Being woken up at 4.40 am to be watch history in the making was not my idea of fun, but my dad's words echoed in my ears. Several of my fondest memories are sitting in front of the television, with my dad, as he said, 'Watch this, and one day you will say to your kids, I saw this as it happened'. Quite happy to watch history being made, I would sit, and watch, without question. We watched Apollo 11 land on the moon, and years later, the Shuttle returning to Earth. Years later I left the television turned off, as I physically witnessed the car which carried the late Diana, Princess of Wales, as she was taken to her final resting place. It remained off again when Samantha and I went to Hyde Park to see the concert for Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee.
Watching the future King of England pledge his troth to his intended, was something that I was not going to miss. Samantha and I agreed, had we still been living in England, we would have either been in Hyde Park, or perhaps less likely, in my opinion, but more so in Samantha's, we would have camped out on the pavement on The Mall. Setting the machine to record ten hours of coverage seemed to be slightly excessive, but I was not sure how alive I would be at 3am, and I had to leave for work at 7! I didn't want to miss a thing. It was imperative, however, that I see the ceremony live, and I would need to be awake in time to see Kate arrive at the Abbey.
At 4.40am my bedroom door opened, and I heard the words, 'The Queen has just left to go to the Abbey'. Having had quite a restless night, and not having dropped off to sleep before 1am, I suggested another alarm call when Kate was on her way. This duly sounded at around 4.50am, and I reluctantly left my bed to watch another historical moment.
Royal Wedding fanaticism had reached fever pitch in Austin. We were surprised that there was still as much interest in the British Royal family as ever there was. There were several parties being orchestrated, and advice was being sought as to how to celebrate with a traditional 'cockney knees up', although those words were not used verbatim, as they are somewhat alien to dwellers across the pond.
Samantha and I watched as the hats walked down the aisle preceding the bride. I am a hat lover, and occasions such as these are such a feast for my eyes. For my money, Zara Phillips won the day as I could see myself wearing a similar model. I think the biggest disappointment was the 'pretzel' that appeared on the princess who is presently fifth in line to the throne. However, I am not here to pass judgment or add this post to the bevy of fashion reports that have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and on the internet. Our experience this morning was very personal. We were carrying on the family tradition of 'being there'. As I sat, emotionally charged, my eyes tearing, as I am dry eye challenged in such circumstances, the orchestra struck up the National Anthem, and Samantha reminded me that we needed to be standing. We stood. It was rather a poignant moment. Samantha, dressed in a Union Jack T-shirt, and large velvet Union Jack'd top hat, stood on her bed. Pyjama clad, I stood by the bed, and hoped my tone deaf warbling would not disturb anyone still sleeping.
Unfortunately, I had to make my excuses to the Royal Family, and whilst I saw everyone leave the Abbey and return to the Palace, I couldn't hang around for the photo's to be taken, as I had to get ready for work. They didn't seem to be too concerned at my absence and it appears the crowds were not deterred by my absence! I received several emails during the day. My manicurist wanted confirmation on royal protocol, and I was her 'Jeeves'. One of our clients reported that she had watched the ceremony live and was delighted she had made the effort. It was one of those moments that made me very proud to be English. I had the 'you tube' page open on my computer, to query various events that I knew would take place, such as the 'balcony kiss' and I was duly rewarded as videos were posted. Once again, I saw it happen, and this time it was I who said to my child, 'you will be able to say to your children, I saw this happen'.
It brought back memories of another Royal Wedding, several years ago, when another not so young prince was about to embark on a very rocky adventure. On 28th July, 1981, I went to Hyde Park to join thousands of others in wishing Prince Charles a bon voyage into his new life. It was the night before the big day, and we were all invited to the 'bucks' party. I don't remember much about the concert, but I was there. The evening itself was not without memories. Five of us had made our way to London; my sister and her future husband, then boyfriend, a friend of theirs' with his girlfriend, and me, playing gooseberry, but not particularly bothered by the fact. Amazingly enough, the memory that sticks in my mind is leaving the car park after the concert. The 'other couple' in the car were not on speaking terms. 'He' had been less than kind to 'her' when we had crossed the road at an unauthorised point, and been forced to climb over a police barrier. Unfortunately, 'she' was wearing a calf length skirt, and had got stuck straddling the metal gate. The argument that ensued subsided and my sister and I were convinced the relationship was dead, but they would have to spend at least another few hours breathing the same air space. I don't really remember the walk back to the car, but what happened once we were inside, is indelibly printed on my mind. There were so many vehicles attempting to leave the area, and the roads were clogged with bumper to bumper traffic. It was going to take us some time to get home. My sister's boyfriend was driving and the other guy was in the front passenger seat, whilst the three female members of the party were uncomfortably seated in the back. We were moving an inch every ten minutes, and the tension was starting to rise. Trying to make conversation got more and more difficult and, eventually, we gave up. I am not sure whether it was a defense mechanism, but 'he' started to give my sister's boyfriend advice on how to drive. We were going down a spiral exit route, and anything other than turning the wheel, and putting your foot on the brake, when the car in front stopped, seemed to be irrelevant. Each time we stopped, the instruction was to turn off the car. My sister and I were trying very hard not to giggle in the back of the car as the 'authority' in the front was giving orders to be obeyed. Unable to stay quiet, I asked, in a most demure and humble way, yet with an element of subtle sarcasm, whether this was beneficial, as it would appear to be more wearing to constantly re fire the engine. The two male members in the front of the car looked at each other, rolled their eyes, and clucked their tongues. This comment was not even worth an answer. My sister and I continued to stifle giggles. The poor girl who had just been returned to the 'singles' scene, remained silent. The car started for the umpteenth time, and we moved another yard or two. However, despite the constant tuition on how to operate the vehicle in this situation, the engine remained alive. The passengers in the back seat sat with baited breath, waiting for the disciplinary measures that would surely befall the driver for not using his initiative. The front seat passenger looked straight ahead, and quietly, yet pointedly, said something that caused me to blow bubbles through my nose, as I attempted, but failed, to stifle the laughter. It was not so much what was said, but the way it was said; as a berating statement from the front seat passenger 'And again', he sighed, 'it is pointless wasting petrol'. He then signalled for my sister's boyfriend to turn off the car, which he did. I am not entirely sure why I found this to be so funny, but if ever I have needed an excuse to make my niece, Emma, laugh, I just repeat, 'and again, it is pointless wasting petrol.' I think that most people have memories relating to various national and international events that have no bearing to the actual happening, but that is how stories become family 'heirlooms'. However, no matter what I do or do not remember, I was there! The following day I watched the ceremony on television, and am able to say, 'I saw that as it happened'.
Being such a traditionalist, I found it rather difficult being so far from home for the event which took place on Friday, but the wonders of modern technology afforded me the privilege of live viewing.
I am sure I am not alone in wishing the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a very happy, long and healthy life together, and thank them for giving me yet another subject upon which to write, as well as reminding me of previous events which allowed me to report.....another story.