We were so excited to receive it that as soon as it arrived, we set off instantly to open it.
Uncle Len announced he’d like to go to a park to do so.
So he got on board Tim Dickens*, and after his regular format of refusing to allow anyone to close his own door for him, used the handle of his walking stick to yank Tim’s passenger door shut. This was followed by the other routine of my raised eyebrow, to which a cheerful reply would come: “Always a boy Scout, you see”.
By this point, Uncle wasn’t moving around as swiftly as before. Getting in and out of the car could be a hassle, especially if it was an uncomfortable day, so we were gradually taking less coffee or walkabouts outdoors. What's more, in Dubai during the hotter months, parks aren't a place you can do much in.
But off we went anyway, and after attempting to get out of the car, then promptly shaking a head at the heat, he decided to stay inside with the AC and open the letter there & then.
So there we were:
Uncle Len, Tim Dickens* and I bore witness to the grand letter opening.
I remember it vividly.
He pulled out his Swiss Army Knife from one of his man pockets (Boy Scout, you see), and tore open the envelope with skill.
He took out the letter, unfolded it, held it up, and began to read:
“Dear Mr Johnston,
The Queen wishes me to write and thank you for your letter, with which you enclosed copies of your photographs and memoirs.
Her Majesty was very pleased to hear from you and, although unable to reply to you personally, The Queen thought it most kind of you to share some of your pictures and memories of your life in England, prior to your move to Dubai.
I am to thank you once again for your good wishes for Her Majesty and the Royal Family, and I hope you will have a very happy Easter.
Susan Rhodes - Lady in Waiting"
Uncle placed the letter down, looked thoughtful for a moment, and then read it again. Later, he said something along the lines of, “Well, it’s not an invitation to tea, Sunny, but it’s a good reply." 💛
Watching this unfold in front of me, one of Uncle’s famous catchphrases rang in my mind. I can still hear his voice saying this, even now:
'Nothing succeeds like success, Sunny.'
Receiving this correspondence brought Uncle Len a lot of joy during this period.
It was also a wonderfully interesting story to talk to us all about in the weeks that followed.
For a long while after, instead of referring to the telegram, he began to refer to this letter.
And every now and then, occasionally, he would say things like:
“Sunny, a letter from The Queen. Imagine that.”
Imagine who might respond when you take the trouble to sincerely reach out?
*P.S. For those in any doubt, Tim Dickens is indeed my little car. My trusty. My faithful. 🚙