The day I danced for The Queen

Recently, Her Majesty, with Prince Philip, opened the new Rambert dance studios on the South Bank, London. Rambert has a class for the over-sixties and my wife and I enrolled some weeks ago – little realising that The Queen would ever think to come and have a look at us.

In the past few months, since living in Central London, The Queen and I keep bumping into each other. Not deliberately, it just seems to happen, inevitably I suppose since we are close(ish) neighbours. Twice she has whisked past me in a Bentley flying the Royal Standard. You know she is about to appear because police outriders proceed her, clearing a passage through the traffic. Then I happened to be walking in St James’ Park on the day she rode along The Mall in a horse-drawn carriage on her way to open Parliament. I stood pretty well by myself at a barrier and I’m confident she waved at me – or perhaps it was at a small group of Japanese people standing not far away taking, as they do, photographs rather than actually looking. A few weeks later, there she was again, outside my window, emerging from a visit to the National Theatre. ‘Outside my window’ may convey the wrong impression since I am on the seventh floor. But she was clearly visible from my window, and she was outside, so surely ‘outside my window’ is descriptively accurate.

And so we come to the day when the Queen and I were in the same room – admittedly a big room with about 30 other people, but never mind, we were together in the same room. Not for the first time, by the way, because many years ago, when the Queen and I were young, she attended Highclere Church where my father-in-law was Rector. There she was, right across the aisle from me, sitting in the front pew with the Earl of Carnarvon. Unfortunately he swept her away in his Rolls to Highclere Castle for Sunday lunch before I had a chance to say hello.

I didn’t get to say hello this time around either but that’s my fault because I tend to hide at the back of the class. This is because I have discovered that I can’t remember all the movements in any of the dance routines we practise. If I remember the beginning and the end, I forget the middle. If I remember the beginning and the middle, I forget the end. And so on – every combination you can think of except remembering the whole thing all the way through. Comfortingly, I have noticed that I am not entirely alone.

So, there was the Queen dressed in bright pink, with Prince Philip looking dapper in a dark suit, watching us politely as we pretended to ignore them whilst strutting our stuff. Prince Philip joked with the two ladies (only two blokes in the class) nearest to him – brave people with the confidence to be near the door! Apparently he said it all looked rather exhausting (I think he meant the routine, not us) and asked, incredulously, why we did it. They gave the proper answer: to keep agile, flexible, fit and to have fun.

I think I’d have been tempted to say, ‘We must stop meeting like this’.

Peter Honey

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