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My date with the Queen

In case you didn’t know …

It’s a big year, this one of 2012. The London Olympics. The European Championships and something that seems to have been celebrated all year: Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. We’ve had the concert, the river regatta, the bank holiday, lighting of the beacons all across the country; well, just all sorts. Today (Wednesday 13th June), she visited my part of the world: Stamford and Corby. These are pretty much in the centre of England, if you’re reading this from outside the British Isles. Not especially grand places so it was extra nice of the royal sovereign to visit us. I’ve seen her a few times over the period of my life, mostly when I was younger and always in London. Seeing her today was all a bit of a surprise.

I’m off to see the Queen

Late yesterday afternoon I got a call inviting me to be one of 4 people from the local FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) to attend the ‘Diamond Jubilee Picnic’ at Burghley House, near Stamford. I was thoroughly excited about this and accepted. Last night I ironed a nice shirt and trousers, brushed down my jacket and polished my shoes. After all it is the Queen. I had to be at Stamford at 9.30am and I left in plenty of time. Hallelujah! I was there with 15 minutes to spare; almost unheard of. We were only allowed one car into the grounds and we went in Maxine Aldred’s. There was a delay of nearly an hour, but I kept the faith. I was going to see the Queen. The blue car park pass was the one we needed and the policeman directing traffic waved us through. We drove past many people who had to park further back and we thought we’d got a special pass. We parked on the grass and realised this wasn’t quite what we expected. The staff of Burghley had cut the grass and wet grass (it was drizzling when we got there) does nothing for your shiny shoes!

Posh Glastonbury

As we walked to the entrance of the event we avoided the muddy patches and my immediate thought was posh Glastonbury. There were the four local counties involved and they had tents promoting their wares; there were local county council stand, chutney and jams as well as beer. You could buy steak sandwiches, chips, coffee and tea; there was a beer tent and my favourite two Mr Whippy ice cream vans. There were members of the Armed Forces, including the bomb disposal unit! That one baffled me, I must admit. Guess what there wasn’t? Signage or anyone to ask what was happening and when it was happening. There was a programme, but it wasn’t written in a code understood only by the writer and certain members of the underground special forces unit of Ukraine, because no one reading English could work out anything from it. What we had come to then was Glastonbury-cum-Army display-cum-country fair with the Queen as the extra special guest.

Keeping it regal

Of course what we wanted to know was what was the best vantage spot to see Her Majesty? It seemed there was another area to see her. This was a fenced off area to which you needed a red ticket to access. Alas, my ticket was blue. I remained among the proletariat. I watched, slightly enviously, at the people behind that white picket fence. To me it appeared you had to be a member of the clergy, a mayor, have many medals upon your chest or, well I couldn’t tell to be honest. At around 12.10pm the Queen arrived, by helicopter no less. In order to let the diminutive monarch be more visible there were huge video screens around. It was easy to pick her out as well as she was wearing a turquoise outfit and hat. She disappeared briefly into Burghley House then came back out to plant a tree next to one that her predecesor, Queen Victoria, had planted on her diamond jubilee. Well, planted? What she actually did was put three shovels of earth onto a tree already planted. C’mon, she’s 86, give her a break. A Range Rover transported her up the hill to where we were: the proletariat and the dignitaries. It was great to see what a great leveller she is. These people who had been looking so pleased with themselves five minutes earlier now ran about and climbed on chairs to take photos of the Queen as she passed by. It was almost comical. She was in the enclosure area, and had lunch, for about an hour and throughout she kept that regalness about her. All you would expect really from someone who has done the job for 6 decades.

I was impressed

When she left it was by car and she headed towards Corby where she was a big hit all over again. We were treated to a Red Arrows flypast and aeronautic displays complete with a Hurricane and a Spitfire, before the drive home. Overall, it was a lot of standing about and some confusion, but I did get to see the great lady; I observed lessons in how to be cool when all around are losing heir head and I have an experience that I’ll always remember. Whether you’re a royalist or not, the fact remains that she did a full days work today and at the age of 86, that is impressive. I’ve come away with a new sense of admiration for Queen Elizabeth II and hearing the national anthem when she was there was great for me, no doubt she might be getting used to it by now.