So as I mentioned in my last blog, I promised to try & describe my time at the Royal Wedding of Prince William & Catherine Middleton. To be honest, I’d been saying for quite a while that I was going to go to Buckingham Palace on the day of the wedding & had even taken possession of a small tripod seat from my mother to sit on for the big (and long) day.
As the day approached last week, I was ‘him-ing’ & ‘haa-ing’ about what time to go… anything from getting up at 0300 to 0600 was considered & determined upon. I didn’t really make a decision to be honest until the evening before… I had been preparing my bag to go the following morning with sandwiches, apples, books, a bottle of water and had even headed to B&Q to see if I could buy a bamboo cane for my Northern Ireland flag, without making that decision.
So having taped a flag in the living room window for the occasion, I sat down to watch SKY news’s coverage of the lead up to the wedding & frankly the sheer crowd already at Buckingham Palace at 1900 the night before made me think… ‘should I go now?!’ … and honestly, after 15 minutes of watching the crowd, my mind was made up… ‘yes I should!! So I packed a blanket & a towel into my bag (why a towel, to be honest, I hadn’t a clue) grabbed my NI flag and a hoodie and away I went on the bus to Buckingham Palace.
One of the joys of where I live is how convenient things are… I caught a bus to Horse Guards Parade and 10 minutes later I was wandering amongst thousands of people on the Mall. As I walked up the western side, the number of tents increased gradually the closer you got to the Palace & then they disappeared completely at the entrance to the area immediately in front of the Palace. Here, it was standing room only.
After a cursory look, I was beginning to think that I would have to head half way back down the Mall, but then I glanced to the other side of the Mall & it looked a bit thinner in terms of person per square inch… so I crossed over & behold I found a spot in the front row almost perfectly in front of the fountain, with a view of the Balcony where the Royal couple would be due to appear on the Friday. With a polite hello & ‘may I pitch myself here?’ to the elderly looking ladies near by, I was sat almost exactly where I wanted to be. Result.
And so the waiting began… I was in position at around 2200… just 12 hours or so before the Princes William & Harry were due to leave Clarence House for Westminster Abbey, where the wedding was to be held. So to pass the time, I put up my Northern Ireland flag, set out the small 2-step step ladder which I had brought with me and sat down to read my book. As these things happen, I got to chatting to the lady on my right & it turned out that Ester was from Brazil, though had been living in London for over 10 years. She was to be my buddy for the next 16 hours or so as we saw the event through to the end.
We started to chat, share stories, chocolates & biscuits & before you knew it it was nearly midnight… I even had visitors… I hung my Northern Ireland flag on the barriers around the side of the road, the same NI flag I bring to international football matches with the name of my village on it – ‘Clabby’. Little would I know that ladies from the town where I went to school would be wandering around & so at around midnight 5 ladies from Fivemiletown came over & we started to chat about the event!! All very exciting.
They were actually just doing what hundreds, if not thousands of people were doing… wandering around milking up the atmosphere. One of the peculiar things was the sheer numbers of people who were simply just wandering through yet were not staying over night. Up until around 0200 the road was thick with interested people… and a few others stopped to chat – including a guy from Stranraer in Scotland & a couple of ladies from Austin, Texas.
After they left and Ester decided that she was going to try & give sleep a go, I read for another 30 minutes or so & then decided I would try to sleep myself. Now I’ve never slept on the street before but what I can tell you now is that it is cold, hard and sore… I laid my towel down as a mattress (you can imagine how unsuccessful that replacement was), put on my woolly hat, pulled up my hoodie and wrapped myself in my blanket using my backpack as a pillow… and tried to sleep… unsuccessfully at first but around 0400 I managed to drift off asleep, the night before the big day.