This story originally appeared in the March 1, 2020 edition of The Jasper Local.
Author’s note: If any names have been changed, it’s to spare the blushes of Jasper’s stolid citizens.
Those who dream by night . . . wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.
Lawrence of Arabia
“I’ve had the most brilliant idea,” I said to Liam one lunchtime. It was 2005.
“What now?” he said, bored.
“Go on, see if you can guess. It has to do with a forthcoming event.”
“I DON’T KNOW DAD.” He was getting irritated. I better tell him.
“Well, the Queen is coming, right? And so is Prince William. My amazing plan is, why don’t we invite Prince William to come scrambling with us?”
A look of disbelief on Liam’s face. But not because of my madcap idea.
“What do you think?”
“Actually, Dad, I’d thought the same thing a few days ago.”
“You never said anything.”
“Dad! Because it’s just too crazy.”
“But it’s not, Liam. He’s a young virile lad, chomping at the bit with all the regulation stuff. I reckon he’d jump at the invitation. Give him a break from Grandma. We could take him up Esplanade; that would shake the fizz out of him. Or Cinquefoil.”
And that’s how two dreamers hatched their plan.
I hadn’t given any thought to how I’d get the invitation to Prince William. Turn up with it in my hand, I suppose.”Your Highness, my son and I would like to invite you to come scrambling while you’re in Jasper. We’ll pick you up at 9 a.m. sharp.” No rigmarole, just, “Have a good pair of boots, and I’m sure the Lodge will pack you a lunch . . . See you on Saturday, then.”
Then we heard Prince William wasn’t coming.
Scrap plan A.
I came home another lunchtime and said to Liam: “I’ve got an even better plan.”
“What is it now?”
“We’re going to invite both Prince William and Harry to climb Christie with us. I’ll get the invitation to the Duke or an equerry this weekend.” I was pumped.
“Dad! You really think you can just invite them to come? Where are they going to stay?”
“On the living room floor by the window. That’s where we put all our guests. At a pinch, one could even sleep in the bath if they prefer separate bedrooms.” I gave it a wink, but he wasn’t fazed.
“I’m NOT staying here,”said Liam, indignant. “And what car do you propose to use?”
“I was thinking of bringing the Green Machine out of retirement? I’ll just check there are no anti-royal stickers on the back, like Get a proper job, Charlie.”
“You do realize that the whole town will find out and think you’re completely mad.”
“They already do. Anyway, we’re not telling anyone.”
The Queen and Prince Philip were on an official visit for the centennial celebrations of Saskatchewan and Alberta. They were coming to Jasper on their weekend off. Their visit here was unofficial, supposedly all hush hush, but the whole town knew; yet when you asked the Corporation or the captains of industry it was nudge nudge wink wink we ain’t got a clue.
As part of Alberta’s celebrations, the Alpine Club of Canada were climbing 100 different mountains that summer; and leaving special registers on every summit. Liam had applied for a mountain: he got Mount Christie.
Dreamers and dangerous men. That was us. Maybe we would pull it off; at the very least we’d have a damn good job trying. Liam wrote up the (first) invitation. When I got home it was on the table, spelling mistakes and all. But it got me going. Blimey! Her Majesty in town. At JPL. If I’m going to get the invitation to them I’d better do something. Can’t really give them Liam’s, what with its typos and breezy style.
I typed another invitation and hand-wrote the envelope: “By Hand—His Royal Highness Prince Philip” But it isn’t easy to deliver an invitation—by hand—to the Duke of Edinburgh, even if he is, more or less, just on the other side of the railway tracks.
At 7 a.m. Saturday May 21, 2005, I rode my bike to Jasper Park Lodge for a scout around. No royal heads visible. Nothing.
I went into the lobby and spoke to the Front Desk manager.
“I know the Queen and Prince Philip are staying here,” (no point beating around the bush) “and I have this invitation for the Princes to join us on a mountain climb . . .”
Astonished gapes. The whole front desk was looking.
