We then went
walkabout, which in my comic opera outfit added nothing to my comfort. We went
walkabout lured by a lying photographer who said there was a pub "just around
the corner." I think he meant the corner of Piccadilly, two miles away, 'cos we
never found it. We crossed St. James Park, oo-ah'd at the baby ducks, crossed
the Mall, at which point Lady Maggie decided she needed a loo and, as you do in
these circumstances, asked a policeman and disappeared back the way we'd just
come. Guy and Jane had meanwhile departed on their own adventures and I was
left standing trying to look inconspicuous near the Palace
which was a
joke 'cos every passing tourist took my picture like I was one of the sights of
London! (And I probably was!)
returned we hurried to find somewhere to sit down before I fell down and found
a bench in the park just alongside Constitution Hill which, in turn, runs
alongside the Palace wall. Here was an oasis of calm with a woman who was
attending the next Garden Party, but wanted to see what the form was
By this time
the queue of guests extended from the Palace gates, along Constitution Hill and
into Wellington Place in the distance! At this point we began to get some idea
of the numbers involved (we later discovered it to be around two
We were in the
shade, comfortable and saw no point in standing in the queue so we simply sat
and waited for the queue to come to us, which it very quickly did. We passed
through the gilded gates, across the forecourt, through a carriage arch and
into the inner courtyard. From here we entered the Palace itself. Up a flight
of red-carpeted stairs, through a luxuriously appointed ante-room (we paid
particular attention to the china - naturally), another flight of red-carpeted
stairs, two more well appointed rooms with flunkeys everywhere to cut off the
too inquisitive and out onto the balustraded terrace overlooking the gardens.
Gardens you understand is a euphemism for VERY large landscaped park complete
the nosy type, wanted to see EVERYTHING so we trekked around the lake, the rose
garden, the flower garden etc., etc., with me grabbing every opportunity to sit
down that came our way. At 4pm the band (there were two military brass bands
playing alternately throughout the afternoon) struck up the National Anthem and
the Queen and entourage: Phillip, Charles, and various minor royalty appeared
on the terrace and we all foregathered on the tea lawns.
One of the
great features of this day was the unobtrusive organisation of everything, from
the parking of a thousand or so cars, getting two thousand people into the
gardens and suddenly, without anyone noticing, to two double lines of guests
through which the hosts strolled and chatted. The ease with which they chatted
to complete strangers and their incredible stamina was wondrous to
imagination I had a little chin-wag with Phillip and the Queen, very
interesting. Out of fellow interest I asked him how long it took him to mow the
lawns. He seemed a bit taken aback, but obviously recognised a fellow sufferer
and replied, "We have a sit on lawn mower that the gardener rides."
Gardener," I thought, "There's posh."
At that point
Maggie joined in with, "It's a big house, Elizabeth, how do you find time to
keep it all clean with all your other duties?"
answered, again a bit taken aback I thought, "We have staff to do
thought it was all a bit showing off what with gardeners and
But I suppose
when you are putting on a 'do' for some two thousand people you're entitled to
put on a few airs and graces. Added to which when you have a 'lake' in your
back garden instead of a two by four foot pond (that leaks!) it is one up on
the Jones' of this world.
intruded rather abruptly if one glanced up at the roof of the Palace and saw,
outlined against the sky, the figures of the police security with their
binoculars, AK47s and sniper sights.
We took tea in
the tea tent (where else?). A nice mixture of hors-d'oeuvres, cakes, ice cream
and tea. From which advantage point we sat and watched the world pass by:
diplomats, Arab Sheiks, uniformed officers from every service, and people just
like us, we enjoyed several conversations with those who joined us at the
table. At 5.30pm people were beginning to wander out and as the whole thing was
scheduled to end at 6pm we too made our way out through the Palace. Once again
enjoying the Chinese porcelain and Derby dinner services all around us. Guy's
car was parked in Constitution Hill and we all arrived together.
I had divested myself of jacket, waistcoat, tie and, luxury of luxuries, my
shoes! At this point Guy and Jane produced their trump card, a cool-bag full of
drinks. Gin and tonics for Maggie and rum and tonics for me (a new favourite of
thanks Bob). Bliss! The ensuing journey was conducted in an
alcoholic haze (driver excepted) and gently aching feet.