with one of his faces on. And we would both need our pac-a-macs in case it rained, and I would need my rain mate to protect my hair, and if it rained heavily we would both need wellington boots. There was a lot to think about. Even if it didn’t rain. It might have. You never know.

And the Queen of Sheba wasn’t just packing for one either. She had her retinue to think about. Retinues don’t live on fresh air you know. They have to be fed and watered and have a change of clothes every now and then, or they start to stink. King Solomon would not have been impressed by a woman with a stinky retinue. Those sorts of people never are.

And besides all that she had to pack some presents for King Solomon, she decided on gold, unguent oils, spices and precious stones. Apparently she took plenty of them an’all, which is why Lorraine painted them loading a treasure chest into one of the boats which is already full of parcels of stuff, and there are a fair few golden pots on the quayside as well. We never had any treasure chests or golden pots at Withernsea. But I did try and brighten the place up a bit with a pot dog and a plaster of Paris ornament of the lighthouse.

Of course, when she arrived in Jerusalem, the famous composer Handel had written a special piece of music to welcome her, so there was a bit of a fuss at that end as well. I was lucky if my Raymond put the ruddy kettle on when we arrived at that ruddy caravan. So I don’t know how he could have compared me to the Queen of Sheba. He was no ruddy King Solomon. But neither of us really liked a fuss. So I suppose he was alright for me.

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