Monday, 16 June 2014

Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat


Snapshot after leaving: no photography allowed at party
An invitation to London to visit the Queen is not something I receive very often, but a few weeks ago a thick piece of card bearing an invitation to the first of the 2014 season of Buckingham Palace garden parties. A few days before the occasion we discovered some friends were attending the same party so we arranged to meet and go together.








With an occasion like this, once-in-a-lifetime and with extra smart clothing required, First Class travel was essential and was booked with East Coast from Peterborough to Kings Cross, with the usual connection from and to our home in Stamford by Cross Country. We could be fairly flexible about our own timing so we were able to book advance tickets at reasonable, although on this occasion not spectacularly cheap, fares.
Cheers!

It was a lovely day, sunny and warm but not hot, and given that I had to wear a suit and black shirt this was ideal. As we looked at our fellow passengers on the train it was clear we were not the only ones on board who were going to this party: the luggage racks were almost empty of anything but ladies' hats, and the "rules" for Royal Garden Parties stipulate no luggage and that ladies should wear hats!


We enjoyed the usual East Coast First Class hospitality, although I had to buy the sandwiches from the Caf├ęBar as lunch service is not available south of Peterborough, but wine service was ... by the tumbler!








Proprietorial pose with High Speed Train!
We met our daughter, who just qualified by age to accompany us to the party, at Kings Cross and then took the Victoria line to Victoria where we met our friends for coffee before venturing to the convenient entrance at the corner of the Palace garden off Grosvenor Place, joining the queue of overdressed gentlemen and hat-wearing ladies. The queue moved quickly and we were soon showing our admission cards and strolling into the Queen's back garden. It is just like anyone else's garden only bigger, with lawn, pond, trees and flowers, with a huge tea tent (three, actually) and a couple of tents set up for the two military bans which were to play alternately through the afternoon. This was not boring military music, though: the RAF band, for example, was the Squadronnaires playing swing and jazz music which suited such an occasion so well.

Tea (or soft drink) was available from so many service points in the tea tent, with sandwiches, cakes etc., that the seven thousand or so of us did not take at all long to be served. We did not meet the Queen or any other member of her family, although we did see her at a distance and did see the Duke of Edinburgh, looking not a day over 70, chatting to someone nearby. What was amazing was how many people we met whom we did know! Including someone else from Stamford, someone whose parents live in Stamford, a a former Rector of Grantham and a former Bishop of Grantham.

At the end of a lovely afternoon we made our way out and parted company with our friends who had a couple of things to do, arranging to reconvene in the Parcel Yard bar at Kings Cross for a drink before catching our separate trains home (they do not all stop at all stations). We walked to Green Park Underground Station and took our train from there to Kings Cross. A lovely stroll to round off an afternoon in London. In good weather London really is a city hard to beat: there is just a joy about being there.

When the Parcel Yard first opened one could walk straight up to the bar, order and choose any of dozens of seats. Now it has proved a huge success and the bar is often crowded and seats hard to come by, but even with no baggage with which to "bag" seats we managed to grab a table for four and enjoyed a pleasant drink or two (welcome at this time on a warm day) and I simply had to try the "life affirming" (so it said on the pump) ale by the name of Lazarus!




Soon the time came to board the train to Peterborough (with a complimentary glass of Famous Grouse, of course) and onward connection to Stamford and so to home, where our garden really would not work for such a party ...

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