the new buildings of the institution where I once worked. It was the first time I had ever had anything to do with "royalty" apart from sitting on my father's shoulders and waving a flag to greet the Queen some years before.
The fuss went on for weeks beforehand. There were meetings. We were told what to wear. We were told how to behave and even what to say. The entire institution was scrubbed from top to bottom - even the parts he was most unlikely to see unless he looked into cupboards or behind the girls' bathroom.
There was friction between the staff over who was and who was not "being presented" and most of us were longing for the event to be over and done with. I was not "being presented". The powers that be had not even considered me as curtseying was considered to be the order of the day and those who had been chosen were being taught to "do it properly".
The great day arrived. We were struggling to control a great many profoundly retarded and normally restless children in hot sun.
Prince Philip took one look at us and promptly discarded all ceremony. He declared the place open in the briefest possible manner and used the extra time to wander through the classrooms and speak to each one of us.
I had a young "runner" in my class, a very dark skinned aboriginal child. He would, if the door was open, try to escape and someone would then have to chase him across the adjacent paddocks. Naturally this happened as Prince Philip entered my classroom, almost knocking him over.
"Does that happen often?" he asked
"All the time," I told him.
"I don't know how you put up with it."
He shook hands with me as if nothing had happened and went on.
Years later I was at university in another part of the world altogether. Prince Philip came to open a science conference of some sort. My tricycle had, we all thought, been tucked well out of sight under an adjacent verandah. At the last minute the weather failed to cooperate and the Prince came in through that entrance rather than through a torrential downpour. He spied the tricycle and promptly wanted to have a look at it, indeed he wanted to see the underside. That would have been impossible unless I unlocked it.
He had to open the conference of course but a staff member and a member of his entourage were sent to find me so that the bike could be unlocked if he remembered he wanted to see it.
I was definitely not dressed for meeting royalty! I thought I would just be able to unlock my bike and quietly disappear. I thought he would forget and that the whole business was a waste of time.
Not so. Prince Philip was on his way back from the opening ceremony. I was to wait in case he wished to ask me anything. I was asked something about myself so he could be prepared but I just said I was doing some research there. I did not mention anything about the previous incident. I did not wish to feel embarrassed all over again!
He strolled up talking to the minder who had spoken to me. Then, without waiting for an introduction, he held out his hand to me and said,
"Gave up trying to chase the little devil did you?"