Now that HRH, Queen Elizabeth II has departed this earthly domain we, her subjects, have been left to lament the loss of a remarkable woman. For weeks we have heard the personal testimonies of hundreds who had met her or “knew her personally” and countless stories of her acts of kindness have been recounted. Selfless, dutiful, witty, humorous, resilient, steadfast and dedicated are just some of the adjectives that have been used to describe the former monarch. I never met the Queen. But we did have a relationship of sorts. I wouldn’t dispute, for a moment, the thousands of words that have been written in praise of Her Majesty, but I would like to point out, from my personal experience, there might have been a darker side. Many have suggested that the Queen loved Australia and Australians. The following true story (that I initially told some years ago) suggests that her passion for all things antipodean may be exaggerated. If the yarn misinterprets or misrepresents her actions in any way I trust that HRH would laugh it off as the ravings of a paranoid colonial.
It wasn’t that many years ago that one of the world’s most famous sport lovers may have attempted to do me in. Not just once, either. She may have made two attempts on my life on the one week-end. After failing in the first attempt (a lame effort carried out by a posse of her henchmen) she may have made up her mind that, if you wanted a job done properly, you had to do it yourself! I have no idea why this powerful woman would take offence at me. I cannot recall ever having done anything to provoke or threaten her. I had paid my taxes. I had been a loyal subject. I even recall having toasted her health once at a formal dinner. Be that as it may, it seems she may have made up her mind that I was a bother, and that I should be dispatched and this all made for an awkward week-end for me. Read the true story about the Queen’s dodgy week end of sports spectating and make up your own mind.
Public road bisects the race track
As the marketing and publishing lad for a United Kingdom healthcare publishing company, my office was in the oddly-named Berkshire hamlet of Maidenhead. The cottage where I lived was a half-hour drive away in the quiet Surrey village of Windlesham. If you draw a straight line between Maidenhead and Windlesham you will discover that the line bisects the famous Royal Ascot Race course. I have no idea if it still does so, but back in the nineties the road between Windlesham and Maidenhead (Winkfield Road) passed right across the middle of the home straight of the race track meaning that, at times when race meetings were being held, motorists would be detoured around the Ascot track. I was a regular user of this beautiful, hedge-lined, road and greatly enjoyed my twice-daily crossing of the famous race-track on my journeys to and from work. It was on one of the week-ends when the Ascot races was on (and the road was closed) that I nearly came to grief, twice, at the hands of the world’s most admired equestrian participant and supporter.
Late one Friday afternoon, looking forward to the up-coming week-end, I was driving home from work when I was diverted away from Winkfield Road (the races being on), so I had to take the longer route to the Ascot shops. Only a few minutes delayed, I pulled up my super cute little black Alfa 33 across the road from the Tesco store on the Ascot High Street. My mission? To purchase a cooked Tesco barbequed chicken and some Tesco coleslaw for my evening meal. I had no idea that the task would be so hazardous. I didn’t think for a moment that chicken purchasing could leave me vulnerable to the attention of an assassin previously presumed to be a kind and gentle grandmother.
Just after a chicken!
Despite the expected crowds of race day, the Ascot High Street was surprisingly uncrowded at the time. With not a vehicle anywhere in view I was able to amble, in a leisurely way, into the middle of the street, day-dreaming about my plans for the weekend ahead. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. Vehicle gates to the race course had suddenly opened a little way up the street and a pair of motor cycles followed by a rather hefty, black, Rolls Royce (or possibly Bentley) motor car had emerged from Royal Ascot and was now bearing down on me as I neared the centre of the road. Closer inspection revealed that the motor cycles were being ridden by burly police officers and the Rolls was being piloted by a gentleman wearing a formal driver’s uniform.
For a former rugby front row forward, luckily for me, I have always had a surprising turn of speed and a relatively impressive side-step. They came in handy. The motor bikes and Rolls showed little interest in the fact that I had gotten to my place in the middle of the road first and that they were the newbies in the area as they bore down on me. My arrogant glare in the direction of the bikes and car that intended to say “you wouldn’t dare” quickly turned to a panicked “shit… I think they would” as the procession continued to speed straight for me. I managed to side-step the on-coming motor bikes relatively easily, but it took a spectacular dive in the direction of the Tesco to prevent the Rolls from rolling right over the top of me. As I flew through the air I clearly saw fury in the eyes of the seventyish-looking woman sitting in the back seat of the car and I might have even seen her mouth the words “bugger… missed” just before I hit the tarmac. As hard as it is to believe, this was not the last attempt on my life by Her Majesty, The Queen, on that week-end. There was more horror to come at another sporting event!
Polo and my patriotic duty
Saturday passed uneventfully without a single violent attack from any member of the Royal Family or their friends or staff. Sunday was to prove more troubling, however. Nick, the son of the owners of the cottage I rented, couldn’t believe that a keen horseman like myself had never attended a polo match. While promising to organize for me to have a muck around on some of the ponies down at the local Berkshire Polo Club where he and his mates hung out, he also invited me to come and see one of their games this very Sunday afternoon. Figuring that polo and I were not a good match, I initially, knocked back his invitation. Nick was insistent, however. He explained that he wanted to show off his Aussie mate to his mates… and he let me know that it was my patriotic duty to come and support the future king of Australia at polo at least once. According to Nick, His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, would be protecting the goals in the big game for Berkshire this afternoon. I was thus left with no choice… or be found to be disloyal to my future King!
So, Sunday afternoon saw me driving my little Alfa just a few kilometres down the road to the Windsor Great Park where the game was to be played. The game itself was impressive enough with extraordinarily skillful and courageous human and equine athletes charging at each other at breakneck speeds to either whack a white cricket ball through some goals at one end, or prevent the ball from being belted through goals at the other end, of the paddock. Prince Charles himself was especially impressive. His primary role seemed to be one of galloping at full throttle into anyone who even remotely looked like they might be considering scoring a goal. There is no questioning the blokes bollocks! Despite the action on the pitch, I was bored by the end of the third chukka (the game seems to be full of long breaks where nothing much happened other than people wandering around the pitch replacing the grass divots created by the galloping ponies), so I made some excuse to my Berkshire-supporting friends and headed for the car park.
Out of control sports car
Just as I reached my car and opened the driver door wide to climb in, I heard a whole lot of loud muttering and tittering from folk clustered in the car park. I looked up and around to see what all the fuss was about and spied various people pointing at a sporty looking luxury car (Bentley or Daimler, I suspect) that was heading generally in my direction. Closer inspection revealed that an old lady dressed in country tweeds with a scarf tightly wrapped around her grey locks was hunched over the steering wheel. Even closer inspection revealed that the old lady was none other than Queen Elizabeth herself. Even closer closer inspection, showed that Her Majesty was up to her old tricks again and was steering her sports car straight at me. I didn’t have time to question her motivation or to beg for mercy. I dived into the driver’s seat and quickly slammed the door shut just as the green vehicle hurtled past only inches from my door. As the car flew by I swear I caught a quick glimpse of the driver muttering to herself “bugger… missed again!”
My belated attempt at bravado, “keep that sorry excuse of an oil leak the hell away from my beautiful little car,” fell on no ears at all, as the sports car with the old lady in the front seat and the grumpy looking body guard in the back disappeared down a lane and into the woods.
I know that the English and Australians tend to not get on very well when attending sporting fixtures, but my feeling is that the monarch takes the ill feeling a little too far. I have deliberately not attended any sporting events where any members of the Royal family are expected to be present ever since. Still… it could also be that I completely misinterpreted the intentions of the Monarch and that on both occasions she was just rushing home for a spot of tea and to not miss the next episode of “Neighbours.”