Right royal madness camped outside London hospital
I've been spooked by a royalist. People don't often make me feel uncomfortable. But a supposedly harmless man just has.
Outside St Mary's hospital on a sweltering London day, a middle-aged man - a short one - is waiting for the birth of the next royal baby. He has been to every royal event since 1991, he told me. Must be the last time he had a job, I think, spitefully. Can't he think of anything better to do with his life?
Initially I was fascinated by him and a fellow royal hospital camper.
I asked - silly me - whether he would want the baby to be a girl or boy. He dug a dirty girl baby doll from a plastic bag and said, ''a girl". For Diana, he said.
His eyes were bright and intense when he told me his wife had died of cancer 10 years ago, that his mother had been a royalist, and that he thinks William is Diana's male replica.
The prince, like his mother, ''believes in caring, loving and being together", he said.
He also told me he had attended every day of the inquest. What inquest, I asked. The Diana inquest. Silly me.
He is mentioned in Tina Brown's book, The Diana Chronicles, and was once on the front page of The Times, UK.
That's a lot of information.
I felt a little unsettled and moved away. But he ran after me to say he is a big fan of South Africa and that he wishes Nelson Mandela well and a very happy birthday to the great man.
I entered a cafe to get away from the madness, or so I thought. But there, a man with a full face of hair was hanging out and singing at the top of his voice. He was annoying the serious journalists, hard at work, waiting for the baby.
A young woman was soliciting interviews for a child psychologist who had come down to Paddington to offer her opinion on overdue babies and how Kate must be feeling. In this late capitalist recession era, you have to do what you have to do to earn a buck.
Sitting quietly on a chair was a buddhist monk who I had noticed the day before, also waiting.
Are these people eccentric, I wondered. Is "mad" a more accurate word? Those who didn't look mad were the doctors and nurses seeking a spot in the crowded cafe to eat their lunch.
The psychologist is expedient. The old men waiting for the baby are probably eccentric and I'm just not understanding the interest in the royal baby.
But here I am, back at the hospital. Soon I'll be singing at the top of my voice in the Tube.