The bar is hereby set to a new high for the The Day I Met… Competition. We’re talking mightily prestigious here. Almost John Peel level. Someone who has two birthdays each year. Holiday homes across the globe. Likes the gee-gees. She even knew Princess Diana. Yes… it’s the Queen. Queen Elizabeth II (or I if you’re Scottish). As monarchs go, she makes up in dignity what she lacks in liveliness.
Regardless of your politics (and you know how I compromised mine here and here), Queen Elizabeth is the sort of person for whom you’d want to scrub up well before meeting. You’d want to make a fairly good impression, wouldn’t you? Not encounter with your flies down or spinach between your teeth. You certainly wouldn’t want to encounter her when you were… say…. oh I don’t know… PISSED! (That means drunk, by the way, not angry, for any Americans reading this.)
Oh Rudy, Rudy, Rudy… (Picture me slowly shaking my head from side to side, a sorrowful expression on my face – my jaw tightly clenched to prevent me smiling inappropriately.) Where oh where did you think you and the Queen were – some dingy nightclub?
I’ll hand over to Rudy now and his story of…
The Day I Met… the Queen
I have to admit that if the invitation was a fake, it was a good one. It was a white rectangular card with black copperplate writing, with a raised gold crown and ER printed in the middle. Queen Elizabeth was coming to Prague and for reasons I was totally unaware, requested my presence at an official reception.
As it turned out, I was not alone. One of my colleagues, Lucy, had also received one, as too had my friend, Rick. None of us knew that the Queen was coming to the Czech Republic and we certainly didn’t know why we’d been invited. There was a problem for me. The reception was scheduled for a Friday and I actually taught in a place called Trutnov near the Polish Border at weekends. I had a quick word with my co-teacher and a bit of rescheduling solved that, though I was told that I had to address my students on the Saturday and tell them all about my experience.
The reception was held in a converted church which had had all ecclesiastical references removed. It had a vaulted wooden roof and stone walls. It was empty apart from a red carpet which had been laid out in a big square, and a long table which groaned under a weight of wine and glasses. We’d got there early expecting something spectacular – a mixture between a banquet and a buffet perhaps, with extravagant cakes, exotic sandwiches, an exotic food oasis in a country where pork and dumplings were the norm. What we got were crisps and Czech wine. The Czechs may lead the world in beer, but when it came to wine you were better off drinking nail varnish. Mind you, on this occasion we couldn’t argue about the price and it’s not every day you get to meet the reigning monarch. Although it was just after ten in the morning, we hit the wine in spectacular fashion. Apart from anything else, there was nothing else to do: waiting for the Queen is not an exciting experience.
Gradually the building filled up with the expatriate community’s great and good, while we filled up with free wine. When the Queen finally arrived I could barely stand up. Never before had I drunk so early, so quickly and on such severely substandard alcohol. I was not alone here. Rick was in a shocking state and Lucy was a mass of giggles. We were motioned to line up on both sides of the carpet as Prince Philip moved in one direction while the woman on the stamps moved in the other.
Royalty approached slowly, taking time to talk to the guests along the way. Rick was getting impatient and pointed towards the approaching monarch. He then opted to use the means of communication favoured by drunks the world over – the whisper that’s actually louder than his normal speaking voice. “Rudy, who’s the short Jewish-looking woman in the blue hat?” he exclaimed, smiling stupidly while his eyes rolled all over the place. In my inebriated state I thought this was the funniest thing I’d ever heard and had to leave my place on the carpet and hide behind a pillar to laugh. While I was struggling to find a handkerchief to stuff in my mouth I became aware of a man I took to be a member of security staring at me closely as if he thought I was reaching inside my jacket for a gun.
I managed to find my way back to the carpet as the Queen approached. To my absolute horror, she seemed to be talking to everyone. If I opened my mouth, the alcohol fumes would have knocked her over. “Please don’t speak to me. The woman in the Alice-band next to me looks much more interesting – talk to her.”
She clearly had the good sense to avoid Rick but noticed the flower in my buttonhole and asked me about it. I just stood there grinning at her like a nun with concussion. I managed to nod my head but as my body was swaying a bit I’m not sure if the gesture registered. That could be my knighthood knackered. I have no memory of Prince Philip walking past me at all.
It all seemed to be over rather quickly. Afterwards Lucy, Rick and I headed to a bar for lunch where we embraced the dumplings and beer with great enthusiasm. You can’t survive on crisps and rough wine, even if you’re meeting your head of State. God knows how I managed to navigate my way to Trutnov that afternoon.
Now that was shocking, wasn’t it? I was working not so far away on the other side of the Polish border once upon a time and I didn’t meet a single royal. I did meet a member of the Polish presidential military bodyguard though, who admitted he’d been terrified to meet Margaret Thatcher on a state visit. Well, not so much her as the British bodyguards who accompanied her. They looked so hard, my friend had been so scared that he’d accidentally drop his gun and they’d immediately shoot him.
But back to the author of the outrageous royal insult above – now you know why he writes about travel on his own blog so much. He’s in constant roaming exile, one step ahead of Buckingham Palace hit squads, unable to ever return home until a republic is declared.
Just think – the next time Rudy is associated with an official line-up, it’ll probably be a firing squad.
Thanks for the shocking story Rudy. I owe you a book. I’ll send it poste restante to some Abyssinian French dominion for when you are discharged from your current stint with the Légion étrangère.
If you’d like to submit your story of an encounter with a celeb of some sort – please do. Details of how to are here, but basically just email me your tale at paulwaters99 at hotmail.com You can check out past entries via the links below.
- The Day I Met… James Nesbitt
- The Day I Met… met Her!
- The Day I Met… the Colonel
- The Day I Met… Indira Gandhi
- The Day I Met… Billy Bragg
- The Day I Met… Gerry Adams
- The Day I Met… Telly (Kojak) Savalas
- The Day I Met… Frederick (Day of the Jackal) Forsyth