Tea for Two (Thousand)

And then some.

I was recently invited to Buckingham Palace for one of their annual Garden Parties. Me and 7,999 other people.

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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.

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Perfect Summer drink

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?

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Obvs.

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.

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My foot. On actual Palace crunchy courtyard

 

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.

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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.

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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.)

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All together now…

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.)

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(Not my actual shed.)

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’.

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Knew my Pizza Hut training came in handy

But what to choose…

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I only came for the Cakes

Dad chose everything I wouldn’t.

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Father’s choice – yuk

I chose everything my Dad wouldn’t.

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My choice. Passion Fruit tart was ridiculously amazing

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.

 

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Pick it up!

Suddenly, the Yeomen were out in force and the crowds parted to form a meandering pathway for the Royals to move through the guests.

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Much neck craning and hushed chattering, and suddenly there he was in view on the steps, a bit like the daily ceremony at Disneyworld.

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Prince Charles. Not Mickey Mouse

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.)

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Can’t I at least nick a leaf?

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.

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Actual Royal rose. I touched it

I also hugged a tree. Because, why not?

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Royal Tree hugger

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.

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The Royal Throne

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.

x

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Queen Victoria Memorial from ‘their side of the fence’

ps. Happy birthday to the Queen. Not bad for 92. 8/6/18

 

You’re Either a Swift or a Swallow…

Ahh, June. Weather gets (marginally) better, pasty white legs come out, fake tan gets badly applied in lieu of a proper spray tan and we can hear cheers of ‘COME ON!!! GO! GO! GO!!!’ at school Sports Day up and down the country.

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Or is that all just applicable to me? (The fake tan at least.)

My kids’ school has ‘Houses’ – the school splits into two and you are a ‘Swift or a ‘Swallow’ (denoted by the tie colour you wear to school.) Watching my two at Sports Day fills me with joy and fear in equal measure.

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Joy…

1. They’re ‘taking part’ and learning about team spirit.

2. They believe the medals are made of real gold. Youngest at least.

3. They know that a pre-midday finish means a going somewhere usually reserved for school holidays that will (hopefully) not be too rammed. Mega Jump here we come!

Fear…

1. If they hurt themselves. (Bag fully stocked with antiseptic spray, water, plasters, foil blanket like the Marathon finishers get given. Okay maybe not in my bag but I have one in my boot. No, I really do.)

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2. I’ll miss capturing the moment on my iPhone because husband keeps texting through to ask, “Well? Well? How are they doing?”

3. That the school will surprise us with a ‘Parents Race’. (I have nightmares about this.)

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If Carlsberg did Sports Day

So after all their ‘relentless’ training (running back and forth in the garden and jumping over ‘three tiles’ in the hallway) , it reminded me of my own Sports Day fifteen.. no, twenty.. shit, thirty-odd years ago.

Like the Swifts and Swallows, you were one of four houses: ‘Pine’ (green, me!), ‘Willow’ (yellow), ‘Rowan’ (red) and ‘Birch’ (blue). We had to wear those bands of coloured material across our chest to denote our competing House colours. We would then all pretend to have broken arms, using the sash as a sling. Crazy kids….

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Simpler times

Even today, given the choice of those four colours, I would till choose green. I stick with what I know. Pine through and through. A bit like my Spurs-mad husband, he would never ‘turn Arsenal’.

But every now and then I like to mess with the balance of my Libran scales and do things out of my comfort zone. Big or small, they (usually) make me feel happy or ‘spark joy’ as Marie Kondo the Folding Queen says…

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Such as:

Food – some people have ‘sticky chop’ night. ‘Fish night’. ‘Pot-luck’ dinner night. For my family, as previously mentioned, Monday night is up-the-bum chicken night. My family look forward to it come rain or ridiculously-sweltering-shine of recent days in London. In light of sweaty weather, last Monday I thought I would serve the chicken with a cold salad. No-one spoke to me for the rest of the evening.

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How she deserves to be served. With rice

Going out-out – Last year, a friend’s husband asked if I wanted in on Guns n’ Roses concert tickets and I immediately said yes. As the date came around I did question my 40+-year-old decision to trek to Hackney Wick on a Friday night, but it was the most amazing concert, which I wouldn’t have missed for the world. On the way back to the station, whilst trying to avoid eye contact with men pee’ing all along the barriers, my fellow giggers asked me if I enjoyed it. Yes, I said, as much fun as last year’s Secret Cinema ‘Dirty Dancing’ event. (I’m no longer invited to the Metallica gig.)

Online shop – It always comes on a Wednesday. Every Tuesday at swimming, I bore my swimming mum friend with what interesting things I can add to my final order. One week, friend didn’t show up and I got paranoid she was avoiding my food interrogation – so I went all gung-ho and swapped my delivery day to Tuesday.  Liberating I tell you. (I just run out of things by Thursday.)

New restaurants – I love food. Literally. Obsessed. So when we go to a new restaurant, I go with a vague idea of what’s on the menu. For those who are diet-restricted, I appreciate that checking beforehand is a necessity, but I love the surprise of a menu and checking out what dishes are going to other tables. when I go out with my Uni girls, one of them always seems to order wrong – it’s fine we’re used to it. There are five of us to basically feed her bits of our meal. She’s like a toddler that won’t eat something, but put it on your plate and she wants it. (Except she’s 41.)

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Diary – if you’re still a paper-diary fan like me, then you fall into one of two camps. Mid-year buyers (freaks) or January buyers (me, completely normal). I can’t be swayed on this.

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Petrol – I had a friend (still my friend 35 years on) whose mum would never let her petrol tank go below half-full. (Or half-empty depending on the type of person that you are.) A shrewd way to operate, sure, but often I quite enjoy that reckless feeling of ‘will I/won’t I make it’. That said, the initial thrill soon disappears when the petrol station you had in mind is closed. Panic sets in and you begin to sweat. “Does the car always judder like this?”

Some handy advice in case you didn’t know…

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… the arrow next to the fuel pump denotes which side your petrol cap is on, particularly handy on a hire car. nB. Not all cars have this, but lots do.

Go on – you know you want to check yours. Or maybe you’re one of those reckless types that parks up regardless and drag the hose the whole way across the back of the car if necessary.

(Sorry, but that’s not for me.)