The day it reigned

STEVE KILGALLON
Last updated 05:00 13/04/2014

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Any rough calculation of the turnout would have returned a figure somewhat larger than the resident population of Cambridge, so choosing the right spot in the "Town of Trees and Champions" was vital.

It would turn out tough for those who were on the wrong side of Victoria St.

At first, there were high hopes. Paul Judge was aiming for some international media attention and a nod of acknowledgment from Will. A film tutor at Wintec in Hamilton, he was waving a handpainted canvas with an artistic impression of an elephant and the words "Thanks William for protecting the animals".

"The focus on George is lovely," Judge conceded. "But we've got to remember the elephants."

Bella the British bulldog was wrapped in a St George flag and harrumphing like an old English chap in the corner of his gentlemen's club. "I can't wait," said Sarah Cockburn, once of Nottingham, England, but in Cambridge these past nine years. Wrangling Bella and her four offspring, all clad in red, white and blue, Cockburn had flags - large and small - hats, T-shirts and a Union Jack sweater, evading the national bunting shortage by getting it dispatched from England by her mother.

"You can't get it here," she said, in the tone of one who had tried. "I love William and Kate. She's so beautiful. My mum saw her and told me. I've got to get a photo of them for her."

At five to one they arrived. A silver car swept past. "I don't know what we saw," said one man, bemused. "I think I saw William."

Kids on shoulders relayed sightings: "She's talking to a lady in a green jumper."

"Well," said one lady, consolingly. "We'll see it on the news tonight."

A man on tiptoes waved his camera above his head in an arc, firing the shutter wildly.

Prison guard Rodney Atkinson was sanguine. He'd been here since 10am. "Well, how often do you see something like this?" So far we hadn't seen much. "Everyone says 'she'," he observed. "Nobody talks about him."

It didn't amuse the crowd that William had been on our side of the car.

The drizzle came and chased Atkinson home to Hamilton. Judge's sign was doing duty as an umbrella of sorts.

One young fellow stood with his mates, idly chatting about speedway. "She looked at me," he claimed, to general derision. "Right in the eyes. Reckon she winked at me."

The giant TV screen beneath the town clock on which those on the wrong side had been relying finally showed some footage. There was some hand-shaking and smiles with some distant, fortunate part of the throng.

"What would you talk to them about?" wondered the young speedway fan. "Your hobbies and interests?"

There was a slightly better view to be had from the front deck of the National Hotel, where four matrons in tiaras sat behind a glass screen on which it was written: "William, fancy a pint?" The deck had been booked out over a week ago. It had been crazy, said duty manager Awhina Tipuna. Queues out the door since 10am. A big rush on Union Jack-wrapped fish and chips. She'd not stopped. "I saw Will's face, that's about it. And she's got a green dress on."

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A cloud of jealousy had descended when it first became clear the Victoria Streeters had chosen the wrong spot. Now there was a sigh as the couple headed for their car and it became definitely clear there would be no up close and personal.

Instead, the silver car came again, and as it slowed at the roundabout, a window descended, a royal smiled and waved. Again, though, it was the wrong royal. This was a mortal blow. "Right, I've had enough," declared a bloke who'd been there nearly five hours, turning on his heel.

Judge wandered over with his sign. "I don't know if they saw it," he said. It was clear they had not. "Not much, was it?"

By the time the clock struck 2pm, most had already gone.

- Sunday Star Times

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