“It’s the Centennial Climb . . .” I rambled on, “and I was hoping there might be someone in the royal entourage to slip it to.”
“Yes, quite. Well you better have a word with the manager—ah, there he is now.”
He pointed out the last person I wanted to see: Dutton Peabody, Assistant Manager of Jasper Park Lodge. Momentarily, I wished for the big buffalo head to fall off the wall and squash me. I gulped, gave him the dope and showed the invitation.
Puffing out his chest, and with an ingratiating smile Peabody proclaimed, “It will have to go to protocol.”
“Yeah, but couldn’t someone nip over to Outlook Cabin with the invitation, or pop it on the breakfast tray beside the pot of Oxford marmalade? Or is Her Majesty’s favourite the Dundee?”
I figured on letting Dutton know it wasn’t the town idiot grovelling before him.
Dutton ignored my marmalade question and again said, “It must go to protocol.”
Protocol? I wondered if it was a little room somewhere in the Lodge, with a brass plate on the door, PROTOCOL.
“Protocol? Where’s . . . what’s that?” I asked.
“It will leave here, go to Edmonton for the RCMP to look at, then if it’s deemed appropriate it will be passed on to the right people.”
“Edmonton? The RCMP? Our simple invitation to the Princes to come climbing with us?”
I wasn’t having the cops poring over it—no doubt for traces of anthrax or cyanide—and checking my medical files. Well it just wasn’t on, and I told Dutton so.
“I think I’ll have a look around, see if there’s someone I can give it to.”
“I’d prefer that you didn’t,” he said. But I was already heading for the door.
With a bit of luck the Duke might be taking an early stroll around the lake. I could even find him caught short and in the bushes: he’ll have plumbing problems like all us old fogies. Instead, from out the bushes popped the Secret Service.
There was a “closure due to elk” tape stretched over the trail. Who were they kidding, with cameras everywhere and two plainclothes police in the bushes? I might be naive when it came to protocol but I ain’t daft.
“Hello,” I said to the police woman. “Must be very important elk to have the police looking out for them.” She smiled feebly. I told them what I was doing, showed the invitation, and asked was there a chance? Of course there wasn’t, but it was worth a shot.
I came back to town. Our invitation not delivered. Well, I’ll just have to get it into the right hands tomorrow—when Her Majesty comes to church . . .
STORY CONTINUES AFTER ADVERTISEMENT
Part Two: The Return of the Queen
On many family fridges you’ll find kids’ wish lists. There was one on ours:
- Spend time at West Edmonton Mall—Tick. We did.
- See another country—Tick. We saw America.
- Fly in a plane—Tick. We flew Canada 3000 to Australia.
- Have a train ride—Tick. We rode the Skeena to Prince Rupert.
- Go on a boat—Tick. We took the big Marine Highway ferry to Skagway, Alaska.
- Eat lobster—Tick. We boiled one in the hotel coffee pot in Halifax.
- Stay at Skoki Lodge—Tick. Three times! Beating the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge by a dozen years. But unlike Their Highness’s we had to use the outhouse.
- Win a three-minute shopping spree—We lived in hope; we’d planned the strategy though, which aisle to hit first, and entered all the competitions.
- Have fun—Tick. That was a given.
At the bottom of the list was Meet the Queen. I told Liam there was more chance of meeting the Man in the Moon than Her Majesty. But little kids are dreaming optimists and it stayed on the list awaiting his tick. Then the list fell off the fridge and was forgotten.
The Queen came through Jasper in 1963. Their Majesties got off the train and stretched their royal legs before continuing on to Vancouver. In 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came by special train to Jasper and stayed at JPL in the Outlook Cabin. Now the Queen was back. It was Sunday, May 22, 2005 and Her Majesty and the Duke were coming to church.
I got to the church early just before 8 a.m. Only a few people for now. I fingered my invitation for the Princes. Slowly things started to happen. Yellow rope was strung out either side of the church entrance. Men in charge of security appeared. Media rolled up with their cameras and coffee cups and selected the best positions for taking photographs, which would appear in next day’s British newspapers. And heading straight for me was a man in a smart black suit.
