Friends of the Dickens Forum,
Leafing through the *London Review of Books* (19/02/15), our eye
lingered on "Short Cuts"
by Andrew O'Hagan. You will see why. We have read other accounts of
the occasion, but this
one is worth passing on: (The story has the advantage of telling us
nothing about Dickens.) (pjm)
"It was in Charles Dickens's upstairs sitting room that I met the
future king of England....
We were about to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth,
and of course the
royals were late, and we, the curtain twitchers of Bloomsbury, had been
working overtime. As
the royal correspondents like to say, there was a definite buzz when the
couple arrived [Prince
Charles and his wife, the Countess of Cornwall] , and we assumed our
positions, waiting like
Victorian waxworks for the buzz to turn into a creak on the stairs.
"My friend Gillian Anderson (she had asked me to accompany her) got
the giggles and had to be
calmed. but she was completely composed by the time the royal couple
entered the room, walking
slowly, looking completely and utterly baffled by the spectacle of being
themselves. If most things
in your life are a photo opportunity it must be hard to find the leisure
to be genuinely interested,
and this problem was very much Camilla's when she was handed a Dickens
first edition. She couldn't
see it without her glasses but she didn't want to be photographed
wearing them. 'I'll just pretend
to read it' she said, and the ghost of Charles Dickens, great lover of
charades, was heard to laugh in
that part of the ether where life is much stranger than fiction. Charles
sat in an armchair, his wife
sat beside him, and the actress read them a few pages of *Great
Expectations,* which they seemed
to like well enough. 'Oh, what fun it is to be read to,' Prince Charles
said at the end. 'It's like bedtime.'
"'I can tuck you in too, if you like.' Gillian Anderson said.
"'Yes, please,' he said. At which point the smile disappeared from
the countess's face and they
went downstairs to a waiting Land Rover. Gillian and I were ushered
into a car behind them and
lights started flashing as we headed to Westminster Abbey. Of all the
colorful situations I have
endured at the behest of LRB--...none has been more ludicrous than the
experience of racing
through London's traffic lights as part of a royal motorcade....."