Friday, 25 October 2013

I was a princess

I'm thinking I'd like to tell you a story. It's not really related to writing but I thought I'd share it all the same.

Every little girl wants to be a princess. When I was 10 years old, I was no exception.

The difference between me and every other 10 year old was that I actually was a princess. In fact, my prince lived up the street from me, went to my primary school, and had a crush on me.

No...honestly, it's true! He was a prince!

The year was 1975 and the Khmer Rouge was making its move in Cambodia. One of Prince Sihanouk's daughters escaped with her two children, a boy and a girl, to Australia, where they settled, quietly and anonymously in a Melbourne suburb...

...a few doors up from moi!

Of course, I had no idea that Richard - hardly the kind of name you'd expect for Cambodian royalty - was in fact...Cambodian royalty.

To me he was just the kid up the street, who went by the name Richard, who went to my school and knocked on our front door and politely asked my mum if I could go out to play.

Of course the newspapers eventually caught up with the story and it made headlines in The Sun, as that paper was known back then.

My mum was beside herself. "What am I going to say next time he comes over?" she cried. "Should I curtsy?"

To me, with 10 years of wisdom behind me, it was all a big fuss over nothing. I didn't understand the political situation. I didn't even understand what the royal thing was all about. He was just the kid up the street, whose mum was the most gorgeous creature I'd ever seen, and when I was at his house one day she showed me this massive gold helmet-thingy that she told me was her crown.

Well, I thought, that is rubbish! It  looked nothing like the crowns I'd seen the Queen in England wear. Of course, these days, when I see pictures of Asian royalty I know I'd been privileged and trusted enough to see the real thing.

In any case, Richard and I went through primary school together and then went on to high school. The story of Richard's background was rarely talked about. Most kids thought it was just a rumour because he was Asian and acted a bit differently from the rest of us.

One day, Richard and I had a major falling out. I don't even remember what it was about, but it was huge and he told me in no uncertain terms what he would do to me if I ever dared to step foot in his country.

Knowing the truth about Richard's heritage, I'm pretty sure he meant every word, at the time, and would have been quite capable of having his threat carried out - although I trust, that after thirty odd years we've all moved on by now.

Unfortunately, we hardly spoke after that day, although we still lived in the same street.

Interestingly, Richard disappeared one day and no-one could figure out where he'd gone. Those of us in the know nodded sagely. Ah yes, the Khmer Rouge has left the building. Grandaddy Sihanouk has been reinstated as ruler. Richard's gone home - obviously.

No wonder they couldn't find an address in the white pages for him when they were arranging the 20 year school reunion!

Fast-forward to 2011. Stuart and I were having a drink with one of Stu's friends who'd just returned from a trip to Cambodia.

Brad was waxing lyrically about the wonders of this tourist paradise; the culture, the food, the history, the locals, the royal family...did we know it's a monarchy? "You should go there," Brad declared enthusiastically. "You should see the royal palace!"

At this point I cleared my throat. "Er...I'm not allowed."

Both Stuart and Brad looked at me in surprise. "What?"

"Well, the prince himself told me if I ever stepped foot in his country he would..." and then I went on to explain exactly what Richard had planned for my errant self.

Stunned silence was followed by embarrassed titters.

"It's true," I insisted. Stuart tactfully changed the subject.

Anyway, like I said, I'm sure we've all moved on by now. We're grown ups, aren't we Richard? You're no doubt incredibly busy these days, and I'm probably just as welcome in your beautiful country as the next person.

But I wonder if you ever pause and think fondly of the skinny sun-tanned kid you played with all those years ago. You even told me once that you 'liked' me.

So, there you have it, dear readers. Once upon a time, I knew a prince. He lived in my street.

And for a short time, I was his princess.

It's all true - I swear - yet many people don't believe me until I drag out a few old photos.

I wonder how many people have had similar experiences. Please share your story with me ... your brush with fame, your close encounter with royalty ... and I promise I'll believe every word of it.



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