Village Talk



In 2002 I had the honour of reporting on Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee while working as the news editor of the Slough and Windsor Express.

Our paper had been granted the coveted Royal Rota pass, which meant we, rather than our rivals at the Slough Observer, got to follow behind the Queen and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, as they greeted the throngs of supporters lining the high street in Slough, Berkshire.

Wearing an elegant green dress and hat, the Queen spoke to people on the right hand side of the road, while her husband, whom she called her ‘strength and stay’, chatted to those on the opposite side.

My job was to keep one eye on Her Majesty, make a note of the person she was speaking to by jotting down remarks like ‘lady in pink polka dots’ in my notebook, and then rushing over to that person and asking what the Queen had said, all while keeping an eye on the Queen’s diminutive figure ahead of me.

It was a demanding and yet exhilarati­ng experience, which I have never forgotten.

I remember being taken aback by how tiny she was, barely five foot, and yet a giant in so many other respects. She had a glow which shone a special light on each and every person she stopped to talk on that special day.

Following the walkabout, I took up my post with other reporters to watch as school children from Slough sang The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love to a beaming monarch. They had spent months rehearsing and there were lots of relieved smiles at the end of the performanc­e.

My newspaper was based in the

Queen’s backyard, a stone’s throw from Eton, where Princes William and Harry went to school, Her Majesty’s favourite residence, Windsor Castle and the Ascot racecourse, where I got to cover Ladies’ Day.

As I look back on that period of my life and the deep sadness I feel at the death of Queen Elizabeth II, I still find it hard to put into words the effect seeing members of the royal family has on you and on the people they meet.

Having lost my own mother just one year ago, I know how awful it is to lose a parent. It must be worse for Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward, their wives, grandchild­ren and great-grandchild­ren, who will have to grieve with the eyes of the world on them.

Who can forget the image of Queen Elizabeth alone in the chapel at Windsor at her beloved husband’s funeral?

As Charles now takes on the mantle of king, I look back at the two occasions I got to report on him.

While Prince of Wales he visited a local primary school and I took numerous photos of him happily crouching down, asking what they were doing at school and admiring their handiwork.

Later in my career, after I returned home, I covered Charles and Camilla’s visit to see King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzul­u on a sweltering­ly hot day in Ulundi. These were two very different kinds of monarchies, but the respect they had for each other was tangible.

I still can’t quite believe that Britain’s second Elizabetha­n age has ended and that a truly remarkable woman has left us. What I do know is that I will treasure my royal moment with the Queen and say with gratitude, ‘Thank you Ma’am for everything’.

For more stories about Queen Elizabeth II turn to page 10.

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