I was in Leigh-on-Sea on Friday to see Prince Michael of Sealand. The idea is to make a radio programme about Sealand, so I toddled off to sunny Essex with Kevin the radio producer to talk about it. As it turned out, however, we turned into the Laurel and Hardy of radio. The plan was that Kevin would take the Leigh train from Fenchurch Street and I’d join the train at West Ham. Foolproof you’d think. Alas not. Thanks to the North London Line’s policy of “we’ll send a train along when we feel like it. What’s that? Timetable? What’s a timetable?” policy, I ended up taking a convoluted route to West Ham involving every mode of transport bar a giant seagull in a flying helmet with a saddle on its back.
I sent Kev a text saying I might cut it fine, and arrived at West Ham just as the train was due in. I sprinted through the station, risking dying in a hail of bullets of course, and threw myself onto the train just as the doors were closing. Just as we began pulling away, Kevin phoned me.
“I’ve just got off the train,” he said.
“Wha..?” I panted
“I’ve just got off the train.”
“I’ve just got on the train,” I wheezed.
“Ah,” said Kev while I waved wanly through the window as I passed him by, “I thought you’d miss it, so I thought I’d get off.”
Fortunately, the next train was only ten minutes behind so I jumped out in Barking and waited for Kev. Given the Laurel and Hardy theme, I half expected him to arrive on one of those hand-pumped rail carts.
By a stroke of luck, Michael’s parents Prince Roy and Princess Joan were in Leigh. Although they now live in Spain, the Bates comeover to England for a while in the summer when Spain just gets too hot. And what lovely people they are. Roy has some terrific stories too, proper, death-defying war stories of his own experiences. There is at least a trilogy of films to be written about him alone, even before Sealand.
More news on the programme as and when it happens.