From out of the Queen’s shadow and into the limelight live on Canadian radio (From Bucks Free Press)
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From out of the Queen’s shadow and into the limelight live on Canadian radio
12:07pm Friday 8th June 2012 in Editor's Chair
THE most interesting time of my entire 30-career came when I was a reporter on a local paper in Windsor, constantly covering royal events and shadowing the Queen.
It became second nature for us to trail around after our Monarch and her family as they went about their business in their home town. They were always attending or arranging events near Windsor Castle, and I rather took it for granted.
I never spoke with her or met her, but was often a few steps behind her and there was never any problem – because the Royals always have accepted being in the spotlight.
I have been reflecting on this as she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee because she has been a fabulous Queen. I watched her first hand on several occasions and she never put a foot wrong.
We did a number of decent stories about the Windsors, but all were fairly routine compared to the exclusives in the nationals.
So I was left with a problem when I joined the Bucks Free Press in 1989 and was asked by a Canadian radio journalist to go on air and talk about my time as a Royal Correspondent.
The Canadian in question was actually my cousin who had been tasked to ring the UK and find someone in British newspapers who was in the know to coincide with some major breaking Royal news of the day.
I suggested a couple of national names, but he replied he wasn’t able to get these people and that it had to be me.
For some reason, I accepted the challenge and went on air live in Montreal. I was introduced as a Royal expert and my heart sank as the unsuspecting interviewer launched into a series of Royal questions.
But my days of trailing our Sovereign stood me in good stead and I managed to fire off several convincing answers.
The interviewer clearly believed I was indeed some kind of expert so the questions got more difficult.
Finally, he said: “Okay Steve, well it’s time to wrap this up, but I have one last question.”
Phew, I thought, I’ve got away with it.
But then the question came: “In all your days as a Royal Correspondent, please tell me your funniest or most interesting experience.”
My life flashed before me as the inquiry sank in. How could I answer that when I had just been a lowly local newspaper hack?
I was about to be exposed as an imposter live on air in Canada, and perhaps this was an act of royal treason.
But suddenly inspiration hit. There had been one particularly bizarre story I had worked on, and I told it.
The Queen had been driving through a Windsor park when she had spied an inebriated man relieving himself against a tree.
In those days, mobile phones were virtually unheard of, but she had one – and rang through immediately to security to tell them to sort this fellow out.
The man was duly arrested and landed in court with a fine for being drunk.
I told all this to my Canadian listeners and finished off with the front page headline in the Sun which had screamed: “Queen nabs wee by the tree man.”
As soon as I finished, my interviewer roared with laughter and told me the tale was hilarious.
He then announced on air he would like to have me back another time to hear more of my anecdotes.
The sweat poured off my brow as I put the phone down and vowed never ever again to go back on radio in a foreign land.
Bizarrely, I had other relatives in Montreal at the time who were listening to the radio as they drove, and they almost crashed the car into a ditch when they heard me being interviewed from the UK.
So congratulations Your Majesty on your Diamond Jubilee. You won’t remember the young man standing in the shadows, but I’ll certainly never forget the days when I was privileged to follow you around.