I nearly got run over by Prince Phillip in Windsor. This was thirty years ago and he was pretty crap at driving even back then. He came barreling out of the Windsor Horse Show in a Range Rover and just missed me. I think he’d been driving a horse and carriage at the show and he was still in competitive mode when he left. I presume that explained the whip he had in his hand, although it wasn’t doing the Range Rover’s paintwork much good.
I lived in Windsor back in those days and I recently thought it was safe to risk a return visit, seeing as Phil the Greek has been told to hang up his driving gloves. I’m still surprised that I actually lived in Windsor, it was far too posh for the likes of me. I remember feeling obliged to go to Slough for my entertainment rather than risk the local pub going quiet when I walked in. Although it was really because Windsor wasn’t allowed a noisy nightclub, one of the downsides of having grumpy neighbours that live in a castle.
Living on an overdraft in a damp rented bungalow, which I really couldn’t afford, was quite a contrast to my latest visit to Windsor. I’d blagged a free suite at a country-house hotel. This was after our last visit to this hotel had coincided with a ladies fitness event. This meant that the hotel had been teeming with overweight middle-aged women in fluorescent Lycra that were mostly there to party rather than sweat.
Any chance of a relaxing marital shag was immediately scuppered by the pounding of the floorboards above to the machine-gun beat of a techno-music fitness class. This was followed by cacophonous screaming, cackling and numerous singalongs of ‘I Will Survive’ as their disco went on until the small hours. A free night’s stay in a suite was the least the hotel could have come up with, a course of therapy would have been more appropriate.
Apart from this outward, and fraudulent, display of affluence in our free hotel accommodation (the overdraft still exists), we also partook of some gentler pursuits that were more in keeping with our age, rather than going nightclubbing in Slough. These more sedate activities included a nice lunch in a gastro-pub, a walk along the River Thames and a visit to The Savill Garden in Windsor Great Park. By the way, I don’t think the latter has anything to do with Jimmy Saville. Unless it did, and they thought the most economical renaming solution was to erase the ‘e’ from all the signage.
The Savill(e) Garden is as upper middle-class as it sounds, with definitely more tweed on display than Lycra. Indeed I was probably the only one wearing Lycra. I really am beginning to feel that my punk days are behind me now as I actually enjoyed mooching around the flower beds. I’m even considering joining the National Trust, if I don’t get black-balled.
There was an ulterior motive for my visit as the garden was hosting an outdoor sculpture event. So whilst my wife was admiring the dahlias I was busy rubbing my chin at some contemporary art. The event was rather lazily entitled ‘Art in the Garden’, no doubt a name that a committee safely came up with after more outlandish titles such as ‘Sculpture n’ Shit’ had been rejected.
I wouldn’t say it was one of the most radical of artistic events I’ve ever been to, Tracey and Damien were conspicuously absent and there was no naked self-mutilation, but it filled a morning. As it was the morning after my first alcoholic drink in two months it was just as well that it wasn’t anything too challenging. I had rather overdone my return to the sauce the night before. On the plus side I did get to make my own contribution to the exhibition with a shock-art piece called ‘Vomit Amongst the Dahlias’.*
*Dear National Trust…please ignore the last sentence. I promise to behave. If it helps with my application I already have the car-window sticker. It was on the car when I bought it and, try as I might, I can’t get the bugger off.