Together with my ex chairman, Colin Legg, having been commanded by the  Lord Chamberlain to attend the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on 22nd July, we set off the day before to do just that.  Set off twice in fact as to horror as I began to pack,  I found a slight  mark on on the jacket I was to wear.  I quick sponge & I hung to dry in prominent place or so I thought?  Mini cab arrived early and off we went down Aston Hill when it dawned that the jacket was still swinging on its coat hanger half way down the stairs.   I’ve done this before.  I must tie a knot in my hanky. Taxi turned back to my house & we  still arrived at Chester station with time to spare.  Which was just as well.  Colin handed a sheath of tickets to the man on the gate who thumbed through the pack and told us we were short of  the London bound one. We had receipt &  reservation but they were not enough.  Negotiations with the Virgin Help Line to India, (from the accent on a crackly line) failed to resolve the problem so we had to buy another one .  Then the heavens opened & hail stones crashed onto a leaky roof.  Fortunately, Cllr Legg noticed a lagoon of water creeping up behind us as a down pipe gushed water across the station.  We jumped clear of the fast moving flow  & watched in sympathy as a passenger waded into the flood to retrieve a suitcase she had abandoned to answer a  mobile.  A train pulled in.  Ducking the buckets to catch drips and picking our way across a wet station we were then prevented from boarding the train as it was only part of it but the other half was on the way.  Cables had been stolen further down the track we were informed by a knowing passenger,  “Happened to her before”.  Both bits of the train were united & passengers were allowed to board.  We sank into first class seats, paid for by Cllr Legg &  jangled nerves were soon soothed by tea & excellent salt beef sandwiches plus cake & more tea. I had expected to stay in a cheap hotel (whatever that means at London prices), near Euston & thought Colin was teasing when he mentioned our overnight venue which was the Royal College of Surgeons in Lincoln’s Inn Field.  A kind friend had made the arrangements & although not the Ritz, the rooms were very adequate & the cost was considerably less than the alleged cheap billet close to the station.  We ate supper at a local foody pub.  I paid for the drinky-poos & Colin paid for the food.  I was unimpressed with the £4.80 that was slapped on my part of the  bill as a gratuity. The next day, nervous over a sharp shower that fell just before we set of for the Palace, the hat, (not to be worn in the rain), was carefully carried in a plastic bag. It was finally worn when Colin & I were snapped on my mobile by a friendly French visitor who made appreciative signs when the chapeau emerged from its bag. The queue outside the palace  stretched for ever & was still being added to at 3.45pm, when Colin & I made it to the gates.  Passports & driving licences inspected plus a utility bill proffered as extra proof of identity & we were in.  Crunching our way across the gravel we ascended the elderly red carpet into the palace foyer and across to the garden. It was a solid sea of citizens all waiting impatiently for 4pm when the  Queen would arrive.  Realising the chance of seeing HRH in the crush was slim, we headed for the long open fronted tea pavilion and slid up to the table which was divided into areas by ropes so that the fencing arrangement allowed the diner a full choice of the goodies on offer; the same fare repeated on and on down the extensive table.  The tea was good.  The menu was extensive,  Square cut crust-less sandwiches,“Not the cucumber again”, (as described on the menu),  ham & something, egg, salmon finger rolls, smoked salmon on cream cheese & tiny cream/splodge of jam scones.  That was the savoury section.  Strawberry,  raspberry cream  tartlets, Dundee cake, sponges & citron tartlets formed the sweet course. Beverage, juice, tea, coffee or water and each eater was given a small rectangular  plastic indented tray for cut and food.  A much needed cuppa was almost in reach when all service stopped as the National Anthem was imminent.   I munched a cucumber sarnie or two before the anthem was played & with service resumed, wobbled with tea & a piled up plate to push into a high table conveniently placed outside the tent where the serious business of eating the Queen’s fare began.  The Arch Bishop of Wales, who too had to queue remembered Colin from our meeting at a function in Llangollan last summer.  He was less sure of who I was but the hat would have foxed him. “You were kind enough to remove a chair to allow me to get out of the car”, I purred. After exchanging pleasantries with him and his attractive daughter, we returned to the food.  A small silver haired man in stripy trousers glared at me as I was staring hard in an attempt to place him.  He’s an MP I muttered & slid up to a woman in his group. “Sorry to be so rude,” I muttered, “but its driving me mad as I can’t think of his name.”  “It’s Alan Duncan I think”. “Oh dear, I didn’t listen properly when we were introduced”, she apologised.  “But I’m sure you’re right”  “It was an Alan.”  Thanking her we moved into the crowd but the Queen was deep on the other side & out of sight.  As one had not brought a small step ladder or a periscope, one did not have a chance of seeing even what hat she was wearing. Watching the faces of the Beefeaters who lined her route gave some indication that she was processing through the crowd but the only glimpse of her blue outfit was when she vanished into the gap between the Diplomatic tent and the Royal one, she  was scheduled to take her own tea. We consoled ourselves by rolling up the the food again, choosing a different spot in case we were recognised as coming back for more.  As the plates of refills were on hand, the chance of running out seemed remote. We admired the lake, listened to the band, chatted with other guests and finally decided that we would see no more of royalty that day and I had a train to catch. We retraced our steps back through the smiling flunkies and the royal foyer, but not before accepting an ice cream carton from an perambulating waiter. I declined having pigged out on the pastries but Colin took one & carefully wrapped in his hanky.  The Naval officer and lady who we followed into the foyer dutifully handed their unopened carton to a flunky rather than eat it in public.  Crafty Colin devoured his in the taxi back to the lair of the Royal Surgeons.    Thankfully, Colin had kept his room as he was staying longer in London so I changed out of Palace gear into train garb and he accompanied me and hat back to Euston.  Sitting in the cool & uncluttered Platform 10 as the departure board told me this was the right platform, as the clock moved on, I realised that something was wrong. I wanted a virgin train, not the one at platform 10.  By the time I had tracked down the right platform, the train was leaving in ten minutes & it  was crowded.  I was grateful for the backward facing aisle seat & clutched bag & hat until I found a way of storing both. When my Chester taxi driver discovered where I had been, he regaled me with Nick Griffin’s failure to join me in the tea tent.  He seemed impressed that I had taken tea with the Queen, even if we did not see her cutting the cake. I winced at the cost of the  dog’s boarding but I do have four. Hopefully, the hat will be sold on E Bay to offset some of the cost! The Garden Party was my final swansong as Chairman Legg’s consort. .  As I’m on the Establishment blacklist for taking that equality action against the Home Secretary et al. all those years ago on a failure to be promoted nine times issue, I am  indebted to  Colin Legg for  choosing me as his consort. Without that honour,  I would never have had the chance of eating  those cucumber sarnies or tasted Buck House tea. I was very pleased to be given the opportunity and it was obvious that so many others in the community  were enthralled to be asked too.  Thank you Ma’am, The tea was excellent. If there ever is a next time, I will take a  beer crate to stand on so  I can admire your hat as well as mine!   .

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