It is a truth universally acknowledged that most of us are pretty ambivalent about the Royal Family - unless they just happen to be rockin' up on our doorstep. At which point, a large proportion of us go a bit potty.
Today, The Queen is having a Manchester Mini-Break. While she won't be largin' it up at Fab Cafe or having a rummage in Afflecks Palace, she will be taking in a fair few of sunny Manchester's sites.
Technically speaking, I've just seen her in Salford, for the opening of the new BBC buildings at MediaCity UK - but let’s not split hairs.
It's not the first time I've had a brush with the Queen - the first time was in 1977. It was Silver Jubilee year and she was visiting Doncaster Racecourse. I was 8 years old and I was due to attend a special party for Sunday School and May Queen's. I apparently was the only one who wasn't a Queen on that day. Unfortunately we missed her, arriving late because our Sunday School Queen got travel sick in the back of the mini bus and threw up in her crown.
Faced with a minibus of disappointed children and mothers on the verge of a riot, the bus driver then tried to head off the Royal cavalcade, driving at break neck speed along the back roads of Doncaster, until we finally got ahead. Leaping out of the bus like The A-Team, we quickly arranged ourselves by the side of the road, Union Jack Flags in hand ready to cheer and wave. Sadly the Queen was looking the other way when the cars passed, but The Duke of Edinburgh gave us a cheery wave.
Our Sunday School Queen missed the whole lot - she was still throwing up in a bush.
Then there was the time that the Royal Train was due to pass along the track (Doncaster to Rotherham) which went along the bottom of our garden. We waited patiently by the crossing at the allotted hour, only to have the train trundle past - with all the blinds drawn down! I guess the 1980’s slag heaps of South Yorkshire weren’t the prettiest of views.
My last brush with The Queen was actually at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party for her Golden Jubilee in 2002. The Queen was the patron of the charity I worked for at the time. Because it was her Jubilee year, she’d decided to throw an extra party for all her charities – who all got an allocation of tickets. While some were given to board members at my charity, there were two tickets which went into a prize draw for the staff. My name was picked out.
I’m not convinced it was an altogether fair selection – my mum had died two weeks earlier. In fact we’d watched the Jubilee celebrations from her room in the hospice the week before she died. So I suspect it was a sympathy selection, but I wasn’t about to turn it down. I wore a huge hat to the Palace and ate tiny sandwiches. My colleague and I decided to make up a posh persona each. I was Dame Wendy of Wigan (the famous pie magnate). I remember The Queen being tiny, and phoning my dad from the toilets (you weren’t supposed to take mobile phones in):
Me “Dad – I’m in the toilets at Buckingham Palace”.
Dad “What are you doing in there?”
So today – when I heard she was coming to my patch, I decided to make Friday 23rd March 2012, the day I saw The Queen.
As usual I was late – sprinting past The Imperial War Museum and the new Coronation Street set (currently under construction) to take my place in the crowds. There were overtones of 1977 – she’d already arrived – bugger – but I would still be able to see her leave. Sweating, I managed to find a vantage point outside the CBeebies building, on a planter full of daffodils. It wasn’t very dignified – someone had to help me up! Still, it could have been worse, I could have been dressed as a parrot, or Elvis, or an ice-cream cone. All of whom were there to run the Sport Relief mile.
I caught the briefest glimpse of her as she left the building and headed over towards the BBC canteen! She looked lovely in dusky pink, like the little old fluffy grandma that she is. Straining to see over tall people (curses for being so short), I managed a couple of snaps.
I then legged it over to the other side of the plaza, where the royal car was waiting and got a really good close up view – those tactics learned way back in 1977 served me very well today.
She started the Sport Relief fancy dress mile – and then she was gone, in a puff of talc, off to have lunch at Manchester Town Hall.
Until next time Maam …….