Saturday, 11 June 2016

Queen refuses hot dog

In 1999, whilst I.was working for a multinational energy company, Queen Elizabeth II was to visit our headquarters as part of our centenary celebrations. I was running our UK filling station business at the time, and was asked to show her round a mock-up of one of our convenience shops.

As the afternoon of her majesty's visit approached, I remember feeling rather apprehensive. Would this be her first experience of such places? Was she familiar with the concept of snacking on the move?  As the afternoon arrived, the Queen was shown around various exhibits, until she arrived at my store and I was introduced.

My feelings at the time were a mixture of terror and anxiety. I responded, as I sometimes do in moments of panic, by striking an air of slightly false informality. After a few introductory remarks, I led her majesty and her retinue towards the roller grill section, which was proving so popular in our Scandinavian operations.

Informality held sway over sober judgement: "Would you like a hot dog?", I asked the ruling monarch. The uncharacteristic speed at which she moved on to the car care section told me all I needed to know. The next morning, the Times reported on its front page "Queen refuses hot dog".

I offer this story, partly as a reminder of the type of situation with which the Queen has graciously dealt over many of her now ninety years. But I also offer it on my own account, not in confession, but as a reminder of the errors of judgement we all make during our lifetime. This particular one was not disastrous, merely a minor breach of royal protocol.

I was recently asked over lunch by friends: "what advice would you give your 16 year-old self?". Re-reading Richard Foster's words on confession, I might be tempted to advise not to go through life afraid of our making mistakes, but in wrongdoing against God, to embrace the cycle of confession and forgiveness we receive through Jesus Christ. When so embraced, we carry with us the desire to 'lead better lives' that is rightfully the burden of authentic Christianity. We will never be without sin, but to live without the heart to change is the worse fate.

I later discovered that I was not alone in having offered a reigning British monarch a hot dog. Roosevelt as President of the US, (back in June 1939) had served two hot dogs to the current Queen's mother and George VI in Hyde Park, Washington DC. Had I been a better historian, I might have pointed this our to our Queen back in 1999. How she would have replied will remain a matter of speculation.

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