And then some.
I was recently invited to Buckingham Palace for one of their annual Garden Parties. Me and 7,999 other people.
Seeing as it’s not something everyone gets to do, I thought I’d blog about it…
My dad was invited in recognition for all of his services to charity and as supreme Daddy’s girl, I was his ‘plus one’ for the day, one of three garden parties that the Queen hosts each year at Buckingham Palace.
For the ladies, the dress code offered up: ‘Day dress with hat or Uniform. (No medals.) Trouser suit may be worn.’
I hate dresses on me.
I can’t abide hats.
Who knows what the unpredictable British weather was going to do on the day?
Also, should I take a gift? I don’t like turning up empty-handed anywhere, let alone Buck House, but I shouldn’t imagine a ‘White Company Seychelles candle’ (3-wick at least) or bottle of Whispering Angel would cut it.
I don’t need this amount of stress in my life.
There was a lot of searching. A lot of deliveries. Everything went back. In the end I rebelled and bought a skirt and top that looked pretty much like a dress. Unless they were going to manhandle me on arrival, I figured no-one would ever know.
Entry into the Palace is offered from three entrances:
- Grand Entrance (main gate)
- Hyde Park Corner Gate
- Grosvenor Place Gate
You’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go INSIDE Buckingham Palace. Which gate do you THINK I chose?
We queued along Constitution Hill, allowing us time to discuss ‘how easy would it be to hop over the railings and try to scale the wall’, a la Michael Fagen in ’82? Luckily for us, we had the right accreditation and as we entered the gates, there we were, strolling across the crunchy infamous forecourt.
Once inside the gates, you are ushered through to an even crunchier courtyard towards another checkpoint, where our invite was taken and we were welcomed inside.
TONS of marble. Lots of massive chairs. Enormous paintings. The Queen seems as bad as I am at changing over her pictures. (Maybe she hasn’t printed hers out either?)
And then all of a sudden… we were properly in. Or ‘out’ to be precise, onto the West Terrace with the most surreal view.
When you consider that there are 8,000 attendees, I imagined swarms of people, like when I went to see Guns n’ Roses at Olympic park last year, only less sweaty and dressed a bit nicer.
But it was very civilised – no barging, no shoving, just all very refined and polite. As we moved gracefully about the lawn, we chatted to other invitees including one of the Queen’s Chaplains, who informed us that it Prince Charles was going to be present for tea. She suggested grabbing a refreshing lemon squash before the tea tents opened, so we did just that, muttering that the Queen could have turned up for us.
Squash was ‘very ‘weak and pishy’ as my Dad would say, but we drank it anyway, enjoying the military band playing everything from Star Wars to James Bond to Raiders of the Lost Ark. (No Guns n’ Roses though. And definitely no moshpit.)
It was an observational delight for someone like me. Behind my sunglasses, I people-watched on a grand scale and had a little rest on one of the many garden chairs set out, sipping pishy lemon squash. I wonder if M’am got all of the chairs from Homebase? She must have a massive shed. And I bet she doesn’t have to nag HRH Philip to get them out when the weather turns nice. (Yes, husband dearest, I’m talking to you.)
We observed national dress, loads of Mayors, stupidly high heels, a man dressed head-to-toe in orange, plus lots of ladies in dresses that came up to their pippicks.
‘Time for tea’, we decided, and headed over to the main tea tent, where queues were already forming. There are three tents – Main, Royal and Diplomatic – and having read various online forums about what happens at these things, the main piece of advice seemed to be ‘pile it high’.
But what to choose…
Dad chose everything I wouldn’t.
I chose everything my Dad wouldn’t.
If you want criticism, then here it comes…
The spoons were unbranded, so I didn’t even feel the urge to nick one. (And yes, I was constantly on the look-out for something to nick.)
I expected HRH-branded napkins, but there weren’t even normal napkins. Much licking of sticky fingers ensued. Maybe it’s an environmental thing? HRH doesn’t want to find loads of napkins blowing across the lawn into the Royal bushes. I know how annoyed I get when I find the kids the snack wrappers blowing around in my garden.
Suddenly, the Yeomen were out in force and the crowds parted to form a meandering pathway for the Royals to move through the guests.
Much neck craning and hushed chattering, and suddenly there he was in view on the steps, a bit like the daily ceremony at Disneyworld.
Prince Charles chatted to many guests along the path and then entered the Royal tea tent, so we took this opportunity to go for a wander around the lake and through the stunning Rose Garden.
Whilst the gardens are incredibly beautiful, they’re pretty noisy. I’d be mega peeved if I could hear the traffic when chilling in my garden. (Just saying.. all that money on a property and you’re by a main road.)
Still on the nicking theme, maybe I could pick a flower and press it when home? Surely no-one would notice? There were thousands of them, but I decided it wasn’t worth getting booted out over a floribunda rose.
I also hugged a tree. Because, why not?
As we headed back to the main lawn, our time was nearly over. The National Anthem played out and as the Royal party left, there was just one more essential stop to make.
I was hoping for a last-ditch attempt of something worth pilfering, but I left empty-handed. (Washed, but empty.)
At least I came away with the most amazing memories.
Plus an underlying streak of kleptomania.
And my bottle of Whispering Angel that I forgot to take with.
ps. Happy birthday to the Queen. Not bad for 92. 8/6/18