6 mins

The King and I

And so to Edinburgh. By invitation of the Jordan Tourism Board - a good, old-fashioned jolly to see King Abdullah II take the Military Tattoo Royal Salute


A reception was being held in his honour, hosted by the Lord Provost in Edinburgh. A dozen or so travel people would be whisked up by bmi for 24 hours in the lovely city.

It sounded fun but proved to be stressful and expensive when it struck me the day before that I hadn’t a suitable posh frock to wear. I ran into a shop in Windsor ten minutes before closing time and bought the first nice dress I saw. Fortunately it was perfect.

As soon as the glamorous Queen Rania turned up at the Tattoo I wondered why I bothered. She looked absolutely stunning, with a dazzling smile that would melt icebergs.

She describes herself on Twitter as “A mum and a wife with a really cool day job..” and was busy tweeting to her 1.3 million followers during the Tattoo: “Someone said I should try Irn Bru. Should I?” Wanderlust writer Matthew Teller tweeted back, encouraging her to give Scotland's national soft drink a try.

Rubbish in leathers

We were sitting in the back row of the seating, a few yards from the Royal Box. Afterwards, we battled through the crowds to the City Chambers for the royal reception. The King arrived but sans the Queen. We’d already been warned that they probably wouldn’t stay long as they would be hungry; this being Ramadan they hadn’t eaten all day, the Tattoo started before dark and it was now 11pm.

Still, if the King’s stomach was rumbling he didn’t let it show. First impression was, “Gosh, isn’t he small?” but that was soon forgotten when he came over, a warm smile on his face and a glint in his eyes, and shook our hands in turn. I even found myself bobbing in a kind of half-curtsey.

The King thanked us for spreading the word about Jordan. A travel journalist, Wendy, asked him about his love of motorbikes, and within a couple of minutes had him agreeing to take her for a ride on his Harley-Davidson when she visits Jordan. Hey ho, I look rubbish in leathers anyway.

This has been quite a week for meeting interesting people. I attended a talk by John Burton, inspirational founder of the World Land Trust (www.worldlandtrust.org) – an excellent organisation that Wanderlust heartily endorses.

John was joined at the talk by Simon Barnes, the wildlife columnist for The Times but also an acclaimed sports writer (and I recommend his My Horsey Life to horse-owners). Simon spoke about his passion for Zambia and was eloquent, passionate and humorous.

And then there was Johnny Rotten

Well, I didn’t actually meet him. But he was next to me in a pub in London. The pub was the wonderfully characterful Grenadier in Belgravia, long known for its interesting clientele, dating back to its days as the watering hole of choice for the Duke of Wellington’s men.

I’d been at a Guyana function, and the chaps who were over from Guyana fancied visiting a typical British pub. I wasn’t sure whether to point out the rather loud Mr Rotten as one of Britain’s cultural icons or not. I stuck to buying them a typical British beer. I didn’t actually see what Johnny was drinking but one thing was sure – it certainly wasn’t Irn Bru.

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