The Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace

Buckingham palace
It is Thursday, 22nd July 2010 and Jane, Alan and Keith and I are waiting patiently at Kettering railway station for the 10.56am train to St Pancras, when a freight train pulls in. We decide that this must be the consignment of polyfilla we had ordered to conceal our wrinkles ready for our very special visit to Buckingham Palace!
Then – oh no – it is pouring with rain. Keith reminded me he had offered to bring an umbrella! After all this lovely sunny weather was our big day going to be a ‘Whit Friday’ washout?
Once on the train, I look at my invitation and instructions of what we have to do when – with horror – it jumps out at me – “bring two items of identification, one with photographic evidence and another to prove your address is correct”. I’d only brought my passport – will I be allowed in? Jane had both her documents and promised me she wouldn’t go in without me.
More showers – please blow away those grey clouds!
At last we arrived at the ‘Marble Arch Inn’, booked in, carefully hung up our dresses and then dashed off for a quick cuppa, before coming back to get dolled up in our best togs ready for our very special treat.
We did feel a bit self-conscious standing in the middle of Upper Berkeley Street adorned with hat and fascinator, with Keith and Alan pretending to be David Bailey... and we did get a few strange glances from passers-by.
Taxi arrives – “Buckingham Palace please” honestly – us going to BP – never!!! Soon we saw lots of other ladies and gents, all dressed up to the nines, who were obviously going in the same direction as us. As we drew nearer, we could see the massive queue of invitees all waiting patiently at the palatial gates for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Were they all as excited as us?
We joined the queue, eagerly looking around to make sure nobody was wearing ‘our dresses’. Our ever-loyal husbands joined us in the line-up and one very well-dressed gentleman turned his head and looked them up and down – Alan in his jeans and Keith in his casual trousers – and the expression on his face said it all... “How can you present yourselves to our Queen looking like that?” – Jane nearly had kittens!
Buckingham palace
As we drew nearer the gates, my stomach churned – was I going to be turned away cos I’d forgotten my gas bill? I was soon to find out. We were inside the gates heading towards the nearest policeman with my passport and personal card in hand. I apologised profusely that I had forgotten my utility bill and to my relief I was told not to worry. Phew! Jane gave him her electricity bill and he asked for her photographic evidence. In her concern for me, she had forgotten to get this out of her handbag, but there it was – we were in!
Buckingham palace
We were INSIDE the Palace Gates heading for the grand entrance of Buckingham Palace – was this real? – we couldn’t help giggling like a pair of naughty schoolgirls. Through the door onto plush red carpet that almost came up to our knees, up a few stairs into a long hallway with large portraits of historic people looking down on us – two brass-banders from Northamptonshire – was this REALLY happening? – then through another room with floor-to-ceiling cabinets in each corner, displaying beautiful porcelain. Jane shuddered – she’d got goose pimples up her arms. We were on the terrace looking out on those beautiful gardens – the main tea tent on the left, the Royal tea tent on the far right next door to the Diplomatic tea tent. We could see two bandstands at either end with musicians clad in their red uniforms, and strains of ‘Westminster Waltz’ could be heard. Off we go down the steps to join hundreds of others eagerly making their way to see what other sights there were to see. Past the lake where dozens of ducks were enjoying their day, round the corner we could see a very big urn. This memorial was built to commemorate the victory of Waterloo and had been moved to Buckingham Palace Gardens in 1906. We discussed whether we should do some cartwheels along the next piece of lawn but decided it might not be a good idea – we hadn’t got a mirror to reposition our headgear! Everywhere we looked was immaculate – not a weed in sight and dozens of varieties of trees and plants – most of them labelled with their name. We checked our watches and decided to head back towards the terrace as the Royal Party were arriving at 4pm. Hundreds had decided to already start to line up in readiness for the arrival and we found ourselves quite a distance away. However, there she was, stylishly dressed in turquoise escorted by Prince Philip. Once she was down the steps, we couldn’t see her and Jane suggested that she sit on my shoulders for a better look!
We decided to head for the tea tent where we were asked whether we would like tea, iced coffee or apple juice. We were handed porcelain rectangular plates with a place for our cups and were invited to help ourselves to cucumber, salmon, ham sandwiches, smoked salmon and cream cheese, raspberry tartlets, coffee éclairs, Victoria sandwich, ginger cake, mini scones with jam – and much more – all of which was absolutely delicious. We stood and listened to the band play Rienzi and at the end the conductor hauled the flag up the pole which indicated to the other band that it was their turn to play!
We headed off to the Royal tea tent in the hope that we would get a position where we would get a closer look of the Queen when she headed there. We strained our eyes to see if we could see Jimmy Shepherd who was probably in there waiting to receive his award but we couldn’t identify him. By this time the shoes were pinching a little – but the rains had stayed away – thank you God! We weren’t the only ones whose feet were aching – there were a couple of pairs of shoes detached from their owners lying around.
At last, the Yeomen of the Guard marched past in their splendour and took their positions where the Queen was to walk towards the tea tent. Prince Philip appeared first strolling ahead of the Queen and then there she was – this amazing 84 year old, as gracious and elegant as ever, heading for a well-deserved cuppa. I couldn’t help but wonder whether her feet were aching – it didn’t show if they were. Whilst we only got a back view of her, we had seen her.
We wandered back for an ice cream and another listen to the band. English Folk Song Suite this time. As we stood there, we couldn’t help but picture the ‘Boobies’ sitting there. Those pink jackets would look fantastic against the backdrop and we would have enough for two bands – and we could just text instead of having a flag! I wonder who we need to speak with.
Before we knew it, 5.50 had arrived and it was time for the Royal Party to depart. Ten more minutes and our dream would be over. As we headed back towards the grand entrance, we took one long last look at this amazing place with only one regret – it was just us two here and not the rest of the ‘Boob Crew’.
Thank you Your Majesty for allowing us to share your home today!
Thank you Breast Cancer Campaign for nominating us for this wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Thank you – everyone connected with Boobs and Brass – it is everything that you have all done that made this happen.
Our next ambition – to get the ‘Boobies’ playing at BP ( the Palace not the petrol station!!!) – well that may be too ridiculous, but who knows..............?