“David! How are you?” A big handshake. It was Sergeant Drivel. “Oh, does Jeremy ever miss Liam,” he said, with what looked like a tear in his eye. (The two had been in the same grade.) “How’s he doing?”
“I didn’t realize you’d left,” I said, reeling from all his attention.
“Yes, about a year we’ve been gone. It’s so good to see you,David!”
He was all soap and syrup. Had he got the right chap? Was he confusing me with the Mayor? All the time he lived here he not so much as looked at me never mind speaking, but now he was all over me like a rash. I felt mightily chuffed that the former Sergeant of the RCMP Detachment had singled me out. Pity there weren’t any Jasper panjandrums to witness Harrap’s endorsement by the constabulary.
“I hear you’ve got something,” he said, lowering his voice.
“Yes, right! An invitation—you’ve heard about it?” I was flattered.
He nodded his head. “Yes, we know all about it.”
I should have spotted that the syrupy voice had disappeared along with the soapy smile. I pulled the invitation from my bag and showed it to Drivel, excitedly thinking he was going to help deliver it to the Duke. What a sport: he was taking one for the Town. Like an idiot I still hadn’t cottoned on. I gave him the spiel:
“It’s the Centennial Climb . . . 100 mountains … Mount Christie . . . we’re inviting the Princes . . . do you think—?”
“David! This isn’t the place. For God’s sake! The Queen is coming to church!”
A voice hard as nails. I was no longer Drivel’s long lost pal.
The penny dropped. Those ‘friendly’ cops in the bushes at JPL had turned me in. Or was it Dutton Peabody reporting that there was a lunatic on the loose? All that baloney about “nice to see you, David . . . Jeremy really misses Liam, David —” was just BS. With his reptilian stealth, Drivel had come to warn me off. Well I wasn’t having it, and told him so. It wasn’t a custard pie I was delivering: The Queen wasn’t on a horse Trooping The Colour. They were walking out of church; people gave them stuff. Like flowers. Like an invitation. And I’ll damn well give it to the Duke if I can.
CODE RED. CODE RED. GO TO DEFCON 1.
Secret service moved into position. Two guys straight out of a Matt Damon movie. Shades. One with close-cropped hair. Suspicious wires coming out of collars. Bullet proof vests (I found that out by tapping Agent Bogomil’s). No doubt a slim Sig Sauer P229 DAK in a holster under the immaculate black suit jacket. They stood a metre in front facing me, and stayed in that position the whole time. I was Public Enemy Number One. I was also number 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 10. No one else. Just me.
The guests came into the church. Their Majesties arrived. But where was Liam? He was camping with his mates at Snaring. Just as Her Majesty was coming out of the church Liam arrived (looking like he’d slept in a hedge) and got front row close to the door. Hanna gave him a carnation. Liam gave it to Her Majesty. The Queen said four words to Liam and Hanna: Do. You. Live. Here.
Meet the Queen—Tick.
The Duke walked down the wrong side. I wasn’t about to slip under the yellow rope, nip between Agent Faltermeyer’s mile-long legs with the invitation and risk being taken out. For all I knew Drivel was on top of the Athabasca Hotel with powerful binoculars, directing operations.
A few days later we addressed an envelope in beautiful Chancery script to Clarence House in London (the Princes’ home); Lee-Anne at the post office carefully positioned the Polar Bear stamps, and, with not a hint of protocol, our invitation to the Princes to climb Mount Christie was on its way. We received the answer, via Buckingham Palace, in June.
In August 2005 we climbed Mount Christie, fired off a rocket on the summit, left the Centennial register, dined on water biscuits and Russian black caviar, and toasted with Mumm’s Champagne all those dreamers of the world who dream by day.
David Harrap// email@example.com
Jasper’s David Harrap is the author of The Littlest Hiker In The Canadian Rockies. Get it at the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives.