The day I (almost) met the Queen
With the passing of the Queen, I have been thinking about the day I almost met her.
I’ve not got any photos of this to hand as it happened back in 2003 or 4 so you’ll have to take my word for it. Read on to find out why there wasn’t an adequate photo and how my friend nearly got assassinated… all in the space of around ten minutes the day I (almost) met the Queen.
Back then, I was hosting my own radio breakfast show in London. I came off air at 10am and our station manager, Steve, was rushing around all excited like a child on a sugar rush. The Queen was visiting the precinct where our radio station was based and so, as a local station at the time, we were to cover this event.
Our longest-standing presenter and the guy responsible for training people to present radio shows (he trained me), was called Joe. Joe is a radio veteran from the days of Radio Luxembourg. What Joe didn’t know about radio wasn’t worth knowing.
One other character features in this story, the lovely Donna. Responsible for the presenter’s schedules, Donna was also caught up in the enthusiasm of the Queen’s visit.
Upon hearing about the royal visit, my publicity mind went into over-drive and I began scheming how we could get the most exposure out of the visit for our station. I hatched a plan. ‘Donna, grab a camera and follow me!’ I snatched one of our radio logo signs off the wall and ran past Steve who was having a row with Joe about who was going to cover the visit live on the radio! Steve won; Joe couldn’t be bothered.
Next, chaos: due to our radio studios being fixed, every cupboard was being ransacked in the frantic search for a microphone with a long enough lead so Steve could lean out of the third-storey window and report live on what he could see. The only microphone that could be found in the flurry was an old fashioned one as shown.
You can sort of guess where this is going… a man leaning out of the third-story window with a glinting metal object in his hand and the Queen down below…
Meanwhile, Donna and I have legged it down the stairs and out into the crowds. Instantly, I clock many security guards lining the pavements and barriers, keeping the crowds under surveillance. As we wormed our way through the crowds, I explained my plan to Donna who was now swept up in the mania and shaking with excitement.
My plan was for me to hold the radio station sign up precisely when the Queen passed me, so we’d get a carefully crafted shot of the Queen, the sign and me smiling away. Great PR, me thinks.
‘Donna, when I say NOW, get the shot, OK?’ Donna wasn’t listening, instead buzzing with the excitement all around her and looking over heads to get a glimpse of the most famous lady on the planet.
All around us people were clapping, cheering and I could see security men with gizmos in their ears looking at me as I was fumbling with a large object: the radio station sign. At the same time, I looked up searching for Steve and looked straight back at the security guard. He followed my gaze… and he too saw Steve!
The guard immediately began talking into his watch… remember this is 2003/4 way before we had these kinds of watches! Yes, there was a man leaning out of a high window with a shiny metal object. At this exact time, the Queen was right behind me for the perfect photo op!
I thought it was now or never. So, leaving Steve to be taken out by a sniper (!), I turned to Donna who was now staring at the Queen in awe and wonder, held up my sign, positioned myself as best I could and said ‘Now!’.
Alas, Donna took my shout of ‘now’ to mean it was time to do what everyone else was doing and begin applauding the Queen. Donna let go of the camera (it was on a strap around her neck) and started clapping.
I quickly encouraged Donna to stop clapping and take the damn photo! Too late, the moment had gone.
Somewhere, there exists a photo of me holding that sign and you can just make out part of a lady the other side of the crowd barriers. It was the Queen. If I ever find it, I’ll add it to this post. For now, you’ll just have to take my word for it that I almost met the Queen!
(Steve wasn’t taken out by the sniper and covered the event with passionate showmanship and flair!)