A fair few of you have asked me to write about my day at Buckingham Palace so here goes.
I suppose the story really starts back in May.
After the worst week of my life (when I was ill in hospital and they were struggling to find the right antibiotics to get rid of an infection) I put myself into self imposed quarantine – staying home to stay as safe as possible and not get any more infections as I just didn’t think I could do another hospital stay especially in the grim wards of the Western General. (They are not all grim but some certainly are imo)
I was quite low mood wise but happy to be home and on a new chemo regime that seemed gentler in some ways though meant a weekly visit to the chemo ward rather than a three weekly visit.
That brings me to explaining why dashing to the door to collect the mail became a highlight of my day!
On this particular morning there was no need to dash as my fellow competitor in the ‘who can collect the mail first’ game was busy shaving and I saw the postman coming up the path. I picked up the mail and wandered through to the kitchen to open it. Anyone else look at the envelope and try to figure out what it is and who it is from? Oh go on, someone say they do!
So, there was this cream envelope with Buckingham Palace on it and I thought – oh my, what is this?
I opened it and started to read but suddenly couldn’t quite make out the words. I saw the words – am commanded by something something something and Officer of the British Empire and I started to shake – I ran into the hall shouting on Ian who, poor soul, thought something was wrong with me again and ran out with shaving foam dripping from his chin. I said read this read this – what does it say? I can’t make it out and we tried reading it together but he got all emotional too. It wasn’t a blub fest but it was a highly charged couple trying to take in the words.
We sat and read it over and over again. It was very official and there was a lot to take in. You had to accept it and answer all sorts of questions and the very worst bit was WE WERE NOT TO TELL ANYONE AT ALL FOR SIX WEEKS.
How was I going to manage to do that?
Somehow we did though we were allowed to write a press release the week before so were able to tell Kirsten who is our PR Champion. She came over one Sunday afternoon and we told her and her reaction was just so lovely. She was thrilled to bits.
Because she had written a press release, the BBC, Radio Forth, the Evening news and the Times approached us on the Friday.
Now that was a fun day – thank goodness it was a Friday because I always got my chemo on a Thursday and that meant a Friday was a good day as the steroids were still in my system and for whatever reason Fridays were ok energy wise. Energy was needed – I filmed a piece for BBC News, recorded a piece for Radio Forth and had photos taken for the Evening News. And took other calls too.
I loved it.
It cheered me no end. The embargo for news was 10.30pm that night so we stayed up in case the BBC Scottish news ran over and if it did they said the bit they filmed might be shown.
I was not used to staying up late – but was so buzzing it was easy that Friday night!
22.28, 22.29, 22.30 – news was still on and suddenly there was me on the BBC news! I wore the detested wig because well I didn’t want the award to be mixed up with the cancer and it looked ok. It just felt horrid.
Suddenly my Facebook and twitter page went mad – ping ping ping message after message came through. It was lovely and cheering and all so incredibly affectionate.
My parents were not happy bunnies – they were like – how come you couldn’t tell us? I said, I just wasn’t allowed to but I could tell I was in their bad books for a few moments!!
with Lisa Summers of the BBC
Front page today’s Evening News
with MSP and friend Alison Johnhstone
Sadly my idea to celebrate that weekend didn’t work out – I felt pretty rotten on the Saturday and truly awful on the Sunday. I had bought a very fancy cake from Cuckoo’s Bakery but never tasted a morsel of it.
I got lots of lovely cards and letters and they meant a very great deal to me – I have kept them all – but the focus changed back to getting better and getting off the chemo.
So fast forward to autumn and I started to think about what to wear and then put it aside. I hate clothes shopping. Ian had booked the flights and accommodation and we had asked Susan and Jack to accompany us.
Their clothes were sorted. I had originally thought I would get Totty Rocks to do an outfit for me and that would have been special but it was so busy at ig2g and I was feeling poorly I kept putting it off. Till it was too late.
Finally in late November pal Susie says enough Lynne you need an outfit. She takes me on a whistle stop tour of George Street and in Phase 8 chooses a dress and coat. They were both lovely.
However just a week later my Susan takes me out for my birthday lunch and in John Lewis we asked about hats and fascinators – nothing went with the coat I had bought but as luck would have it and it was clearly meant there is a Phase 8 concession in JL so we had a look – I was just going to show her the coat and there it was but in a royal blue. Which I suited even better than the green. And they had a royal blue fascinator.
