One of the highlights of my career came in May 1982. I was General Manager of the Ridgeway Hotel in Lusaka, now the Holiday Inn, and we were catering for the annual dinner of the Agricultural and Commercial Show Society of Zambia. The guests of honour were HRH Prince Philip and President Kenneth Kaunda. There's a press cutting of the event framed on the wall at Chanters Lodge.
We decided to take our guests of honour up to suite 301 on the third floor while the other guests were arriving and being seated. You can imagine the demand for tickets! The suite afforded spectacular views over Lusaka city, and overlooked the pond which housed the famous crocodiles - that's another story. The VIP's arrived and we entered the lifts which were old, like the hotel itself. As we ascended, the lifts started making the most horrible creaking and squeaking noises. KK looked at me. I kind of shrugged. Anyway we made it to the 3rd floor.
In Suite 301 we'd arranged to serve some pre-dinner snacks. Included were some small pieces of biltong. "What's this?" asked HRH. "Biltong" I replied. "What's it made from?" "Beef". "In which case I'll eat it, if you'd said game meat, I wasn't going to!" The message came that all the other 300 guests were seated and ready for us in the banqueting suite. I announced that dinner was served and led the party back to the lifts. "You're joking Richard" said President Kaunda "we're certainly not going back down in those lifts!" With which he headed for the stairs, sending Special Branch who were crawling all over the hotel, into a massive spin. The crowd waiting at the bottom of the stairs to photograph the VIP's coming out of the lift got a shock too, when they suddenly had them in their midst.
The main course was Roast Beef and we always dimmed the lights, flamed the beef and paraded it through the room and past the top table on these occasions, while I sang. To add to the farming theme of the dinner I'd chosen "I've Got A Brand New Combine Harvester" by the Wurzels. Don't doubt, click the link if you don't believe me! Later, when I went to the top table to ask them if they were enjoying their dinner, Prince Philip said "I enjoyed that song, you sing very well!" Praise indeed and the cap on a great night!
There are loads of funnies on the sayings of Prince Philip. My favourite? When he was officiating at the Independence Day celebrations in Kenya in the 60's, in front of tens of thousands of cheering Kenyans, as they were lowering the Union Jack and raising the new Kenyan flag, apparently Prince Philip turned to President Jomo Kenyatta and said "are you sure you want to go ahead with this old chap?" !