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Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

July 24th, 2009

3103751851_22f5895afe_mPatricia and I were invited to one of the royal garden parties at Buckingham Palace, and we had a great day in spite of the intermittent rain. What struck me was the efforts which everyone made, including the Royal family, to make it a special occasion.

Many who read this blog will have been to one of these events and will know the details. But for those who haven’t, it really is a piece of great administration and organisation to ensure that everything goes smoothly. The dress code is not optional but is clearly defined. It’s a case of hats for women, uniforms without medals, morning suit or lounge suit for men, and clergy may wear cassocks. It seemed to me that everyone who was there kept to the code.

The food on offer in the tea tent was superb. Among the delicacies were beautiful sandwiches (no egg and onion, but salad, ham, and smoked salmon) mini lemon meringue pies (another favourite of mine), exquisite fruit cake and iced coffee or tea. We Brits don’t normally do coffee well, but this was great stuff. Then ice cream and more tea and iced coffee. The highlight for me was a chocolate petit fours with an embossed gold crown. As a connoiseur of tea and sandwiches, this really was a high and royal standard.

As we waited for the Royal party to arrive on the lawn, we are arranged into aisles or lanes. One of the Gentlemen-at-Arms engaged me in conversation and, discovering my origins, told me of his experiences in Northern Ireland as an army officer stationed for a lengthy period at Ebrington Barracks in Londonderry. In his retirement he now does this unpaid job as a ceremonial royal bodyguard for lots of important occasions; “mobile wallpaper” as he described it.

At four 0’clock precisely one of the military bands played the National Anthem and the Royal party appeared. Even though I have been a British citizen for nearly 60 years, this was the first time I saw my Sovereign in the flesh. She was very pleasant as she conversed with those designated to meet her, and looked so well. Prince Philip looked wonderful for his years. But it was Charles and Camilla who really entered in and appeared totally committed to making the event a success. Camilla particularly seemed determined to chat with everyone within range and was most relaxed.

As the members of the Royal family were moving through the ranks neatly arranged for them, the Band of the Irish Guards played two tunes which were the perfect “mood music” for me: “How Great Thou Art” and “The Londonderry Air”. With the beautiful backdrop of the Palace, the crowd in their colourful dress, the aristocratic hosts, the taste of the delicious iced coffee, and the strains of good music, it was most enjoyable.

I must say that as we left the Palace and made our way down Buckingham Palace Road, we felt that we had shared in a wonderful occasion. How much more thrilling will it be when we see our Greater Sovereign, and when we sing with the cosmic chorus our eternal anthem of “How Great Thou Art”!

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