Somehow I managed to find myself in possession of an invitation to a Royal Garden Party. The Lord Chamberlain had been “ordered” by HRH Queen Liz to invite me so it was only right that I show up. Didn’t want to let her down, after all.
This was, and still is, quite possibly the most random thing to have been entered into my social calendar and I wasn’t about to show myself up so I hit the shops and purchased a nice frock that covered “the girls” and wouldn’t flash my gusset to any poor unsuspecting Royals (well, not unless they asked very nicely and bought me a corgi-drawn carriage first). Said (cheap) dress was of course carefully accessorised with a £3 fascinator that had originally been bought for a transvestite and a belt held together with blu-tack. No expense spared for this little shindig!
After a swift glass of something fizzy in a nearby pub, my lovely male companion and I joined the throng of well-to-do invitees outside the Palace gates and formed one of the most mild-mannered queues known to humanity, where optimistic tourists snapped away at us, hoping that on closer inspection, we’d all turn out to be a Prime Minister, a Pippa Middleton or a at the very least, a Z-list soap actor.
Having run the gauntlet of tourists, police and feather hatted clergy’s wives, we made our way through the front gates, into the Palace and on out to the garden where the “party” was in full flow – and so was the rain.
This inclement Great British weather made for rather soft turf which is the perfect terrain for a game of Tent Pegging. For those of you not overly familiar with this game, it’s where ladies in stupidly high heels walk on soft ground and try, yet fail, to avoid sinking hopelessly to the point that their shoes get stuck, á la tent pegs. The true challenge of this game is then for their male partners to try to resist the temptation to push these wobbly damsels off their mud-bound shoes (I say push!).
I have to hand it to QEII, she lays on a damn fine spread. So fine, in fact that most of the mild-mannered old biddies threw propriety to the wind and came out of the tea tent with their plates stacked precariously with sandwiches and cakes, five layers deep – shame and restraint clearly have no place at a buffet, regardless of whether it’s afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace or the help-yourself salad bar at Harvester!
Having loaded ourselves up with cucumber sandwiches and cups of good old fashioned strong tea (probably not PG Tips), we stood around in the rain, enjoying the random brass band renditions of various well known movie songs until suddenly, the whole garden became a buzz (a well behaved and very slow moving geriatric buzz) which indicated that the Royals were approaching. It’s as though the upper classes develop a special sense of smell once they hit old age that means they can detect an approaching head of state from half a mile away, without having to look up from their overburdened plates.
The entire throng converged into three human pathways, aimed toward the Royal Tea Tent, with a member of the Royal family placed at the top of each one. Aaaaand THEY’RE OFF! Prince Philip (he who speaks as he finds, comedy legend), Prince Charles (your turn will come, Charlie, hang in there) and Lizzy (short, big boobs) were set off on what can only be described as a race to the cake, with the annoying obstacle course of hands to shake and pre-selected boring people wearing mayoral chains and medals to make pre-scripted small talk with. And all this to the brass band strains of the James Bond theme?! I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Philip bust out a commando roll across the lawn!
While the Royal contestants were busy racing their way to a spot of victoria sponge, myself and my friend were part of Queen Elizabeth’s human pathway which basically means we spent an hour standing around in the rain, waiting to see a little old lady walk past and laughing at terribly posh people trying to maintain their dignity and manners while jostling for space, tent-pegging and forcing out polite rigid smiles at people whose umbrellas were dripping down their well-bred necks.
All this jostling was too much for one poor old dear who lost her place at the front of the line-up when she collapsed. Being the thoughtful considerate sort, I totally paused for one whole second as they carted her off before taking up her place in the front row. Well, if she had died, she would have wanted to know that her spot hadn’t gone to waste, right?
I needn’t have worried too much about my outfit for the day. Clearly some people hadn’t worried about theirs at all! One lady decided to interpret “afternoon dress” as knee high boots and short skirt while another went for dirty rain coat and plastic Debenhams carrier bag, as though she’d just popped by after dropping the kids off at school. Perhaps if I’d looked closer I might have spotted that it was Princess Beatrice and Fergie…
I’m not sure I understand the fascination with the Royals and I’m not sure I ever will but as we stood there watching the poor Queen obligingly stroll past her gawping subjects, to a reach a well deserved cuppa, I overheard someone who epitomised voyeuristic obsession. She asked the man in front of her if he could see The Queen. When he replied in the affirmative and would she like to take his place in the line, she replied “oh no, I just want to know what shoes she’s wearing”.
Having decided we’d seen enough of Queeny’s back garden (flowers, trees, vicars blah blah blah), and being in need of a proper beverage, my friend and I headed to the front door where everyone, having decided that as they’d had their tea and therefore no longer cared about getting kicked out, were flouting the no mobile phones/cameras rule. Well, let’s face it, would you be able to tell your mother that you’d had tea with The Queen without getting a snap for her to show all her friends?! I know I wouldn’t!
Oh, and in case you were wondering who won the cake race, it wasn’t Lizzy. She got taken down at the last hurdle by a war veteran springing an un-scheduled anecdote on her. Congratulations Charles, you get to beat her at some things!