The 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death prompted me to recall her visit to Harrogate District Hospital.
I remember it well. She wore a green suit and many staff, including me, raced round the hospital running up back stairs and along corridors so that we could catch as many glimpses of her as possible as she was escorted to various departments and wards.
I remember her coming down one flight of stairs and standing there with a big smile pointing right and left and saying “which way”.
The Day I had Lunch with the Queen
December 10th 1998, a momentous day in the history of Harrogate District Hospital! The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were coming to town and they were coming to the hospital to open the Strayside Wing!
So what, you may ask, but after 36 years in the nursing profession I was to retire on that same day. The Queen had asked to have lunch with a representative of every department and I was lucky enough to represent nursing! So, at the end of a ward round I closed the book, went to get dressed, clean dress for the Queen, and went up to Trust Headquarters where a “pop up restaurant” had appeared.
When the seating plan came out there I was at a table for eight and I was sitting opposite the Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh at the next table.
An equerry told us we could talk about anything and curtsy if we wanted to!
So in they came, we were all very nervous, we had accepted a glass of water - keep off the alcohol, clear head needed! The Queen was clutching a Gin and Dubonnet and the Duke had a pint of Theakstons so then it was drinks all round! Proceedings opened with the Queen asking us to introduce ourselves. “I’m the Queen” she said, which really did put at us at ease!
A delicious meal was served but the Queen used her fish knife and fork to eat her melon and then had to eat her salmon with her knife and fork. Was she as nervous as us? Pudding was Yorkshire Curd Tart. She pushed it with her fork and said “What’s that?” We explained and one of the ladies said she would send the recipe. I wonder if that was on the Christmas menu at Sandringham?
Earlier in the day they had been to Harrogate Theatre to see a rehearsal for “Aladdin” She told us that she and Princess Margaret had performed the same pantomime at Buckingham Palace during the war. She admired our newly opened Marks and Spencer opposite the theatre and when we asked her if she goes shopping on these visits, her answer was “I can’t go shopping, thank goodness for catalogues”. I could feel my face reddening as we all suppressed laughter. Let your imagination run wild - now we know where the Christmas presents come from!
The Queen asked me what I was going to do in retirement. We had all had to send a resume about ourselves and my reply was that I would be looking after my new grandson age three months. Her reply was: “Isn’t it awful when they get you up in the night”! Cue more suppressed laughter!
The conversations went on all through the meal and it seemed las though you were talking to a friend. We see her on the TV all the time but felt that we all knew her personally - very easy to talk to and laugh together.
Finally, she applied her lipstick at the table for the TV cameras next door when I told my mother, she was disbelieving. “Ladies don’t do that” was her remark!
What a way to spend your last day at work. What do I do now? Just get in the car and go home for the first day of your new life?