On my first day in England, long ago, it was the Trooping of the Colour. We went down to the Mall, to see Her Majesty ride to Buckingham Palace from Horseguards. She passed by, very close to young me.
I have spent much of a lifetime inspired by her extraordinary example of sacrifice and service.
I heard on the radio, “the family are going to Balmoral.” That was a pretty clear message.
Later that evening, during dinner with the family of one of the most talented computer pupils I even taught, their Ukrainian house guest came downstairs to tell us that the queen’s death had been announced.
I already had commitments for the ensuing week… drove north, entertained a guest from the US with a trip down the English Welsh border, with other events along the way. It was good to be away from wallowing in everything at home. Saw North Wales/ Snowdon for the first time. Apart from the very far north, and the far northeast of Scotland, it was the last bit of Britain I hadn’t seen until then. Funny it should have taken so long, with my affection for mountains.
On the day before the funeral, guest and I were en route from the West Country towards Heathrow. Even before the Queen’s death, Eton (just “below” Windsor Castle) was one of the things I had thought might be good to do on that day. A pre-booked room at Heathrow for the night before the funeral was a valuable asset!
We went into Eton and, miracle of miracles, found parking without difficulty. (Pre-planning and Parkopedia.com paid big dividends this day!)
Saw what we’d come from in Eton, and then made our way up to Windsor, in case we could see something without it all becoming too much in various possible ways.
We couldn’t have had a better experience. Even all of the timings involved “just worked”.
The mood of the crowds and the execution of the crowd control would have warmed the Queen’s heart. Everything was right. Even the weather! It was a celebration, but a thoughtful, dignified one.
Dallied in front of the usual entrance to the castle. (Saw Mary Berry come out!)
Meandered a bit to the south before getting caught up in a river of people flowing that way. The river eventually turned 180 degrees eastward, and we found ourselves walking towards the castle. Initially alongside the Long Walk… the route the Queen’s body would take the next day, and the one her mother’s took, which I remember so well. And for a significant distance on the Long Walk. Up to what is I believe, called “the Cambridge Gate”. The last gateway before the castle itself.
(Ironically, the next day, after watching the service at Westminster on my smartphone in a near-empty Chichester Cathedral, I later picked up the proceedings again just as the hearse was making the journey over the same portion that we had walked.)
It was the last day of my visitor’s time in the UK. (The next morning was only “getting to check in, etc” after a pleasant breakfast at the airport hotel.) We ended it with a lovely meal in an excellent branch of the “Cote” chain, by the Eton/Windsor bridge. (Venue of another special meal, years ago connected with what we’d come to Eton for.)
The day of the funeral itself was grey and depressing. Little actual rain, thankfully. At the end of the day, to clear cobwebs, did my usual walk up the ancient (Roman) track near me, through a famous “tunnel of trees”, to a high hill overlooking the district in which I live… and saw…