My back up outfit was to wear my blue two-piece top and black trousers with flatter shoes and that is what happened. I just wasn’t comfy wearing heels of any kind and could wear low heels with my trousers so knew I had to do that. I couldn’t fall over on this day!
All these clothes meant we needed two big suitcases and two big hand luggage cases – for four days away! It was ridiculous.
Anyway, off we finally set on Wednesday last week – we had agreed to get a taxi from the airport to the hotel as I haven’t been feeling great past few weeks and my arms are so sore still I couldn’t have done the luggage on the tube or any other means of transport. Into the taxi we go. Well, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at Ian as he watched the meter rise and rise – I decided that I had to put it out my mind and enjoy the journey and I did. It was lovely to see the Tower of London and the Shard beyond it. We went along the embankment so saw Big Ben, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Westminster, along to Victoria and saw the Victoria palace theatre – a theatre Ian and I had gone to a very long time ago so that brought back lovely memories. Whether he saw any of these things I am not sure, as he was so busy checking his phone to make sure the taxi driver was taking the shortest route! (He was – the roadworks in London are horrendous). However the £70+ bill at the end of the journey nearly gave me a heart attack too. Friends have since told us all about Uber and other means of transport and we shall use them in future.
The hotel was right beside the natural history museum and there is a skating rink right outside with lovely lights and it is so pretty. We had a room with a settee, desk (never used for once), a dining table and a small but lovely kitchen and a huge bathroom. Susan and Jack’s room was right next door so we had another fridge for drinks and food.
I had an appointment with a manicurist on Wednesday afternoon in Harrods – I’d love to say it was worth the staggering cost but I just can’t. My nails were shaped and treated and painted and they are still nice so that is good but the cost was daft. Goodness me, how anyone can afford to live in London beats me.
We met up after and had a coffee (sorry to go on about it but £5.50 a cup??) And then went to Harrods food hall to choose dinner. I had asked to stay in and so we treated ourselves – a lovely big salad and I chose salmon and Ian a chicken breast and some lovely bread. Sparkling water for me and some wine for him and we were heading ‘home’. We had a relaxing evening watching TV and reading and fell asleep by 930pm!
Thursday morning we headed out to a wee restaurant recommended to me just the night before – it was a fifteen minute walk away and it was a lovely walk – we have always loved wandering round London finding new streets and architecture and we were delighted to be able to do same again. There are some stunning wee buildings in London town.
We enjoyed our breakfast then walked up and through Hyde park – I found parrots there a few years ago and since then it has become my ‘thing’ to seek them out anytime I am near Hyde park – I am pretty sure I heard them but I didn’t see them this time. The walk however was fantastic – peaceful, funny (the squirrels are so well fed there and tame they almost do tricks for you and even a family of little birds came down to see if we had food) and it was good exercise. We went to Harrods again and got some more food for Susan and Jack and only just managed to get back to the hotel in time to meet them as they arrived.
Jack wanted to do Selfridges and so did I and that is where we headed in the afternoon. I didn’t want to eat out the night before the palace so we bought some Chinese food from Selfridges and Ian did his chef duties and made dinner for us all in the room. I tried on all my clothes and came to a final decision and then got the ironing board out to iron the coat creases and my trousers and Susan asked me to do Jack’s suit so that got ironed too. We were all set.
Early bed but a restless night for me and I was awake super early. I had my shower and wondered how I could beam Jacqui down from Edinburgh to sort my hair – it is short and seems easy to manage but I can tell you it is not!! I missed her terribly.
Ian made us all a wonderful breakfast and I was only going to have toast but he said nope I was having scrambled eggs on toast. I was sure it would make me sick – the butterflies were bad. But it was good to have a decent breakfast in me after all.
Ian had booked a Mercedes to take us from the hotel to the palace and the guy said you need to be at the palace for 10am – I had better collect you at 915am. We were ten mins max away from the palace but having seen the traffic the day before I thought he was right to be cautious.
Ha ha guess what happened. Yep, no traffic.
We were there by 940am and the police wouldn’t let us in not surprisingly. We had to queue up outside though the cars were being thoroughly checked by the Police, as were our passports and passes. It was super fun to have tourists take your picture as you went into the palace grounds – I wonder who they thought we were!
It was an amazing feeling driving right into the palace through the arch I have seen so many famous folk go through and be met by palace staff in their red uniforms.
