While looking through an old photo album for yesterdays picture, I found this. As you can see, grinning like an idiot in the background is me. The foreground features none other than Princess Anne. Although she doesn't know it at this moment, she's about to operate a model railway.
Many years ago, my local model railway club used to organise the model railway display at a major local event over the August bank holiday - The Town & Country Festival.
This event featured lots of animals and crafts, classic cars and traction engines along with a grand ring display. It was a fantastic event that we'd visited since I was too young to remember better.
Being involved was really special. Walking in past cattle being groomed and smelling breakfasts on the cooker for those who stayed on site was a bit special. A little like the early morning in a city as it gradually awakes but with more manure.
Anyway, the people who ran the event were big in the horse world. This year they had managed to arrange for HRH Princess Anne to visit and obviously looked forward to one of the countries foremost horsewomen being shown all their marvelous nags.
How happy must they have been when her people announced that she didn't wish to see any horses during the day? Presumably that was all she normally saw and so something different was preferred.
I can't say this was the reason that we were added to the schedule but I wouldn't be surprised if the words, "If she doesn't want to see our horses then we'll send her to the model railways, that'll teach the uppity..." were uttered.
As it was, the visit went well. Keith Foster escorted her around the small show and when the photo was taken, she was meeting layout owner John Dunford. He had a plan. After a few words, he offered the chance to run a train. HRH gamely accepted and was quickly handed a somewhat scruffy controller. Turning the knob, she ran a train out of my fiddleyard and in to the station.
Because of this, the tour took longer than expected and worse, for the horsey set, when asked which bit of the show she enjoyed most, the answer was, "the model railways".