Friday, June 28, 2013

Mightily Bemused Elliott

A surreal day - to Buckingham Palace to collect my gong. Bemused expressions from commuters as we travelled in style by tube, Liz and the girls looking fabulous in their best frocks (Liz wore a fascinator: a lovely thing and a great word), compromised a bit as we walked the last few hundred yards in cagools. 
Needless to say, this was the first time any of us had ever been to the Palace, which we entered via the main gates; just doing that was exciting enough. We then walked across the red gravel forecourt, past a guard in his sentry post, through an intimidating archway, across a huge courtyard and up some steps into an ornate lobby. The walls were literally covered with paintings: Canaletos, Renoirs, Winterhalters etc; it was funny the absence of captions. Here we were separated - Liz and the girls were led directy into the huge Throne Room, me to an ante-chamber with 100 other slightly nervous souls. There were quite a few uniformed characters, army, police, and a guy in a kilt who turned out to be Ewan MacGregor. Chatted with him and a few other far more worthy individuals than me while the Palace officials explained the procedings and informed us that Prince Charles would be doing the honours today.
We were then led through various corridors to the side of the Throne Room. Each person was announced and finally it was my turn: "Mr David Elliott - for services to United Kingdom cultural interests in China". Ah, so that's what it was for. Whereupon I walked into the cavernous hall, did a little bow, walked up to Prince Charles, he pinned the medal onto my suit and we had a quick chat. He looked well and tanned. I half thought of mentioning that we'd met 25 years ago at the start of my career at the British Council, when I took him round an exhibition of pop music, but thought better of it. At the time he'd been married to Diana for a few years and tried hard to show some interest in the music she liked. "Oh, I know this group", he said, "it's Status Quo isn't it?" All this flashed before me as we bantered for fully 30 seconds before he shook my hand and indicated that the conversation was over. 
I then walked down another corridor where someone put my medal into a presentation case. Outside, reunited with Liz and the girls, we had some photographs taken, and Mo Farrah kindly posed for one with the girls. That made their day. 
After all that, we walked through St James's Park and along the Strand to the Savoy for afternoon tea. My first time there as well. Beautiful place, exquisite teas (32 types - "normal please" said Naomi), finger sandwiches - wolfed down, we were starving - and a priceless moment when a waitress presented me with a small cake complete with single candle to the piano accompaniment of Happy Birthday.
And still it wasn't over. Back 'home' to dinner with Kate and Nick at a nice Italian restaurant on The Hill.
Well that was an interesting day!