In February 1993, I was asked by the then Limb Centre ‘boss lady’ if I would attend the official opening of the BADER CENTRE. I didn’t really want to, it was on Thursday February 25th and I was going to play indoor croquet so I said “must I?” The ‘boss lady’ then said “well I need you to be there”, to which I replied “why?”, “because you can converse with ANYONE” she replied. “And if I tell you who that ANYONE is you might change your mind.” “Go on then”, I said, slightly grumpily by now, because I really didn’t want to go. Until Margaret Dangoor (the boss lady) said the ANYBODY will be HRH The Princess of Wales. Well I just said “Oh well that’s different, you are definitely on.”
The day came and we were ‘strategically’ sat in particular places, upstairs in the Bader Centre, some on exercise machines, and some at tables with Chess, Shove ha’penny or draughts boards on them. I was at a chess board with a fellow amputee Hans GtH4aeh, a highly educated German Jew who had fled Germany with his parents in 1933.
The princess arrived and started walking around but before she arrived at our table I said to Hans “let’s play a game”. He said he couldn’t because as he found chess so exciting it gave him heart palpitations (He was 75 then!). So I said “well come on let us put the pieces over the board to make it look as though there is a game in progress.
Well, then Princess Diana, arrived at our table and the three of us ‘sort of rose and said “Good morning Ma’am”, she ALMOST ‘rebuked’ us for even trying! Then she said, “Is this game really in progress or is it just set out for my benefit?” So I said “Ma’am you are very perceptive, it is set out to make you think we’re playing but we’ve had so much to talk about on this day.” With that she pulled the chair back opposite me and sat down. I then said, “Do you play Chess?” “No” she said, “but I wish I could.”
I paused for a ‘millisecond’ then to allow the other two to say something, but they didn’t and I didn’t want her to move on, so I quickly said “I believe that to play chess and enjoy it you have to have started when a child as I did – do you play croquet?” “Oh yes” she said “in my family if you cannot beat them you have to join them”
Then the conversation continued on other subjects, like, The Bader Centre, and being disabled etc. etc., until the Admiral Sir Michael Adeane leant forward from behind her and said “Ma’am, you really haven’t got time to have a chess match with these gentlemen we must keep going.” “Oh must we” she said, rising from her chair and with very happy handshakes and farewells to the three of us – she was gone. SHE WAS A LOVELY LADY