On going to the Garden Party (the one that Nick Griffin did not)

I’m not what you’d call a Royalist.  I’m not anti Royal either.  Just not that interested, in the same way I’m not that interested in the glossy celebrity photo shoots in Hello magazine or OK.  They  just don’t feel that relevant to me.  Having said that, when I received a letter saying I might get an invite to one of the Garden Parties provided I indicated in advance whether I would accept such an invitation were it received I was too curious not to go.  Well, it’s Buckingham Palace innit?

When the invitation arrived it advised a hat was required.  It also advised that National Costume was permitted and I seriously considered rigging myself out in the pointy black hat and red flannel  shawl but in the end decided against it.  Partly due to laziness (adult size Welsh costume is not the easiest thing to get hold of and the stuff available on the Internet is all of the saucy Welsh costume variety) and partly because when I googled the history of the Welsh costume it seemed that our current Welsh costume is just what rural Welsh people were wearing back in the late eighteenth century so not exactly the forward thinking, vibrant, multi-cultural, business minded Wales of today.    So I shelved that idea and borrowed a hat from Nannie for the occasion.

So, what’s it like?

  • Much easier to get in than you might think – I expected some sort of rigorous search or at least some questioning about the amount of time I spent picketing South Africa house back in the early eighties but a flash of the passport and my husband and I were in.
  • Much nicer round the back of Buckingham Palace than at the front.  The front looks a bit like a prison but the back is a soft orange colour, like the houses in Bath, and it’s quieter and of course there’s a big garden with a lake.
  • They manage to serve tea to 7,500 people very efficiently  – cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off, fruit cake, victoria sponge – and a really good cup of tea.    I had two cups.  And another piece of cake if you must know.
  • Other nations do prettier national costumes than us – saris knock the spots of black pointy hats and prickly flannel shawls.   I think I might have seen one lady dressed up either in Cornish dress or Irish.  Either that or she’d actually chosen to look a bit like a milking maid in a green flannel frock.
  • Cameras are forbidden but twenty minutes before the end, everyone was whipping out their mobile phones.  To start with it was surreptitious but as soon as people realised the Secret Service didn’t suddenly swoop down on a wire and grab you,  everyone was at it.
  • There were a huge variety of people there – lots of chains of office and armed forces ; a good few women who thought they were going for a boozy afternoon at Ladies Day in Ascot orange fake tan the lot;  a gay couple with mohicans (short ones) wearing suits and with those big holes in their ears (don’t get those); lots of flowery frocks and sensible shoes with Amercan tan tights; and, Mr Griffin please note,  lots and lots of different colour skins.

The best bit for me by far was when Her Majesty passed right by us, about two yards away.  Not for my benefit but for the eighty year old lady next to me who was an ardent Royalist and was so pleased and proud to be that close to the Queen that tears shone in her eyes.    That was moving that was.    And the Queen, who is 85 and small and looks rather like my Gran these days, worked hard for a good few hours, talking to people and making them feel special.  Which is I think pretty much the Royal Family’s job these days and one which the Queen is rather good at.

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