Now I don’t doubt that most of the people who lined the route to and from Buck House/Westminster Abbey had a great time on Friday, they queued up to be interviewed by any one of the hundreds of news stations who were there and to say what a great time they’d had, but to be honest, when they get back home and watch the whole event again on TV they’ll probably find that what they actually got to see was about ten or twenty seconds of the whole affair.
It happened to me once too.
Twice in fact, twice I’ve stood on a street waiting to see a Royal pass by, waiting to wave at them, shout a cheery “Hello, its me!!!” and only once have I caught even a glimpse of them albeit on that occasion the Royal in question noticed my dog rather than me.
It would have been the mid-1960s that HM The Queen arrived in Leeds to open the newly constructed Arndale Centre in Headingley and our mother dragged both myself and my brother on the bus down to a spot outside the Original Oak where we met with our Auntie Irene and our Grandmother to stand on the pavement with hundreds of others and await the passage of the royal procession as she left Headingley to scurry back to London.
It was a long wait, hours we waited, it seemed like HM The Queen was building the Arndale Centre with her own fair hands so long did it take for her to open the bloody thing, we were handed small paper flags to wave and the consensus in the crowd was that from our vantage point in front of The Oak we would get a good look at her as her car would have to slow down to take the corner, “Wave your flags and cheer” reminded our mother with a clip around the ear’ole, one of those “just in case” clips around the ear’ole, loving clips around the ear’ole, now outlawed of course.
A large policeman stood guarding the route in front of us and he confirmed that indeed HM The Queens car would have to slow down to take the corner and who knows, she may even stop here for a quick pint in The Oak before catching the train back to London, how excited we were.
And then a buzz arose in the crowd and we could hear cheering moving our way from around the corner, the policeman who could see further down the road confirmed that yes, she was on her way and he instructed us all to start waving our flags and cheer and so we did…
…and in a flash of silver she was gone.
The royal car must have been doing 70mph when it flew by The Oak and in that split second it was over, we caught the bus home, a wasted morning spent waiting for a monarch with a need for speed and no desire to stop off for a pint or two, our mother would have paid too.
The second encounter with a Royal was a little more fruitful, Princess Diana, Queen of Hearts had come to our suburb to open a new facility at the cancer treatment hospital that had only recently treated our own mother, so of course our mother had to be there, again with her sister our Auntie Irene and Syd, the most humorous of our uncles, I was all growed up by this time and working for my father and so was instructed to go home and take my recovering from chemotherapy mother to stand on the roadside and wave at Princess Diana, Queen of Hearts.
For some unknown reason I took my dog too, when I was at work my mother looked after Sam, my huge German Shepherd Dog and a beautiful sight she was too (the dog not my mother), a classic pointy-eared, black snouted GSD, a lovely example of the breed, large for a bitch she always sat proudly to attention and so it was that we all gathered there on the roadside that day to wave at another Royal, and Sam sat on the kerbside alert and wondering what the hell was going on.
We’d picked our spot well, standing at a tee junction where the Princess’s car would emerge, surely this time the driver would take the corner a little more carefully than HM The Queen’s had done those twenty years earlier – and yes, he did, the car turned slowly right in front of us and for a few brief seconds we were stood just a few feet away from Saint Princess Diana, Queen of Hearts, clearer of landmines and patron of Britax seat belts, she waved out of the window and as the car passed by she made eye contact with Sam, my dog, and she pointed and smiled, well I told you she was a beautiful dog, Sam not Diana.
And then she was gone, and we went home.
Oh yes, there was one more – just a couple of years ago when we used to have an office in these parts I was stood at the cash machine in front of my office when an old bloke came out of the hairdressers next door, he stood right behind me while his wife exited the hairdressers and I half turned to catch out of the corner of my eye a tall but very stooped heavily bearded figure with white hair, stood a little too close to me for my liking, me withdrawing ten pounds out of a cash machine and all, well you can’t be too careful can you.
Grabbing my tenner I turned fully around to see a very shiny Jaguar car waiting at the kerbside and a chauffeur, a proper chauffeur with uniform and cap and everything, helping an old woman out of the hairdressers – the old blokes wife.
The old bloke was Lord Harewood, first cousin to HM The Queen, lives a few miles away from here at Harewood House, a sprawling country pile that costs an arm and a leg to visit and point at his gold cutlery and quite impressive art collection, he’s a magpie of an art collector and displays them all in random arrangements throughout the house, you’ll miss the Picasso unless you know where it is, indeed most people mistake it as one of his Lordships childrens scribbles.
So there you are, I nearly chinned Lord Harewood, first cousin to HM The Queen for standing too close to me at a cash machine.