Thursday, 17 November 2011

A Brush with Royalty

My young friend and I took a comfortable ride to Windsor by taxi yesterday evening rather than battle our way from the car park with a big easel. It was the evening of the big dinner where the Duke of Edinburgh was retiring from his position as Chairman of the Prince Philip Trust. The initial reception was held in several rooms – Ours seemed to be populated by a galaxy of Mayors. (What is the collective noun for mayors and ex-Mayors – surely not a ‘Stable’ as one of them suggested). At least ten Mayors of Windsor were there. Soon Prince Philip arrived and chatted to several of us for a while before we proceeded to the magnificent dining room where over 200 of us were due to have dinner. And what a spectacular feast it was. Six courses served so efficiently and speedily. We were on the nearest table to the top table – right next to where my painting was displayed (covered by it’s blue and gold cover). Here it is -  partly obscured by the cover before it left my home.

The guests on our table included Lady Joanna Palmer  - my friend from many years ago when her husband was the Constable Governor of Windsor Castle, one of the Windsor Mayors and the Headmaster of Eton College.  When it became time for my speech, after a very flattering introduction by Trustee Kevin McGarry  MVO, I must admit a little frog had decided to lodge itself in my throat, but I’m told all went well. Here are a couple of pictures taken at the time – a bit blurry I’m afraid

I did a silly thing the other day. When I arrived home with the Duke’s painting, after having the cover made, I took it upstairs to my flat, leaving the rear door of my car open. When I came down I got into the car closed the door and panicked because the steering wheel had disappeared! Yes, I w,as sitting on the back seat.

What have I been doing the rest of the week? Mainly drawing a pencil portrait of my second cousin, Derek, as a surprise present for his widow, Joyce. I took it to the frame maker in Reading this morning, together with the painting of Shirley, the saxophone player, which I also am having framed

About this time every year, Sarah Booth puts on a big display of her beautiful hand-made jewellery. This year she booked the Thames Room at Phyllis Court, so I popped in there in on Wednesday morning. It seemed I was the ‘token male’, but I bought seven or eight great Christmas presents while there.
My friends Joanna Dalston and her daughter Nicola – visiting from the USA – came over for lunch at Val’s on Thursday, and On Friday, Mollie, Jackie and Tony Hobbs invited us to dinner in the Orangery at Phyllis Court.
Sunday was another brilliant and sunny day so I helped my young friend clear all the leaves from her lawns and became the anchorman at the bottom of her ladder while she cut away all the stray fronds from the Virginia creeper that had entwined itself around her house.
The autumn leaves are really hanging on this year in the mild weather. Here are a couple of scenes in the woods at Nettlebed on the outskirts of Henley.

Now I’m going to get back to the big painting I’ve just started of a Spitfire flying over Henley, and this evening, after a game of ‘Colours’ at the snooker club, I might put in an hour or so doing a bit more to my model Spitfire.


RG9 said...

Sir William - for that is how we must now address you after your brush [sorry, no pun intended!] with Royalty [tho' I think they are into ermine and not sable] - yet another marvellous blog recounting your comings and goings.

On the wall behind my desk is a picture of a Supermarine 300 - as the Spitfire was originally called. Painted by Gerald Coulson, it is only a limited edition print signed by the artist but, and far more importantly for me, it also bears the signature of one of the three test pilots, Jeffrey Quill, whom I had the honour to meet in his dotage.

In the 1980's I had an office at Castle Vale, Birmingham, that had been the control tower for one of the factories producing the Spitfire during the war [and in which I was storing the biggest of all of the European Community grain mountains! Funny old world!!].

The Spitfires were so urgently needed at the Battle of Britain aerodromes that, if they flew well on their test flight, the fuel was promptly topped up and off they went with no armaments on board as these were fitted at the destination.

If the men and women of the Auxiliary Air Transport Service bumped into Jerry, their only defence was the superior speed of the lighter than normal Spitfire when hurled into a steep drive with some very, VERY, low level-hedge-hopping to save their skins - and the all-important plane!

I also think they only had ammunition for something like 12 to 15 seconds of firing, so in the thick of a dogfight, the pilot had to try and remember how many brief bursts he'd fired in order to keep a couple of seconds firepower should he be jumped by Jerry during the landing at his airfield.

The Spitfire really was - and still is, thank goodness - an amazing aircraft. For me, only Concorde stands alongside it!

Mona said...

Sir William indeed! Congratulations on what I'm sure was a very successful unveiling, and I am proud just to know you Bill, but very proud of you also. Cheers!