Friday, 6 August 2010

Taking Tea at the Palace

A dear friend of ours from the running club, John, works for Royal Mail.  He's the manager for distribution for our area and I can tell you he puts his heart and soul into providing an excellent mail service, an increasingly difficult challenge.  When he's not out running or cycling or at work, he and his wife, Sue, do a great deal of work for Marie Curie, a cancer charity.  It was because of his charity work that his boss decided to nominate him for a very nice honour.  When I learned that they were going to one of the Queen's Garden Parties, I asked him to write about it for our club newsletter.  With his permission, I've pinched the story to share with you.  

As a bit of background, you need to keep in mind whilst reading this that John has a giant heart, a strong Geordie accent and an irrepressibly cheerful disposition.  No one is ever in his company for very long but what they find themselves laughing along with him.

It was on a day off back in April when I received a call from my boss informing me I was being nominated by the company to attend the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.  My response was to ask him if he was having a laugh.  I soon realised this was a serious conversation when I was asked for my wife’s personal details, etc.   I was a little stunned after the call and thought I would hear no more of this fairytale nonsense.

On the 12th June I was well on route cycling in the Northern Rock Cyclone Challenge with Iain (a former running club member and a character),  approaching the first feed station at Forest Burn Gate when I received a call on my mobile.  I thought to myself, "Is there no escape!?  What now?"

It was my wife and she told me a letter had arrived for me from Buckingham Palace.  "Must be a mistake," I thought, "Royal Mail mis-delivered yet again – we just can’t find the right staff!"  I asked her to open the letter and call me back.  Sure enough the envelope contained a posh invitation card with our names on it.   


"Well, I’ll be buggered."  I muttered to Iain, who almost came off his bike when I told him I was off to see Aunty Betty.  He informed everyone en route until we arrived back at the Falcons Rugby Club, where he finished off by breaking his neck to inform Scraffers  (another of our club members) about my "Royal Appointment".

The big day eventually arrived.  We left home armed with rail tickets, hotel reservation, pass cards to gain entry to the palace and two forms of photo ID.  (No luggage, cameras or mobile phones allowed into the grounds).   We changed into our Sunday-best togs:

"Ladies:  Day dress with hat or uniform – no medals

Gentlemen:  Morning coat, Lounge suit or uniform – no medals"

(Imagine that, no running club vests or race medals allowed!)

The hotel doorman, dressed in top hat and tails, duly walked out into the street to hale a taxi for us, like something from an Eddie Murphy film.  “Where to, sir” he asked, “Well, the Palace of course, bonny lad!” I replied.  Me and wor lass were heading for the most exclusive tea rooms in London.

We chose to enter the Palace from the Hyde Park Corner gate to avoid the long queue at the main entrance by the Mall.  A police officer checked our IDs.  We handed the invitation card to an immaculate Guardsman who duly threw it into a sack and off we trundled into the garden. (Eight acres in total.)

We strolled across the lawns linking each other like Lord and Lady “Got Nowt”, nodding our heads to acknowledge our fellow garden party goers.  Military officers saluted the ladies.  "What a posh do," I thought to myself.  We could hear a band playing and walked towards the direction of the fine music, whereupon we came across large crowds congregating by the Terrace at the back door of Buckingham Palace.   

Marquees were lined up with tables full of tantalising fancies and soft drinks. I carried out the Club tradition and made a bee-line for the food.  I was just about to pile my plate when the waiter informed me the National Anthem was about to be played therefore service was temporarily suspended.  "Most inconvenient," I thought!    The band struck up and played the National Anthem and the Queen and members of the Royal Family appeared on the Terrace. What a strange feeling it was to be standing in front of Her Majesty in her own back garden about to dig into her best pastries.   

The Queen disappeared into the Diplomatic area leaving us commoners to get on with our day.  The "Duchess" and I found a lovely spot by the lake adjacent to a military band playing classical music.  We found two seats in the shade of an oak tree and got talking to two old dears from Shrewsbury.  I spent the remainder of the afternoon running after the old dears fetching food and ice cream; they were tickled pink to have their own personal butler for the day.

At 5.30 we decided to call it a day and head for the taxi rank, however, the best was yet to come.  To leave, we were directed towards the rear entrance of the Palace.  We actually walked through the Palace and out into the front Court Yard you see on the TV. Foreign visitors were looking in on us through the railings wondering who we were and what was going on.  I just gave them a Regal wave and continued on my way.

And so a once in a lifetime experience drew to a close, I was in awe of the Palace and all the pomp and ceremony contained therein, I felt humbled and privileged to have been given this opportunity, even afforded priority over Mr Nick Griffin!

I tried to carry the flag for the Club and all the lovely people associated with my life, equally worthy of my experience. 


John happens to have a 'royal' name, but I'm keeping his anonymity, and he humourously followed his name with the Queen's Cypher, but I thought I'd substitute the image from a British mail box, as being entirely appropriate.

I love this story and I thought you might enjoy it, too!


Struggler said...

What a wonderful event, although I'm very sorry the race medals were not allowed to attend!

Toad said...

What a fabulous story,thank you for sharing. Mrs. J looked positively regal.