While it was the Queen's official birthday this weekend, it was also, naturally, the official birthday of the doyenne of royal watchers, James Whitaker.
Nicknamed the 'Big Fat Red Tomato' by the late Diana, Princess of Wales, (affectionately of course), he was the journalist who single-handedly turned royal watching into an industry. Until his retirement James, who was 70 earlier this year, was the dean of 'the crème de la scum', that is to say the royal watchers working for Britain's noisy tabloid newspapers. His many scoops included introducing a young Lady Diana Spencer to the world and exposing the moment Fergie, still married to Prince Andrew, pictured having her toes sucked by her 'financial advisor' John Bryan.
Former rivals and friends, including photographer Kent Gavin, diarist Richard Kay and media watcher Roy Greenslade gathered to pay tribute to James who is currently recovering from a cancer operation. Diana's former bodyguard the avuncular Ken Wharfe recalled the time when James approached Necker Island in the Caribbean where the princess had taken her children and friends on holiday. As James negotiated a photo opportunity on behalf of the world's media, young William and Harry declared war on the bobbing Press flotilla, using a makeshift catapult to fire water-filled balloons at the unwanted armada. One hit James square amid ships, for once leaving him speechless. Diana though did eventually hoist the white flag, changing into a sexy leopard print swimsuit to pose for photographers. 'He was a good man to have on your side,'recalled Ken.
Besides royal talk, there was much informed chatter about possible new arrests in the Fleet Street phone tapping saga. Watch this space.