If Gail and her friends Yvonne and Neil had bothered to get going earlier on Sunday morning we would have arrived at Balmoral Castle in time to see the Queen attend the local church service.
Instead we were met at the car park at noon by a conspicuous security presence, although I must say that the young policeman we spoke to was all smiles and friendliness, enjoying the warm sunshine and seemingly not at all worried that our party constituted a terrorist threat.
Gosh it's a lovely place, the Balmoral estate.
After romping around the forest and enjoying the fine views of Upper Deeside we approached the castle and were surprised to find the grounds still open to the public despite the Queen being in residence*.
In the café I met this lovely young lady called Steph, who has taken a summer job on the estate. Can you see the smart Balmoral insignia on her apron?
After giving me a biscuit and a nice pat, she told us how a couple of days ago she actually met with the Queen. I hope I am not going to get Steph sent to the Tower of London when I tell you she described her employer as "funny and really quite sassy".
Which made me feel even more sorry that I did not run into Her Majesty, as it's clear we have much in common (notwithstanding her well-documented preference for corgis). And no doubt Queen Liz too will now be regretting she missed the chance to have her picture taken alongside me and posted on this blog!
*Gail says: apparently the Queen is staying in a smaller house in the grounds of the estate, away from the visiting public.