After just a few hours of sleep, I woke and put on my suit. That’s right, my one suit, that I’ve worn only one other time since having it made in Hoi An, Vietnam. Mary-Anne was dressed in her most formal Guide uniform. Together we left Pax Lodge, headed for St. James’ Palace.
Queues of people dressed in their best were gathered behind coloured signs in a small courtyard. Mary-Anne was in the red group, so we joined the queue and were almost immediately taken inside. After the cold air outside, and the fact that dressing nice means not wearing my ski jacket, woolly cap and bright pink gloves, it was a relief to get in. We showed our cards, dropped our jackets at the coat check and followed the crowd. When we saw a sign pointing to toilets we veered off and walked through a ridiculously decorated room, with swords and guns on the walls and furniture that looked like it wasn’t made to be used, and never had been. I giggled, knowing it was unlikely, but wondering about the possibility that I was using the same toilet as the queen may once have. I couldn’t resist a look in the ‘powder room.’ Do people really use these rooms? Any of them, other than the toilets?
When we came out, we followed the crowd again into a room with nibbles and wine. We spoke to a few people from Girlguiding UK and wondered why we didn’t have name tags like theirs. Oops! We were in the VIP room.
Once we found our correct place – (the throne room!) – we sat and were briefed. The ceremony – the presentation of Gold Duke of Edinburgh awards, was relatively short. I sat amongst the proud parents and boasted about my ‘daughter’ Mary-Anne. Each award recipient was only allowed to invite one person and most were mums. Their extreme pride in their children’s achievements was evident, and I have to say it rubbed off on me. I was so proud to see Mary-Anne standing there, the only recipient from outside of the UK. I also kind of wished I could be up there. I never did finish my Gold.
Prince Edward came in, chatted briefly with the recipients. Mary-Anne stole the limelight and he mostly spoke to her. I couldn’t stop smiling. After he left, the actual awards were presented by Mickey Ambrose, ex-pro footballer, now a football (soccer) choreographer. Photos were taken, hugs were shared and Mary-Anne and I left the grandeur of the palace.
She went to get her official photos taken then we had lunch in Hyde Park. It was really cold, but the sushi was good. M-A had decided she wanted to buy a gift for herself for finishing her Gold DofE, a gold watch. I thought it was a brilliant idea, remembering the little gifts that help me remember special acheivements: my Queen’s Guide award, being the first person on my mum’s side of the family to graduate from University.
The whole process was quite painless; we went into two shops, tried on three watches, had half the links removed to make it fit M-A’s tiny wrist and we were done. I really need to shop with M-A more.