4th June 2013. London, England.
Blue skies, warm weather - It can't be? really British Summer? Today, a somewhat unusually summery British day in the capital is championed by a special royal occasion -the celebration of Britain's long reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth's II 60th Anniversary of her Coronation in 1953. I wasn't even thought about then, but Queen Lizzie's the only British Monarch that has been a constant presence in my life; stamps, coins, T.V, Movies, Cartoons - c'mon she must be a real person.You can pretty much tell there's a national occasion taking place in Merry Ole' London, which to give us credit, we do very well at staging, as we did with the controversial National Funeral of Margaret Thatcher on that gloomy morning in April and of course the London 2012 Games.
The streets are channelled by the classic metal security barriers in keeping the streets in civilised order and formalised for this royal affair. The regal presence of purple and gold banners hang, fluttering in the soft summer breeze as the hooting, belching red double decker buses chug and gurgle about their 'business as usual' in the congested roads surrounding Buckingham Palace. What can I say, the city is well prepared as always.
Approaching Buckingham Palace through the constant stream of people in Hyde Park, I can see The Mall is majestically draped with gigantic Union Jack flags, which would make any overseas visitor totally moronic to not know what country who's territory you have entered into. Usual swarms of people gather in front of the palace, seemingly to be permanently anchored there, gripping the iron bars hoping to catch a glimpse of her majesty on this special day. They gaze intently at the hundreds of identical square windows that I'm sure the Queen herself has taken a peek out of, admiring her adoring public and tourists that her and her family irresistibly lure to our city. But this time upon reaching the front of the Palace, I notice something quite exciting.
The gates are open.
I've never seen the Palace gates open in all the times I've walked past it. That can only mean one thing - someone is coming out or coming in.....possibly the Queen herself?
'Is there something going on?'.
'I saw the coverage at Westminster Abbey end and I raced from my hotel to be here' a spectacle wearing Latino woman in her thirties tells me as she glances down and glides her finger across her IPhone.
A charming elderly Irish woman and her Australian friend begin to tell me that they had seen the Queen arriving at nearby Westminster Abbey earlier in the morning for the formalities she must attend that inevitably take place. In the 'Royal Family Fan Club' for sure, they had been very resourceful in seeking out that she was due to be coming back to her royal domain pretty soon. Good Timing! We waited a little longer when the glimmer of waving mini Union Jacks started to populate the scene, the fluctuating crowds now seem to start to mutate and grow either side of a neat channelled pathway stretching around the palace plaza up to the gate entrance. It was as if they instinctively knew it was the right time to do it, pretty weird....it must be a premonition that the Queen was on her way and were ready to welcome her home. No time to leave now.
But of course, this is the time that the police officers are on red alert and will have little patience for any idle beings ignorantly disrupting the order by foolishly trying to sneak in photographs of themselves standing in the middle of the cleared path in front of the palace.....they were soon ridiculed by a red faced police officer stomping towards them in infuriation. An American girl Beth had managed to score a treat of a stop over in London on her way to Uganda. She'd stumbled across the regimentally organised crowds out of curiosity at the palace during her temporary wanderings of the capital and was now in a prime spot along side me, about to see one of the rarest people who you would see out and about in town...especially the Queen of England herself!
Over the course of half an hour, the patient crowds would get snappy happy, craning their necks and cameras in curiosity to catch a glimpse of the faces inside the vehicles that were coming in and out of the Palace - only to realise they were palace workers jovially waving to the policemen, security or the postman....not Wills and Kate. The policeman then yelled again to clear the path, ushering any wilful crossers quickly across before it was too late.
'Clip Clop, Clip Clop' a sound which caught my attention towards two beautiful bay coloured Stallions handsomely dressed and pristinely manicured turning in towards the palace gates pulling a small antique looking black carriage, the large wheels grinding and squeaking to the horses rhythmic trotting. A dapper looking pair in black coats and top hats exuded trimness and propriety sitting up front of the carriage, how much English could you get! They dangled an extremely long slim whip waving it silently over the horses rears and I swayed slightly away thinking its lengthy end might actually catch me as they trotted by ha!
Empty carriage though - easier job for the horses.
Aha but the equestrian charm was not to dominate and woo the crowd for too long as a short time after, a black vehicle (maybe a Bentley? I have poor knowledge of car models) unexpectedly turned off The Mall and came cruising towards myself and Beth right at the front of the palace gates at a glacial pace. It was unexpected, as there was no sign of the usual presence of leading police motorists who marshal the royals in sight. The crowds began to cheer and applaud. The flag of the royal emblem flickered in the wind on the roof of the car. Low and behold, it was the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh relaxingly seated in the back, fluttering their frail fingers towards the crowd in a friendly wave (I bet their hands were really tired from a lifetime of waving). I'd actually met the Duke of Edinburgh in 2004 when I went to St James Palace to receive my Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award - he was nine years younger then and so was I, but still looked in good form bless him. The car strolled right in front of us and bam I took this photo before they disappeared behind the palace walls.
There she is the Queen of England! and I was lucky enough to be on her side of the window. Today she was wearing crème with a big round matching hat and pearls - she is real! It was super special to see her up close, I mean real close not just whizzing past in a patchy blur, thinking you might have seen her.
But there you go, look what can happen when you're in the right place at the right time and show a little patience....something to tick off the bucket list I guess. Who knows if I'll ever look at the face of royalty again.
Might aswell stay and watch the Changing of The Guards, I hadn't seen that yet either.