Award recipients had a separate cloakroom – no phones or cameras allowed by anyone so I just handed in my handbag and went off to see the royal loos.
The first loos Susan and I came to had me laughing – they were literally wooden boxes – oh royal wooden boxes but no way was I going to use one of those. Susan had taken one look at them and kept going and right enough through another doorway were more ordinary loos – with ordinary loo paper, friends, just ordinary loo paper.
Molton Brown toiletries though!
Back upstairs we met up with Ian and Jack and off we went up the red-carpeted staircase – signs at the top saying recipients one way and guests another so off I went on my own to this long gallery.
There were tables laid out with beautiful glasses and water or apple juice on offer. I sipped water – no way did I want to have to find the loos again before the ceremony was done.
Chatting with some of the other recipients was so interesting – to find out why they were there and where they were from – councilors, former service personnel, a head teacher, and other charity folks.
Then in came this very tall, big (big not overweight) man who said who he was but I have totally forgotten it. He explained exactly what we were to expect and what was expected of us.
Men, a neck bow not a chest bow, ladies a curtsy etc.
I was thinking of all the fitness classes I used to go to (and need to go to again) and how if I was told to turn left would turn right and find myself facing the wrong way and thought oh lynnie please don’t do that!
There were about 70 of us in the room and I was wondering where I would come on the list as wasn’t sure about standing for ages. I needn’t have fretted – I was called out in first group and led through the ballroom past all the guests to a gallery off to the side. We were able to chat quietly in here and I learned more about the amazing head teacher who had turned an inner city school around.
And finally finally the butterflies went away as I thought of my new Pilates teacher telling me to stand tall and my dad telling me to enjoy my fifteen minutes.
As we approached the head of the queue the three of us ladies who had been chatting decided to smile for all it was worth as we knew we were now on a camera somewhere (I believe there were fifteen or so cameras around the room) and then it was my turn. Walk forward to first equerry, pause, and wait till your surname is called – but this guy started to chat to me! He was lovely, said what had we three ladies been on – laughing gas – we were all so happy (what a lovely compliment) and when he nodded I should step forward – I heard my surname, he nodded, I went forward three steps turned TOWARDS the Prince of Wales, curtseyed stepped forward to the dais and chatted. He was lovely, asked about the charity, said he knew how hard it was to raise funds, asked about the Retreat and I invited him to come see it! He held out his hand to shake mine which was my cue to leave – step back three steps, curtsy, then turn to my right and I managed it all.
I then was ushered into another gallery, had medal taken off me and put in a box, then ushered to the back of the ballroom to join the guests watching the ceremony. It took me a while to spot Ian and Susan and jack but I should have known better – they were in second front row! So glad I didn’t see them on way in or I would have gotten all emotional.
Last person was given their medal, the national anthem started to play, we stood, the Prince left followed by 4 Ghurkas – they are so sweet with their fast march and then 2 Beefeaters and then it was time to find Ian who I could see was looking for me.
On our way out a Palace Press Officer who had arranged to chat to me about the experience – we chatted awhile, met me and suddenly these two guys in Household Cavalry uniforms moved behind her – I tell you I nearly jumped out my skin. They had stood there so still I hadn’t realised they were real!!
Out to freezing cold courtyard for photos – I was lucky – mine were pre arranged so didn’t have to wait.
And then we chuckled as we walked out of Buckingham palace – not quite as glam as going in eh? Mercedes in and walk out. Police chat to us though and are tourists take our photos. The Japanese tourists really do take photos of anything!!
Susan flags down a taxi and we all jump in and decide we want a wee snack and head to Harrods in all our finery – we go to a wee café in the basement and enjoy a panini.
Rest of the afternoon we snooze and I spend hours on social media.
Incredibly we were given a stunning gift of dinner at the Dorchester Grill Room so we put all our finery back on – except the hats – but oh how I wanted to wear the hat again! Taxi along to the Dorchester and can I tell you it is a gorgeous hotel – huge Christmas tree in the lobby and a massive gingerbread Dorchester Hotel model.
We were in the bar for an aperitif then into the stunning Grill Room – och the food was fabulous. From my scallops and black pudding, Ian’s lobster and seafood chowder to Susan and Jack’s sole goujonettes as our starters to our lovely mains, and the most divine lemon torte pudding. We retired to the lounge for coffee and listened to a singer and pianist singing a medley of Christmas songs and then headed home.
To a very early night with very sweet dreams.