Thursday 19 November 2020

Crowning glory

Time has been passing unexpectedly quickly - various national elections, the relentless creep of Covid, vaccine buzz, family stuff will do that, of course. Not as much time as since 1981, of course, but tonight, watching (with so much of the world) The Crown, the eve of the royal wedding felt very fresh.

In episode 3, Charles stands at the windows of the Palace, watching fireworks - and I remembered that I watched those fireworks too, that night, in Hyde Park, in a crowd more vast than any I've been part of, before or since. Actually, to be a stickler for fact, Charles and most of the royal family (but not Diana) were out there in the dark with me too, rather than having a dramatic conclave in the Palace. After all, it was the most spectacular display - massive fireworks that went on and on, a huge Catherine wheel, cannons, band music, choirs... oh, and a bonfire that Charles lit, the first of a trail of beacons that led away across the country.

Even more memorable, though, was being literally swept along afterwards through the dark by the crowd, like an ocean, with absolutely no chance of choosing my own direction. It was actually quite frightening. But we made it out, and eventually onto our train home - the milk train, stopping and starting all the way to Gloucester, pulling in finally at about 5am, with just enough time for a bit of a zizz before we had to get up again to watch the lead-up to the wedding itself, the streets outside completely dead as everyone in the country sat glued to their screens.

Charles and Diana came to Gloucester in December that year, going to a service in the city's magnificent cathedral, and we saw them as they left on a snowy winter's morning, Diana in an enviably stylish big coat and muff. It was my least personal royal encounter, of several over the years I lived in England, which included suddenly noticing that on the other side of the car window I was standing next to at the Badminton Horse Trials was the Queen Mother herself. At the same Badminton, equally distracted by the horses, I had to have it pointed out to me that the grey I was admiring was actually being ridden by Prince Charles. Plus, of course, there was the garden party I went to at the Palace in 1982.

The Queen and Prince Andrew (and the old Duke of Beaufort) at Badminton

It was lovely to see London in the programme, looking so fabulous, and so familiar: the steps up to St Paul's, the Victoria monument opposite the Palace, the Mall. It reminded me of being there, in August last year, and the perfect, sunny day I had, the last of my Silversea cruise. I left the ship, which was moored right by Tower Bridge, in the morning, took the tube to Buckingham Palace, did a tour around the rooms, so big and high and opulent and gorgeous, and then walked back through summery St James's Park, to Downing Street, past Big Ben to the Thames, and along the Embankment to climb, eventually, the Great Fire monument and finally return home to Silver Wind for my last night onboard. 

It was a brilliant day, and a happy ending to a cruise that actually had gone really badly, almost ruined by our both getting terrible, terrible flu that laid us out and left me with a permanent cough, to this day. Except, in other news today, it's been found that some people in Italy had Covid months before it was first recorded in Wuhan in November. I wonder...?

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