Thursday, 14 April 2011

Royal landings

Yesterday's post about Vevey reminded me that when I was last there in the late 1980's there was a ripple of activity at the landing stage and lo! Queen Fabiola of the Belgians and her husband - was that Baudouin ? stepped onto the quay from a boat which had presumably brought them from Geneva or stops along the way. Unless they had come across from Vichy? I think the mayor of Vevey might have turned out to greet them, but otherwise they just strolled off like any other couple enjoying the spring sunshine. Oddly, some years later I experienced another episode of an unannounced royal arrival. I was mooching about on the quayside at Lochinver with my friend Tony when we noticed two policemen with sniffer dogs giving the little motorboats tied up alongside the once-over. I asked them if it was a drugs raid and one of them said:`No, Princess Anne is about to arrive' and sure enough, round the mole came a small and very unroyal-looking fishing vessel type of boat. Tony and I formed up in a line of three with a Frenchman who was on the quayside, and as HRH drew near in a small launch Tony said to the Frenchman that she and I had been at school together (true enough - but being older than her, I had left before she arrived). We were not sure whether to attempt a cheer but she gave us a friendly smile before going off to open a new sports hall and a reception. The Frenchman was enormously impressed by my slightly exaggerated royal credentials and immediately insisted on giving Tony and me a guided tour of his boat, which was a vast fishing factory ship tied up and waiting for a spare part for an engine. I took on the role of Princess Anne, shaking hands with the piratical-looking crew deep in the hold and asking them if they had come far. We saw how the catch was processed and packed in ice before being put on a conveyor belt back up to the quay where it is loaded onto lorries bound for France and Spain. The Frenchman turned out to own a chain of French supermarkets and was on a periodic visit of inspection to the ship when the engine had broken down. On the news this morning it is reported that David Cameron went last night to have supper with 'Sarko', who was a friend of our quayside supermarket supremo; on a subsequent visit to his home town in Normandy he showed us a photograph of him and Nicolas with their arms around each others shoulders - this being before he was elected President. NATO is in the news too, because of Libya, which our PM and President Sarkozy met to discuss. All I have to tell you about NATO is that when I was there on a visit, sometime in the 1990's, the coathooks were not in use because if you tried to hang a coat on them they fell off the wall. Ponder that thought. Oh! and one last thing: last night a Swede who I dated 50 years ago emailed me to say 'how do'. How about that !

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