Sunday, 30 August 2009

My Afternoon at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party on 21 July 2009

Ruth and I

Martin Anderson MBE

I was invited to the Garden Party by Donna Cresswell at the MND Association back in February and was absolutely thrilled. Everyone offered to accompany me, of course, but I knew immediately that I should ask my friend, Ruth Jacobs. We met at secondary school, both grew up in East London and Ruth is the sister I never had.

Outfit and hat hunting started in about March and wasn’t easy! The official invitation from the Lord Chamberlain arrived in June and I knew that I wasn’t dreaming. I’m not really a Royalist but love the history and enjoy reading about past monarchs. I feel honoured to have been invited and to have the experience of attending a Royal Garden Party.

So the big day eventually arrived and I felt excited and nervous. Ruth arrived and we both couldn’t believe that two East End girls were going to have tea at the Palace. Cameras are not allowed inside so my carer took some photos at home before we set off. We had been hoping for good weather but got heavy showers; this is England! I forgot the rain cover for my computer and told Ruth not to take her umbrella because we had raincoats.... BIG MISTAKE!

We were quickly through security and inside the vast Palace gardens. Everyone looked amazing, the women in beautiful outfits/hats and some of the men in uniform or top hats and tails. There were also people in their National dress which was fascinating to see. There were a couple of bands playing lovely music so we sat under a tree to listen. We were joined by Martin Anderson MBE, who helped to found the MND Association in 1979. He is a wonderful person, who has done so much for MND sufferers, and it was a real pleasure to meet him.

There were large tents with refreshments, sandwiches and cakes. We waited for the Queen to arrive and take tea in the Royal tent. It was raining and we needed an umbrella (sorry Ruth!) and a kind lady let us borrow hers. Then we spoke to MP, Lembit Opik, before waiting near the entrance to meet the Royal Family. Wheelchair users only; disability does have some advantages! We needed an umbrella again and one of the Royal horsemen standing behind us kindly sheltered us under his brolly. He told us that all of the Royal horses have a six week holiday in the country every summer, lucky them!

Then the Queen arrived and I managed to say ‘thank you very much for inviting me today Your Majesty’, on my computer. She smiled broadly and said ‘how sweet’. Prince Phillip said hello and then we spoke to Princess Anne who asked where we were from. I was now covered by Ruth’s and my raincoat and she said how well prepared I was. If only she knew....
Prince Charles stopped to talk for longer than the others and I was really impressed by him. It was only general chat but he seemed genuinely interested. Then we spoke to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Alexandra and Lady Ogilvy. They were all very kind and polite and I was very pleased to have met them all. I could get used to a Royal lifestyle!

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