Celtic Illumination, Part 304, Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
The programme for our visit had all been arranged for us, way before our arrival. I am sure that the liaison officer had absolutely nothing to do with it as he would have a problem finding his own arse, even if he was using both of his hands. One of our days centred on a visit to the Edinburgh Castle museum. This is the famous castle where the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is held. I, perhaps like many of you, had often seen it on the television but had never been there. It was strange to park on the display area and I was a little disappointed that we were surrounded with all the scaffold supported seating for the event. It was like standing in the centre of a enormous metal birds nest. As any person in charge of a large group of young people, concerned about their safety and welfare, I shooed them away and told them to meet me back at the coach at five o clock.
I do like museums, the older the better, but I have to admit that the museum in the castle at Edinburgh is perhaps the best I have ever been in. Admittedly it focuses on military and Scottish military in particular, but there is such an abundance of exhibits it’s quite overpowering. There is such a rush and depth of colour it really is breath-taking. And unlike a modern museum, which is all planned out, even to the extent of leading you from one area to another, this place is a higgledy piggledy collection of rooms and buildings that somehow seemed to have been erected for the purpose. It was interesting to see the mid-day gun being fired, not something I shall be encouraging when I take the throne in Ireland, I would prefer my people to tell the time from their watches or clocks, but the tourists seemed to love it. But that’s the Scot’s for you; they need to be seen as tough, from telling the time from a cannon being fired to having lumps and salt in their porridge and girders in their soft drinks.
I really did enjoy the museum and given the opportunity would go back in a flash. I left the museum in the company of the Squadron Leader and Linda, the only female adult member of staff with us. We intended to wander down into Edinburgh and grab a spot of lunch. The book nerd within me was in seventh heaven as we left the smooth tarmac of the display area, or the Esplanade as it is formally known, and stepped on to the narrow cobbled surface of Castlehill. Thanks to literary characters like Miss Jean Brodie through to the book Kidnapped I had already wandered the streets of Edinburgh in my mind and was so pleased to actually be there. If I was to have a complaint then I would say that there were far too many tourists there, however, if the truth be told, I myself was one that day, so couldn’t really complain. And like the other tourists, I was a bloody foreigner too. Unlike me the majority of tourists seemed to be Asian, Chinese or Japanese, I’m not sure which. I didn’t stop any and ask them
So you will find it strange to learn that they actually stopped me. The three of us were wearing civilian clothes, I was looking quite dapper, if I may so myself. I wore a three piece, blue, pin striped suit, a crisp white shirt, double cuffed with silver Mensa cufflinks and a red Mensa tie. Well; no point in being in a secret club if you don’t tell people about it. And to complete the ensemble, a pair of the most comfortable black, leather, brogues that a cadet had polished to perfection for me. I did begin to bitch that some of these Asian tourists would act quite normal as we approached and then pass them, you know, one look, eye contact, look away, but then they would look back at me, and not just look, but stare. I know I was good looking, did I ever mention that before, and I have the most loveliest legs in Ireland, but as we walked along their behaviour became very strange.
I didn’t want to think I was having a psychotic episode and didn’t want either of my two companions to think they were about to turn in to support workers so asked if anyone thought, like me, that strange things were happening. Linda agreed that she thought people were staring at me, but she didn’t want to say anything. I immediately checked my zipper and then my clothing for something that would be causing these people to stare at me. It was now, as we were stood standing still, that one Asian person, from a small group of five or six, approached us and asked if they could take my photograph. Autographs I could handle, but this was getting to be a bit much. The small group of Asians gathered around me and smiled for the camera as they each took turns taking snaps beside me. To make the situation even stranger, if such a thing could be done, they then began to bow, in a nervous sort of way, and thank me, saying strange things like, “Thank you, your majesty,”
I can just imagine the double top secret cabal, who were preparing me for the throne of Ireland, getting very jittery, as for them it would appear that the cat may have been let out of the proverbial bag. But it hadn’t. We eventually discovered that they thought I was Prince Andrew, I know, how terrible. I was far better looking, had much better taste in women and he was only a prince. It would have been enough to have this one incident happen and laugh about it for the rest of the day but unfortunately it kept happening as we moved along and one group would see another group and join in and we were in danger of creating quite a commotion. The initial jolt of humour when we discovered that they thought I was Prince Andrew soon subsided and we desperately looked for an escape route.
We hailed a passing taxi and jumped in to it and asked to be taken to a decent restaurant. Just in case it happened again I sat facing into a corner as we ate lunch, still laughing nervously about what had transpired. So if you ever meet an Asian person who claims to have met Prince Andrew in Edinburgh, and has photographic proof of the encounter, just check the tie and cufflinks. He will not be wearing a Mensa tie or cufflinks as it’s a well reported fact that Andrew is not the sharpest tool in the box. The cadets learned about the incident, thank you Linda, and made the most of the situation. What they didn’t realise is that I have had professionals take the mickey out of me, so water off a ducks back and all that. It was that evening when we had returned to Turnhouse and were lounging around that I decided to go for a spin.
I asked the cadets if anyone wanted to go for a bit of a drive out. Some did and some were content just to lie about and relax. I made a telephone call to Pitrevie castle, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre. This made a change for me as every other time I had ever spoken to Pitreavie Castle was from a radio set in a field, usually praying that I had wired the radio waggon up properly otherwise I was going to get a belt of electricity for my sins. As luck would have it the guy who had been deputy team leader on the Valley mountain rescue team, Tom Taylor, was now running the show at Pitreavie Castle, and; he was on duty. I told Tom that I was at Turnhouse with a cadet squadron and asked if I could nip up with a minibus full and show them around. There was no question about it, as a fellow team member Tom would accommodate me in any way he could, as I would for him, if the tables had been turned.
It was as I was loading the cadets into the minibus the liaison officer showed up. I wondered if he was lost or needed help feeding himself. I had already explained to the Squadron Leader what I was up to; unfortunately he told the liaison officer who immediately went into full prat mode. “You can’t visit the RCC,” he announced. “First of all you would need written permission and secondly it is a restricted area, not just anyone can wander in. It’s all a bit hush hush you know.” I think he was a bit shocked when I climbed in to the minibus and drove away, ignoring him. The Squadron Leader could sort him out; I was off to see an old friend. The cadets were still making the odd remark about the way the Asian tourists had treated me in Edinburgh that day but I wasn’t prepared for what lay ahead.
Tom, like most of the people on the rescue teams, had the most evil sense of humour. As we arrived at the main entrance to Pitreavie Castle I noticed that there was quite a heavy guard presence on the main gate. Normally I would have expected one or two guards. I slowed, stopped, opened my window and explained who I was and that I was expected. I may have been mistaken for a member of the British Royal family that afternoon however I was now being treated as if I was a member of the British Royal family. At least it shut the cadets up. The guards were screaming and slamming their boots in to the ground, I was being saluted left, right and centre. Doors were being held open and it is safe to say that we were being given priority treatment. A Warrant Officer came forward and shook hands with me, he then took the cadets and gave them an in depth tour of the facility while I sat and enjoyed a coffee with Tom. It was lovely to see him again and we certainly had a laugh. All in all it had been a good day, the cadets were over the moon, I was nervous about going out in public and the Pilot Officer was starting to believe that nobody loved him.