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Opinion

Sam Delaney: At the gym with the future king

Although he’s no royalist, Sam Delaney was tingly with excitement when Prince William showed up at his training session.

I saw Prince William up the park the other day. He was taller and more athletic in person than he appears on the telly. He’s 40 next month, and I know all too well how difficult it is to stay in shape once you reach that stage of your life – especially if you’re constantly dining at state banquets and what not. I figure he must have a gym in his house, or at least access to a Peloton. 

Anyway, here’s how it happened. I was at the gym doing my regular Saturday workout with my 10-year-old son Lenny and our personal trainer Jordan. This is not a fancy gym, by the way. It’s just a small concrete structure owned by the council, with a few exercise machines and a punchbag inside it. It was a sunny day so we were warming up outside, looking out across the adjoining playing fields.

Mid-star jump, the future King of England sashayed past us on his own, dead casual like. “Fuck me!” I exclaimed, forgetting that I was in the presence of both a child and top-level royalty. “That’s Prince William!” The Prince looked over at me, smiled and nodded in affirmation. Jordan and Lenny were gobsmacked. We spotted a security guard walking a few feet behind William, giving us the once over and concluding that we posed no threat.

We gawped as the prince walked into the cafeteria next to the gym – the council-run cafeteria that is staffed by one woman and doesn’t even serve cappuccinos! – and ordered himself a drink. The security bloke just stood outside the door, keeping an eye out. 

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As a journalist of some 25 years, I am no stranger to celebrity encounters. From pop stars to world leaders, I’ve brushed up against the best of them. I don’t mean to boast, but I even had dinner with Noel Edmonds once. Plus, I’ve lived in London my whole life which means, sometimes, you just encounter famous folk out and about living their normal lives once in a while.

Like when I was in the Kensington branch of Habitat in 2008 and I saw Mick Jagger trying to buy a small vase. “I like this,” he told a shop assistant while brandishing the porcelain receptacle. “But could you maybe make me one in wood?” (Clearly, Jagger had long since lost all connection with the protocols of ordinary retail outlets and presumed that everything was available to his own bespoke specifications). 

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So, yes, I’m well used to seeing famous people in the flesh, but encountering a senior royal in the wild was different. I felt excited and flabbergasted. I’m no royalist, by the way. If it was up to me, William and his entire mob would be turfed out of the palaces and relocated to social accommodation tomorrow (possibly via Rwanda, where some pretty robust background checks could be processed over the course of a few months).

Give the cash they spend on carriages and swans to the millions of kids currently living off foodbanks, I say. Not that I would have said any of that to his royal highness of course. I was too tingly with excitement at his mere presence.  

When I boasted about the encounter at a family do later that day, I was ridiculed. “I don’t know what you’re making such a fuss about,” said my brother-in-law, Tom. “He’s just a normal human being like anyone else.” I was affronted at the implication that I was some sort of Daily Mail-reading weirdo who owned crockery emblazoned with portraits of the royal corgis and became sexually aroused at the sound of the national anthem.

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I maintain that I am a rebel and a radical who lives on the fringes of mainstream society’s culture of deference. But I really was knocked for six by being in the proximity of a man who, one day, will rule over peasants like me with no democratic mandate whatsoever.

 I hate the institution – but do I secretly love the man? This, ultimately, is one for my therapist.

Read more Sam Delaney here. Follow him on Twitter here.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed, marginalised and vulnerable people the opportunity to earn an income.

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