By Royal Appointment

It was a voice that I recognised, but one I didn't  immediately place, "are you checking on my workout Clive?" the voice said. My brain was telling me that I had just heard Diana's voice, my surroundings on the other hand, were telling me that I was in a health Club in Isleworth, West London.  I turned to where the voice was coming from, somewhat confuse, only to be greeted by  Princess Diana in her workout gear, "Good morning your highness, what are you doing in my neck of the woods", I said " I hope the boys are doing well?". Our conversation continued easily, I hadn't seen the Princess for a few weeks, but it was clear to those listening, that we knew each other well. The look on her personal trainers face was priceless, she was trying to process what she was seeing. She may as well have had 'WTF' printed on her forehead. Who is this 'Black' man on first name terms with the Princess! The truth was, I had developed a friendship with Princess Diana over the previous couple of years, as I had been a regular visitor to Buckingham Palace. I was the swimming coach to Prince William and Prince Harry.

Princess Diana explained how she came to be at the health club. She had been invited to use LA Fitness by one of the clubs owners. Little did she know that in accepting the invitation, she would spark a privacy debate and start a chain of events that would change forever, the relationship surrounding the press and the royal family. In his letter to the Princess inviting her to use the club, Bryce Taylor, one of the clubs owners, had assured Diana, 'We will do everything we can to respect your privacy.' In the end that promise proved to be a hollow, he decided that using concealed cameras, and conspiring with a number of tabloid newspapers to surreptitiously take photographs of the Princess, would be much more profitable avenue to pursue, than the simple public relations benefits of having the Princess as a member.

Bryce explained that it had all started out as innocent dinner party chatter. He and his friends joked about the possible things they could do to exploit the Princess's presence at the health club, any number of which would bring his money worries to an end. I mention this is not just because I saw it play out in front of my eyes, but because I remember having numerous similar conversations with close friends, in which they suggested numerous ways in which I could make money out of my Royal connection. After all I was the swimming coach 'by Royal appointment' with access to Buckingham Palace!. While it made for humorous dinner party banter, it was never anything more than that, but clearly the reported one hundred thousand pounds Bryce Taylor earned from the photographs, proved to be too much of a temptation for him. From a personal perspective, all I can say is that the experience and exposure from working at Buckingham palace, getting to know Diana and the Princes, and numerous other members of the Royal family, as absolutely priceless. Indeed, the LA Fitness affair, which left Bryce Taylor's reputation in tatters, just reinforces that fact that however tempting, you can't go wrong by doing the right thing and confirms the old adage that 'there are no free lunches'.

I am often asked how it was that I came to teach the Princes to swim. It's not something that I have given too much thought, but when I look back on how things have happened in my life, I have the strong belief that opportunities come along through a combination of hard work, design and of course a dollop of luck. One of my favourite quotations is from the South African Golfer, Gary Player who in response to accusations that he was the luckiest golfer on tour, said "The harder I work, the luckier I get". So, how did I get the job? I trained 7 days a week, I held 7 national swimming records, I swam for Zambia, I achieved an Honours degree in Biology and a masters Degree in Psychology and Exercise physiology, I managed Europe's largest health club, I trained alongside Duncan Goodhew MBE (Great Britain's best know Olympic gold medal swimmer),  and by chance I ended up teaching the Princes to swim. It takes a lot of hard work to become an overnight success.

Needless to say there are many amusing stories surrounding my four years at 'The Palace'. There a few I can repeat and many I can't. One story that occurs on the fringes of the 'Squidgygate' or 'Dianagate' scandal, that broke in 1992, does give me much amusement. 'Squidgy-gate', referred to the pre 1990 taped telephone conversations between Diana and an unknown but 'close' friend of the Princess. There was much debate in the media as to the real identity of 'Squidgy' and as a result in my family it became a bit of an 'in' joke, that maybe I wasn't being completely truthful and that maybe I was 'Squidgy' after all!. No, I wasn't squidgy, but I wouldn't have minded. Yes, Diana was a beautiful woman, probably more so in person, she had this way about her that made you feel that you mattered, that you were an important part of her life, however small, you meant something to her. So sorry, I was not squidgy, I can't carry the flag for Zambia, but there is a still a link between the true identity of squidgy and Zambia, however tenuous. James Gilbey, the real squidgy, was the heir to Gilbey's Gin empire, who originally owned Duncan Gilbey & Matheson distillery (DGM) in Zambia. Many of you still know and love Afrikoko, Queen Elizabeth Gin, still being produced and enjoyed by DGM in Zambia today

The reason I remember the day the Squidgy scandal broke, is because I had a swimming lesson with the Princes. Anne Beckwith-Smith, the Princess's Lady in Waiting, pulled me aside before the session as she was concerned about the impact the breaking story was having on the Princes. She asked that I lighten things up, and do something more fun instead. I thought, I know exactly what to do, we will play 'Marco Polo', a game I enjoyed as a child. I explained the rules of the game to the Princes and the game began. 'Marco!' I shouted, with my eyes closed, "polo" was the response from the Princes. Simple enough I thought, but I hadn't factored Princes Margaret, the Queens sister, into the equation as she was also taking her afternoon swim, as was often the case. Every time I shouted out 'Marco', Princess Margaret responded "Yes Clive".  Again and again I shouted 'Marco' and again a somewhat exasperated Princess responded,  'I heard you the first time, Clive'. It was only after fits of laughter, that Prince William explained that in private the Royal Family call Princess Margaret, Margo. I was mortified, the Princess must have been thinking " the cheek of this man, I meet him a few times and he has the temerity to call me Margo!"  I immediately changed the name of the game and it has been called  'Christopher Columbus' ever since.

The stories behind my Princess Diana insignia cuff-links, the letter of apology from Prince William, the Xmas cards from Diana, my experiences of who Diana was, reconnecting with Prince Harry on his last visit to Zambia last year, are all stories I hope to tell my grandchildren in the future, to amuse and inspire them