Tuesday, 11 November 2008

How is it I don't know The Queen?

During my camping and tramping years of the 1980s, I once spent a night in the High Pennine town of Alston. After pitching my tent (with permission) at the ruined mill down by the river, I set off on a round of the pubs and ended up at the "top of the town", The Swan.
There was a guy sitting there looking very grumpy and depressed, so I tempted him into conversation and it turned out that he was a landscape gardener of sorts, a designer of water features. Apparently he was in the Pennines looking for ideas and inspiration.
His name was Dougie Knight and he told me that he was responsible for designing the artificial waterfall and water displays at the Chelsea Flower Show each year. In fact, the Show was coming round again soon and he gave me his card, and wrote down the date that the Show would be televised.
He said that he would meet The Queen again there and that each year they had a little chat together. This was all true, by the way, as I did remember to watch it on T.V.
On the following morning, as I was having breakfast at the little cafe in the ancient Market Square, which is reputed to be the highest market place in Britain, I was sharing a table with an elderly couple. By way of conversation, I told them about my meeting with Dougie Knight. When I came to the bit about The Queen, I noticed the old lady giving her husband many digs and kicks and urging him to "go on, tell him!"
Eventually, the old bloke spoke up. He knew The Queen very well, he said, having been a member of a platoon of soldiers whose sole duty during the early part of WW2 was to guard the "Royal Children". Naturally, they spent many hours in each other's company and The Queen addressed them all by their first names. He still got a Christmas card off her each year!
What a co-incidence, could you believe it?
When I got home, I was telling my family and couldn't help bursting out with "how is it I don't know The Queen? Every bugger else does!"
With characteristic lack of sympathy, my eldest son replied;
"Get yourself back to Alston, somebody might introduce you."