My 13-year-old daughter and I spent Thursday night on what they call The Mall here in London. We picked a spot in front of Clarence House.
Truth be told, we didn’t sleep well for loads of reasons, including…the line of 30 portable loos about 25 yards back had doors that slammed like cannons. Four British ladies had a tea party through most of the night just beside us. Shortly after Big Ben chimed 4 a.m., two guys took a spot just behind us. For the rest of the night, they loudly strategized on how to get the best views once the procession began, largely based on overtaking our position.
My fingers may have developed temporary frostbite.
Oh, and a very drunk, completely tone-deaf man wrapped in a flag of England, sang/yelled “God Save the Queen” on a continuous loop until around 4 when he switched to “Royal Britannia.”
About that time, the Metropolitan Police walked up The Mall. They walked in a straight line from one side of the street to the other. They were whistling as they approached, but just before they reached us, the whole line of policemen began to sing the Theme of StarWars. That’s what kind of night it was—policemen walking in sync, smiling and singing at 4 a.m. The response from the masses, most of whom were trying to get some rest, polite waves of applause.
Sleep was hard to come by, but the night had certain magic. Little practical things added up. For example, there were no trashcans and thousands upon thousands of people, yet I didn’t see a single piece of paper on the ground. People stored away their rubbish and kept the grounds immaculate through the night.
By the time morning came, many more people began to arrive. We were on the front line of the barricades, and people were about 20 deep behind us. Police were stationed every 15 feet in front of us. For many, the police in front of them became “friends.” After 6 a.m., street sweepers and occasional mounted police passed. The crowd cheered every time they passed. The drivers occasionally waved like they were the parade. Our little group of about 15 girls around us started the wave at 7 a.m. (or the Mexican Wave, as the New Zealanders beside us called it.) Korean and Norwegian television and radio journalists interviewed us.
At one point, someone on the other side of the street in Hyde Park, did a little cheer, “Give me a ‘J,’ give me an ‘A,’” etc. Eventually, they spelled out the name of policeman directly in front of them, ending with a song, “We love you, James, oh yes, we do.”
It was one lovely moment like that after another.
When the guests started passing, we began to ready for all the royals. One by one, each car passed. To put the excitement level in perspective, our new friends and camp mates, Jen and Char, are lifelong Englanders; one works 15 yards from Westminster Abbey, the other 25 yards from Buckingham Palace. They love the Queen and her family. Yet, until Thursday morning, neither had ever laid eyes on the Queen or anyone else in the royal family, for that matter. They were giddy.
Heck, everyone around us was giddy.
When the entourage made their way down the street in front of us from the palace, they all waved at us.
They all smiled. They all looked lovely. We smiled back, and perhaps, we didn’t look quite as lovely.
The wedding started and BBC Radio piped in the ceremony on loudspeakers for us all. We followed along on our programs. We sang the hymns. We said the prayers. We cheered when the priest pronounced them man and wife. We wiped away a tear every now and then. Even the most cynical among us couldn’t have helped but to have been touched by the allure of it all.
It was like a fairy tale, and we felt a part of it.
Trials surely will come for each and everyone of us—even William and Kate, but for me, the moment shared by many was one of collective hope and prayer that each of us has a chance to live happily ever after.
Greer and I slept on The Mall beside the procession route. Met two wonderful English girls and became a formidable team to protect our territory. Had front row spots to see the entire procession. Lovely. Just lovely.
So much to tell, but must sleep for a bit.