Wednesday, 18 April 2012

THE QUEEN AND I

Sounds frightfully grand, doesn't it? But last year I actually got to meet Her Majesty. This is what happened. My agent phoned and asked if I'd got the letter she'd forwarded. I hadn't. The post in our village is erratic at the best of times, and certainly doesn't arrive much before mid-day. I asked what she'd sent. She wouldn't tell me. I thought it must be a huge offer for a book, or a massive cheque - or even notifying me I'd won the lottery. But nothing could have prepared me for what she'd forwarded. It was an invitation to attend an evening reception at Buckingham Palace! I thought someone was playing a joke on me. It had to be a hoax! But there were stamps and seals and all sorts of hints that this was the real deal. Her Majesty was hosting a reception for prominent Australians ( no jokes about my bosome please, keep it clean) to attend for the evening prior to her leaving on her tour of Australia. I of course went into complete panic. What does one wear - it says day dress, but someone very helpfully said it was not the thing to wear black, so that was out. Such a shame, black is so forgiving of the fuller figure. I went on a diet - a very strict diet and then went shopping. Disaster. The shops are full of skimpy llittle numbers that go down to there and up to there, and show every bump, lump and curve. I'm a mature lady - I can't get away with it any more. I did Brighton, London, Lewes, and finally found something in Tunbridge Wells. But the diet had to continue, and I needed reinforced underwear to ensure that everything remained smooth and unrevealing. Spanks to the fore! Then it was the shoes. Not too high, I would be standing up for at least three hours. Had to be blue - it would go with the velvet jacket. Do you think I could find a pair of blue shoes that didn't have six inch heels and a wedge for the sole that made me clomp about like Coco the Clown? Did I heck? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Then I found a little shop in Sussex and found the very thing. Pretty, low heeled, smart and not a glitter or a sequin in sight. Dull, dull, dull, but oh so right for the occasion.
Him indoors was not impressed that he hadn't been invited - but then he's a Pom, and this was for Aussies only. He drove me to the palace and was turned back at the gates - no Poms allowed, he had to go away and come back later. Nothing like having a personal chauffeur, and him indooors is nothing like a personal chauffeur, believe me. The language turned the air blue.
I walked in behind Craig Revel thingy from Strictly - super fun, cutting wit, and altogether absolutely charming. Jason Donovan was lovely too, and we had a chat. Then I saw Hugh Jackman and the knees went. Lovely - and far too young for an old bat like me to get weak kneed, so I admired and drooled from afar. Canapes and champagne came round in never ending circles, but one has to be careful not to drink too much, and it's sod's law that if you bite into a canape it will go down your front or choke you. I drank, but didn't eat - remembering the diet and the very tight knickers that were holding everything in.
Everyone started moving towards the far wall and not knowing what was going on, I followed - a bit like a mob of sheep on round up. The doors opened, and wow. There she was. The Queen. That's when the truth hit, that's when I actually fully realised exactly where I was and what I was doing, for up to now it was all a bit of a dream. I was introduced to Her Majesty, and to Prince Philip, who has got a twinkle in his eye and looks damned good for a man of ninety. Then it was off into another room to drink more champagne, eat canapes and talk nonsense with the great and the good. Prince Edward appeared and we had a lovely long chat. He's very handsome and absolutely charming - I went quite weak kneed.
As the evening progressed I met lots of lovely people - quite difficult being a woman on her own at what was to all intents and purposes a cocktail party - him indoors would have loved it! At the end of the evening I was escorted down the many red carpeted stairs and out across the gravel and through gates by a lovely chap from Melbourne. Him indoors looked at him sideways and drove off rather quickly. I took off my shoes, rolled off my stockings, changed knickers and we went to the Cheddar Cheese in Fleet Street for supper. What a night. And what a priviledge. My grandmother would have been so proud - but then so was I. It was the most wonderful, amazing evening, and it all happened because I was an Australian author living in England! Writing can't get any better than this. All those long solitary hours working away - who knows. I might even get asked again.