We paid a visit to the Queen today – along with thousands of others. Anyone who doubts the cash value of the Royals need only come to Windsor. The place is awash with visitors: local day trippers picnicing on the riverside and tourists from around the world busy photographing the castle, each other and anything else more than five years old. That's when they're not spending money in the flashy shops and restaurants. Or the good old fashioned fish n chip shops and tacky souvenir stalls.
Yes, Windsor is a sort of massive National Trust property set in Southend-on-Thames. Or, as Pearsons Guide puts it so well, "half Truman Show, half Walt Disney".
There's plenty of space for boats to moor (at eight quid a pop) and be part of the show but one day will be enough for us; the crowds and the hubbub are just too much.
And does the Queen really live there? How can she put up with the aircraft noise? The skies echo constantly with the roar of jets taking off from nearby Heathrow.
Curiously, her castle is so huge – the largest inhabited castle in the world apparently – that we only grasped the scale and majesty of it all in an evening walk on the opposite bank. I wonder how many tourists get that far?
The opposite bank is actually Eton and surprisinglyfew visitors seem to walk across the river bridge to visit the place. It's an oddity: one long, quaint street of shops none of which appear to offer anything that could earn them a crust: a dog and cat boutique, a few scrappy antique shops, a couple of restaurants. It's one of those places where I guess no-one actually needs to earn a living, merely dabbles. It's 'old money' darling. All the chaps of course look exactly like David Cameron.
It's been a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. Forty years ago I was a young journalist on one of the area's local papers. As the 'entertainment reporter', the Theatre Royal Windsor was part of my patch. Windsor was a quiet, refined town, the visitors mainly elderly Americans in bad jumpers. In that pre-Princess Di era the Royal family were of little more than passing interest to the rest of the world.