10 February 2010

Slow News Day

HMQ
There we were: me and Cosey sitting quietly waiting for the London bound train to depart on our way to Cosey's lecture at the Red Bull Music Academy in London.
Hang on a minute... there seems to be a lot of police in the station for a Monday morning, usually there are none. Oh they've got sniffer dogs too, and here come some more police in flak jackets with sub-machine guns, and those guys at the end of the carriage must be spooks or plain clothed cops - well they're definitely not civilians, civilians don't usually wear those single earpieces. And that woman coming down the aisle wearing a dark suite and a humorless expression has a pistol peeking out from under her jacket. OK, so the carriage we're sitting in at the front of the train - the 10.55 from King's Lynn - is basically swarming with constabulary, uniformed or otherwise, who are giving everyone the once over.

It wasn't ‘that’ unusual to see activity around our little train station. Living in this part of Norfolk we've got used to seeing the odd dignitary, or celeb. I would think it's much the same in many English rural towns with picturesque views, castles and quaint tea rooms. We get a a couple of movies and a few TV shows shot around here each year and it’s not unusual for the odd actor and politician dropping by. I even saw Al Pacino once, sauntering around the market - surrounded by 'minders'. And of course everyone around here has seen Stephen Fry shopping in town at some time or another, he's a local. I know it’s probably hard to believe - and I’m not blowing our own trumpets here (well not much) - but me and Cosey even get recognised and stopped for autographs in town at least a couple of times a year: see... I told you it was hard to believe? But I suppose our inconspicuous market town's biggest claim to fame must be our famous neighbour: HM Queen Elizabeth II, whose winter residence Sandringham is a couple of miles up the coast road.

So we're waiting on the train putting two & two together and thinking it will probably be Prince Philip (HMQ's hubby) going down to London again, we've seen him plenty of times... so no big deal. Or maybe it's some terrorist related exercise or other, who knows? But the train is ready to go and we're all just sat there waiting with restless flatfoots in abundance, when this petite, white haired figure in blue, wearing a silk headscarf bobs past our window and ducks into the (only and empty) 1st Class compartment in our carriage. The passengers (well those who saw her) do a double-take and the penny drops and everyone is like "oh... right, that's what all the dogs and bodies and hardware were for". The scenario was vaguely surreal to say the least.. we were to be accompanied on our journey by the Queen of England and her Royal entourage.

Once we'd set off, well we'd set off... that was that. It seemed mildly inconvenient with all the plods everywhere: eyeballing, taking up seats and wandering up and down and generally lounging to attention outside the 1st Class compartment - although unfortunately I saw no marching and saluting, is that inappropriate on a train? Maybe... anyway a few people joked that we'd bound to be on-time (ha ha!) and that the driver seemed to be driving the train a bit smoother than usual (is that even possible?), then - as you do on a 90 minute journey - we checked our emails and went on Twitter and of course we did a few Tweets about HMQ - as you would - and thought little more about it really. Although... it was fun ‘gun spotting' the plain clothed cops who went up and down the aisle. "he doesn't have one, she has a big one, he has a small one, that guy looks like he has two".

About 30 miles down the line we stopped at Ely station and a family of Americans got on board - we have a lot of 'US cousins' in this part of England, because of all the US air bases around here in East Anglia, so it was not an entirely unexpected addition. They sat next to me and Cosey - actually they sat down on either side of us - and were all gushy and full of "OMG! we just saw the Queen of Enger-land in the front compartment" and "it can't be the Queen of Enger-land, what's she doing on the 10.55 from King's Lynn?" Good question. Then the conversation went along the lines of: "why doesn't she go by State limo? why doesn't she fly to London - surely she has her own jet, like Air Force 1? or in her own helicopter, or her own train, surely her own train carriage?” All perfectly reasonable questions but we only knew the answer to one: she used to have her own train but stopped using it long ago due to 'Royal cost-cutting', or something, but don't quote me on that it could just be an urban myth. But their best quote had to be: "I've lived my whole life and never seen a US President in the States, I come to the UK and The Queen of Enger-land is on the first train I get... wait till I tell the folks back home". Cosey pointed out that as Britain is much smaller than the USA the the odds of bumping into Royalty were much higher here, which kind of went over their heads. But they did seem quite concerned that our dear old HMQ was traveling by public transport. So we told them not to worry as she was on a train full of highly trained armed guards and sniffer dogs to look out for her. But the 'sniffer dogs' comment got them worried about 'terrorist threats' and that maybe the train would be a ‘terrorist target’. So we let them worry and went back to our emails and Tweets. Until... they decided this was a Kodak moment, a photo opportunity not to be missed. Out came the cameras, flashes popping and, as we were only 5 or 6 rows from Her, not very discreet. Of course we got a visit from a stern plain clothed plod, who takes the two adults to one side for a wrist slapping and a dressing-down, and we overhear 'disrespect' and 'privacy' bandied about. All very funny - well it was for us at least.

As predicted by the wags at the beginning of the journey we did actually arrive on time at Kings Cross, and came to an unusually gentle halt, definitely none of the usual lurching and stalling. But once we'd disembarked we were all held on the platform by a line of police while HMQ - now looking all spick and span and sans head scarf - toddled off to a waiting limo outside the station.

There is no point to this story - well it's not even a story, more an anecdote - I'm just relaying what happened on one of the slightly more interesting trips we regularly take to London. But to bring this tale to an end... the next day The London Evening Standard decided to run a quarter page piece on our trip with HMQ: 'Her Majesty's close encounter with industrial anarchy' (LINK). They mention the Tweets (word for word) and lie about attempting to contact me and say “how tame they look nowadays”. WTF? They also refer to me as a "rocker & DJ" - which is very funny because anyone who knows me would agree that the "rocker" tag is about as inaccurate a description of me as you could make. But I'm still trying to figure out though why they decided to use an ancient photo of Genesis in a piece about me and the Queen. Unless it's some ironic reference to another old queen!
(no offense meant Gen...)

2 comments:

DIL23 said...

hehe - nice one ;-)

Mark said...

Nice anecdote, but classic closing comment!

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