Thursday, March 15, 2007

7. Invitation from a Queen

Just a few days after returning to the Netherlands with the hologram, Beatrix was duly crowned Queen - on April 30 1980.

A week or so later, Leopold and I received an invitation to present ourselves and our three dimensional masterpiece to the Queen at the Palace Lange Voorhout in the Hague. We met a few weeks before the event and discussed how we would present the hologram. Leopold agreed to get his students at the Technical University to make the display – a half cylinder about 180 cms high with a large hole in it where the hologram would be placed. At the base of the cylinder their would be a tiny halogen light source for illumination.

From time to time over those weeks, I checked with him to make sure that the display was on schedule. Everything appeared to be OK. The night before the event, he called to say everything was ready. He just needed to paint the display and told me he had decided to use that special paint that gives a hammered metal effect.

The following morning I took the hologram over to the University workshop where the display had been constructed. Leopold looked somewhat uncomfortable. “We have a little problem,” he said quietly. “The paint is not dry”. “I thought it was quick drying paint, “ he went on “ but it’s actually supposed to take 24 hours.” I walked over to the newly painted display and tested it with my finger. The fingerprint test said enough. I checked the time. It was 11.00 . Our appointment at the Palace was 15.00.

Many times, I had used in the past, the sarcastic phrase, it’s more interesting to watch paint dry than…..
Now it really was true.

Over the next few hours, I literally watched that paint dry. The clock crawled closer and closer towards the Last Moment of Departure. By 13.00, there were no fingerprints any more, still not dry but getting close. Just a little longer. 13.15, I placed the hologram in the display and tried the light. OK. Just a little longer. 13.30. We needed to go. It was normally at least an hour and a half to the Hague. We eased the still-drying display gently into the back seat of Leopold’s car and raced off down the highway.

I thought Leopold was the luckiest man in Holland that day. He travelled nearly all the way at 150 km per hour and should have got enough speeding tickets to ban him for the following three years. We got off the highway at the edge of the city at 14.45. It looked as though things were moving our way.
As we came to the end of the highway we stopped at the traffic lights. When they turned green, the rest of the traffic moved away and we stood absolutely still! The engine had cut out and was refusing to re-start. I stared at Leopold and he back at me. There are no words to speak at that moment. We were gripped in a state of terror. He tried and tried to get that engine working again but it was refusing to even cough or splutter. It was dead.

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