(Stories posted on Mondays on this blog – at least for a while – will present famous people I once spotted, albeit from a distance.)
It was 1970. Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and youthful Prince Charles and Princess Anne were to visit the Sunken Garden in the city of Napier’s Marine Parade. The Queen had instituted the “walkabout”. She would walk along the street with a barricade preventing subjects from getting too close, and offer a gloved hand to thrilled and glowing underlings spontaneously selected.
Napier is an eastern coastal city half way up New Zealand’s North Island. It is best known for a devastating earthquake in 1931 that killed lots of people. My mother was in it! As the city was completely rebuilt in the 1930s, it is an outstanding example of the Art Deco style of the time. And on the seafront it has a sunken garden with a floral clock.
I lived within biking distance from the sunken garden. In those days you could lean your bike against a lamp post and it would still be there when you came back. My friend said, “Let’s go see the queen.” It had never occurred to me to do that, so we hopped on our bikes and set off.
My friend and I had a technique to get to the front of a crowd, and indeed on this day the crowd lining the street was impassable. We needed to get to the front. In those days the Catholic Mass was in Latin and we had both been altar boys. Separated from each other by a few yards we started calling out Latin to each other as if we were having a conversation in a foreign language (even though we didn’t have a clue what it meant). The crowd stepped aside. We important foreigners walked to the front for a brilliant view.
AND… HERE THEY COME! The queen toddled past to applause followed by Charles and Anne. Prince Philip lagged behind. He clearly too often stopped to chat to people. As he passed the lady next to me called out, “Hey Duke, come over here!” He turned, wagged his finger at her, and said “Aha! Aha!”
Oh my goodness me! That was the day Prince Philip said “Aha! Aha!” and I saw…
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second