THE Queen and I go back a long way.
We (and I don't mean the royal "we") first met – if one can use that word elastically – in 1964 when she opened the Forth Road Bridge. She may not recall it but I waved to her, holding up a Union flag which I'd been given by my primary school teacher, and she waved back with limp vigour.
I was most impressed because somehow I'd got it into my head that she'd built the bridge herself. Wee she might have been but she exuded power. Everywhere she went she was received as if a god had descended on heathen islanders. Bare-chested women, dressed only in straw skirts, danced feverishly for her delight while their spear-carrying menfolk, who normally ate strangers for supper, behaved like footmen in Upstairs Downstairs.
Over the following half-century our paths crossed numerous times. Few, if any, words were exchanged but merely being in her presence was enough. I dare say she felt the same about me. Once I popped in to see her at Balmoral, albeit after having parted with an admission fee, but I was told she was out, perhaps wrestling stags.
Nor was she in when I had dinner at Holyrood Palace during the Kirk's General Assembly. However, I did catch sight of her at a garden party, shimmying between the good, the bad and the worthy, making small talk as if passing hors d'oeuvres, dressed in blinding pink, like the icing on a cupcake.
The last time I saw her was at Windsor Castle when she invited me to a party which I naively thought would be ultra exclusive. Alas, it wasn't. It being her golden jubilee year, hundreds, if not thousands, of other journalists, including a few avowed republicans, were also in attendance.
Be that as it may, I fully expected to be given a personal audience with her, when I intended to quiz her on the subject of traffic flow on the Forth Bridge. No such luck. The closest I got to a royal was a nudge in the back from Prince Andrew as he swept imperially towards a bowl of Bombay mix.
Despite such disappointments I have never felt the antipathy towards the Queen that we're routinely told is pervasive in the northern reaches of her ragged empire.
The latest indication of this came earlier this week in a YouGov poll, the most remarkable finding of which is that more Scots are proud of Billy Connolly than they are of an 86-year-old woman who has devoted her life to the commonweal, good causes and the breeding of corgis.
Though I bow to no-one in my admiration for Mr Connolly, the perfect court jester, I regard such a result as mind-boggling. On what level can the lives of the Partick-bred comedian and the Queen be compared? None, of course. The Queen, if we are to accept the views of an anti-royalist such as Christine Grahame MSP, is so lowly rated because she and her family are perceived as "London-centric".
Ms Grahame is eager for Alex Salmond to reject the Queen as head of state come independence. Haggis will breed before this happens. If Mr Salmond is to realise his dream in 2014 he dare not, as he well knows, risk alienating anyone who's currently in the wavering camp.
What happens thereafter, though, remains the stuff of speculation. The Queen will eventually "pass", as our American cousins so delicately put it, and she will be succeeded, if all goes to plan, by Prince Charles, a man even more maligned in his time than Fred Goodwin.
Prince Charles's critics say he is out of touch but how can he be when his biscuits are for sale everywhere? But that does not satisfy those who see in him a man who epitomises privileged indulgence. Perhaps he does. I do not know him well enough to say for certain. We, too, have "met" from time to time and once even swapped a few sentences. It was at Highgrove and over a pre-lunch drink I asked him, as a student of architecture, what he thought of the Scottish Parliament building. I'm still waiting for a repeatable answer.
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