Two for the road: Queen and Philip check out rolling vacation homes
Stop me if you've heard this one before:
So Queen Elizabeth goes into a motorhome ... Oh, you've heard it before? Don't think so. Fact is, the Queen has never been inside an RV, as least as far as the Palace can remember. Until Thursday that is, when she and Philip visited a motorhome factory in Bristol.
Except for the dearly departed yacht Britannia and the Royal Train, the Queen's homes generally stand still, so this visit was something of a novelty for the couple. And, as it turned out, somewhat comic as well.
It started out slightly embarrassing for an appropriately named Paul Royall, who was chosen to drive the Queen and Philip a few hundred metres in the $72,000 Approach SE760 motorhome. The journey got off to a bad start when the motorhome rolls backwards after he let off the handbrake. "I wanted to curl up. It wasn't in gear," Royall admitted, though he clearly felt the overall impression was favourable.
"It's the biggest thing that's ever going to happen to me. I am the only person who has ever driven the Queen in a mobile home."
The Queen was duly impressed with her motorized surroundings. "It's a real home from home," she commented.
Philip, who oddly enough is president of the Caravan Club in the UK, had his own design advice for the home's builders.
"He said he made a bed arrangement for one his horseboxes," managing director Nick Howard explained. "He said the bed should be longitudinal rather than across the motorhome for ease of access."
The designers were non-commital about taking action based on this equine experience.
Then it was onto the factory, where the Duke was in fine form.
Spotting one of the assembly line workers with a variety of gold chains around his neck, he quipped: "Don't you believe in banks?"
The worker just laughed and said he "loved his gold."
As delighted as they were by the diversion, the royals didn't seem quite ready for life on the open road. "She hadn't brought her credit card and I know the Queen doesn't carry cash," said sales director John Parker. "My only regret is that we didn't get an order but, who knows, they might be back."
Later, Philip and the Queen were at a community centre in Bristol, observing some teens making "magic reindeer food" from porridge, which they sell for a buck. One of the teachers said Philip was somewhat taken aback by the venture.
"He did comment that it was the biggest con he had ever heard," said James Mead. "We all laughed at that."
Leave it to the Duke to put reality back in Christmas.