Queen’s Diamond Jubilee London tour: Story of visit to Redbridge, Waltham Forest and Harrow
16:40 29 March 2012
The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee with the people of London today as the Duke of Edinburgh showed he has lost none of his waspish humour.
Thousands turned out in three boroughs to welcome the royal couple, who are touring the UK to mark the Queen’s historic 60-year reign.
Armfuls of flowers, cards and even soft toys were handed over to the Queen during her first stop, Redbridge, where an exhibition of world-renowned artwork and design classics were on display to mark the Diamond Jubilee at 17th-century Valentines Mansion.
When Philip met one of the many well-wishers, he showed that despite his recent health problems his wits are still keen as he joked with the disabled man about his mode of transport.
The royal strode up to David Miller, 60, and, gesturing to the four-wheeled mobility scooter he was sitting on, asked him: “How many people have you knocked over this morning on that thing?”
Mr Miller, a trustee of a charitable trust that runs Valentines Mansion, and those standing with him erupted with laughter.
Mr Miller, who has difficulty walking due to a spinal problem, said after Philip had moved on: “That is just typical from the Duke. He is renowned for his humour but no offence was taken, it was all in good humour.
“I told him ‘no, your Royal Highness, I had not knocked anyone down’.”
Moments earlier the Queen and Duke had toured a marquee filled with design exhibits from the past six decades of her reign.
Designer Sir Terence Conran, who helped the local council to source pieces for the display, greeted the monarch when she first arrived.
Classic domestic appliances from the first few decades of the Queen’s reign caught her eye.
She paused to look at a tiny 1950s television, that could have been used to watch her coronation in 1953, and a bulky teasmaid from 1965 and told the curator Gerard Greene “how things have changed”.
The royal couple were joined by London Mayor Boris Johnson, who at one point took on the role of a lady-in-waiting, collecting flowers that had been handed to the Queen.
He turned to someone in the Queen’s entourage and said “Who’s IC (in charge)?” as he looked to pass on the bouquets.
Among the items on display in the 17th-century mansion was a portrait by Lucian Freud of his mother, a striking image of a man shouting from 1952 by Francis Bacon, called Head of a Man, and a David Hockney piece entitled A Walk Around the Hotel Courtyard, Acatlan.
The Queen and Philip travelled onto the second leg of their London visit, Waltham Forest Town Hall, where they enjoyed a two-course lunch of Indian shepherd’s pie followed by clotted cream bread and butter pudding prepared by celebrity Indian chef Cyrus Todiwala.
Waltham Forest Council leader Chris Robbins, who sat next to the Queen, said: “We spoke about everything. We spoke about the Olympics and what it means for the borough, and also the riots.
“She is a very knowledgeable woman. Every single subject she knew about and had something to say. And she’s extremely funny.
“When she got her pudding, it was made with sloe gin and she said ‘I’m not going to get drunk on this, am I?’
“She also said when she drove through the gates, she said to Philip ‘I’ve been here before’ and he said ‘no, you haven’t’.
But I reminded her she was here in the Millennium and she said ‘I knew it, I’m going to tell Philip later’.”
Mr Todiwala, who has two restaurants in London, told how he took the chilli out of his Indian shepherd’s pie to spare the Queen and Philip.
He said: “It is a great honour to cook for the Queen. Indian shepherd’s pie is a dish that represents both Britain and India - it’s one of the oldest fusion dishes.
“I took out all the chilli because I did not want to make it too spicy for them. I wanted something that would be easy on the stomach.”
On the final leg of the tour of London, the Duke turned down the chance to take part in a training session when he met members of a youth football team - joking that his heart was not up to it.
He was introduced to football coach Mo Kassamali at the Krishna Avanti Primary School in Harrow, the first state-funded Hindu school in the UK.
Mr Kassamali’s nine-year-old son, Suhail, gave the Queen a commemorative football shirt with the number 60 on the back, to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
Mr Kassamali, 40, a coach at Belmont United Youth Football Club, smiled as he said of his lighthearted offer to the Duke: “We asked Prince Philip if he wanted to come for a quick training session.
“He said ‘The old heart’s not working’ - so he turned it down.”
The Duke’s comments come three months after he had cardiac surgery after suffering chest pains while at Sandringham with other members of the Royal Family over Christmas.
Describing the Queen’s reaction to her red shirt, Mr Kassamali added: “She loved the number 60 at the back. She said ‘Ooh, that’s lovely!’.”
Suhail added: “She said thank you very much for the shirt. I don’t think she’ll wear it.
“Maybe she will give it to her grandchildren.
“I’m really happy. It was unbelievable.”
The royal couple were cheered by hundreds of people on the streets of Harrow as they made their way to the school.
Some 1,500 residents took part in the welcome, including 400 members of uniformed bands including Scouts and Air Cadets.
Some 2,000 flags had been made for the occasion, and 1,000 metres of bunting.
The Queen wore a Stewart Parvin silk dress with a blue and green floral print, along with a powder blue wool crepe coat, with a matching Rachel Trevor-Morgan hat.
The royal couple were treated to a variety of cultural performances by pupils from the school and community groups during their hour-long visit.
They did no quite go to plan however, with school trustee Nitesh Gor later admitting to a “technical hitch” during a dance performance which meant the music stopped halfway through.
Philip must have been enjoying the show, by Srishti-Nina Rajarani Dance Creations, Camrose Primary School and University of the Third Age mature students, as he commented before the fault was swiftly corrected: “Can they do it without music?”
Some of the youngest pupils at the Krishna Avanti School performed a classical Indian song for the royal visitors - children who would have ordinarily gone home for the day at 2.25pm, roughly the time the Queen and Duke arrived.
They also recited a Sanskrit version of the instructions by Krishna that the school is founded on, including the aim to be “as humble as a blade of grass”. It caused the Duke to comment to Srutidharma Das, the school’s faith adviser: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have more of this?”
The Queen unveiled a tapestry which was commissioned to mark her visit and represents the school’s spiritual ethos. It will be presented to her at a later date.
In the school” courtyard, diverse groups including the Merrydown Morris Dancers and the Grimsdyke Brass Band, performed for the Queen and the Duke.
The Queen seemed intrigued by a performance by the Harrow African Caribbean Association to James Brown’s I Feel Good - a dance which caused one of the young girls taking part to collapse in a fit of giggles afterwards.
The visit also saw them viewing a photography exhibition representing the diversity of the borough and listening to a specially composed piece of music sung by the Harrow Diamond Jubilee Chorale.
The Duke spoke to the singers afterwards, jokingly asking if they had been using taped music instead of singing live.
They were waved off by the schoolchildren in the bright sunshine, with a bagpipe band marching ahead of the royal cars.
Mr Gor said of the visit: “I don’t think we could have had a better day. It’s a day we’ve been waiting for since the school opened four years ago.
“Her Majesty commented on the richness and diversity of what was going on.”
Click on the link below to view the pictorial and social media story of the day provided by London24 and colleagues at the Ilford Recorder.