[...] Ted was a great storyteller: for example, his version of the day he received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. In the morning he and Carol, his second wife, met Sir John Betjeman at a hotel near Buckingham Palace. They drank quite a lot of vodka and tonics before setting off for Buckingham Palace in a cab. At the Palace, they drove into the inner courtyard – where there was an awning and a red carpet. Betjeman at that time was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and had drunk a fair bit. He emerged from the cab on his hands and knees and, playing it for laughs, began to crawl up the red carpet, hooting with laughter. Carol was stopped by an equerry from taking photographs. Inside the palace, they drank sherry because everything was behind schedule. The Queen was delayed, having sherry with a Commonwealth Prime Minister. More sherry was pressed on Ted and Sir John. Finally, more than a little tipsy, they left Carol behind and ascended in a small golden lift to Her Majesty’s chambers. Betjeman comically scratched the gold of the lift and wondered if it was twenty-four-carat. Then the double doors opened on the Queen. She too was merry by this time. She was also very small. Ted: “You know she’s small, but this was like meeting Alice in Wonderland. She’s this big” – and he measured an inch between his finger and thumb. [...]
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on Thursday, November 23, 2006 at 8:41 AM.
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