Now have you ever met any members of the Royal family? Regular readers will be aware that I’m not exactly the most ardent fan yet somehow I’ve ended up meeting a few of the ones in this balcony scene over the years and the experience has always been, well, joyless. They are a bloody miserable bunch.
I have to say first up that I’m really talking about the older generation of ‘the Firm’. The younger mob seem up for a bit of fun so I’ll excuse them from this description. Anyway first up was a meeting with Princes Anne when she was guest of honour at a motor sports award evening we hosted in the early days of Cellent. My daughter E, then 9-10, was selected to present HRH with the appreciation bouquet, which she did beautifully I thought. We had a little bit of chit chat with the Princess straight afterwards and she was a wee bit curmudgeonly about the fact that E had presented the posy rather quickly. Oh there must have been a ‘correct pace’ directive which we missed off the list of things that E had to do/not do in her company. I did get the distinct impression however from her royal snippiness that she wasn’t exactly a major motor racing fan and the only reason she was attending our event was to collect the substantial cheque in her role as Patron on behalf of Save the Children. I would like to have thought that a £100k donation might have bought us a few regal smiles but alas no. Many years later with BT’s sponsorship of the Scottish Rugby Union I had several invitations, as Head of Sponsorship for the company, to sit in the box at Murrayfield with some of the blazers and the Princess Royal who is their Patron, of course, and an ardent fan I’m told. But I couldn’t forget or forgive that curtness and always declined, preferring to watch and enjoy the games without having to worry about the speed at which one sat down and stood up or the rate at which one clapped a Scottish try (a rare spectacle).
Rewind a few years back to Cellnet days again and to a nationwide promotion we were running to foster safer driving skills. Mobile phones were becoming more popular and beginning to attract some criticism because drivers were using them whilst driving and it was rapidly being seen as a distraction which could cause accidents. All of our advice was to only use phones hands-free whilst driving but we accepted the criticism and the Safer Driving Challenge was designed to position the company as one which cared deeply about the issue of improving road safety generally. Over the course of a couple of years the Challenge attracted more and more participants and stacks of positive media attention. Then at one of the regional finals being held at Crowthorne testing ground, we got word that Prince Michael of Kent was heading down to visit the event. He was President of the RAC and a Patron of many auto and road safety bodies, including his own awards. I seem to remember we got some kind of commendation from him, sporting the largest kipper tie-knot I’ve ever seen, and as such were nominated for a major road safety award from the motor industry. We took a table at the event and invited my Sales and Marketing Director along as word was we were a major winner. This looked like being one of those days when my little initiative paid dividends in spades not just for the company but for me personally. Well we only went and received the major award on the day, woo hoo, but it became clear that there was a sting in the tale because after giving my Director the award we then had to listen to a 20 minute diatribe from the head of the organisation, and whilst referencing the good works of the dashing Prince, proceeded to lambast the mobile industry for causing death and mayhem on the roads. My Director left in a foul mood leaving the main award behind for me to bring back to the office where it ended up in the bin. Like my career for the next 6 months. Thank you very much Kent.
Next up the Children’s Royal Variety Show where a little known band called Take That were making their break-through performance. We were guests on the day and all my daughters there to meet Robbie and co. The guest of honour that day was HRH Princess Margaret about whom I’ve written about before as a dreadful piece of work. All the back-stage guests had been briefed about what not to do in her mighty presence; look at her, smile at her, address her without being spoken to first, touch her, annoy her etc etc. She wafted in with a retinue of hangers on reeking of fags, spoke to some of the pretty boys then went to a private reception to meet the key organisers including my old friend B and his then wife V. He said later that she was just about the snottiest person he’d ever met. We had a good old time despite the Margo cargo and at least one of the girls got kissed by Mark Owen. I seem to recall that I got goosed by that bloke in Right Said Fred.
My final meeting with Royalty was the most intimate I guess. An old sponsorship friend Ian S had invited me to this event hosted at the British Museum. It must have been a charity thing because the guest of honour this time was the old girl, the Queen Mother. I have to say that things were a lot more relaxed and during the course of the evening Ian spotted HRH coming over and said ‘let me introduce you to her’. I didn’t really get chance to say no and didn’t mind anyway. She toddled up and Ian bowed slightly and ever so politely said to her ‘Ma’am may I introduce you to Paul Leonard, Head of Marketing at Cellnet, one of this evening’s supporters’. She looked a little distant for a second or two, I think she may have had a couple of G&Ts, but she could have been thinking I guess as she then said ‘Ah Cellnet…fascinating…that would be the rail company?’ ‘Mobile phones, ma’am’ I replied and couldn’t stop myself from holding my outstretched thumb and little finger up to my ear and mouth to signify one of the new-fangled cellphones. I think she thought I was asking her to give me a call sometime. And the look on her face suggested I’d broken the ultimate taboo; to ask the Queen Mother for a date.
She didn’t call me. Bit rude.
So excuse me for feeling more than a little disappointed with the not so merry Windsors.
ps I’ve just opened a twitter account @PastaPaulie. I’ve no idea what to do with it but if you like the blog do please start following!