My Day Seeing The Queen in Nottingham
The whole of Nottingham was abuzz with excitement earlier this week, anticipating H.M.’s visit on Wednesday morning. The Queen was scheduled to arrive in the Market Square before meeting and greeting the crowds and appearing on the balcony of the council house in Market Square. Throughout Monday and Tuesday Market Square had been cordoned off in preparation for the Queen’s visit, while excited citizens have been walking around trying to ascertain which areas would be a good spot to stand to get a good view. On Tuesday night I had some thinking of my own to do, deciding whether or not to get up very early the next morning and try to get a position as close as possible to where the Queen will be disembarking from her car. However, going for a spot close to the barriers in front of the Market Square is a bit of a risk in my eyes – I would be risking altogether missing the Queen during her meet and greet (for thousands were expected to turn up, so how could she get around everybody?) and my close position at the foot of the council house would mean that I did not get a good view of her appearance on the balcony directly above, where she would be standing. So that meant that I opted to get up slightly later on Wednesday morning, yet still arrive a good four hours before the Queen, and plump for a spot in the Market Square that is close enough to see the Queen clearly, yet still far back enough to get a good view of her appearance on the balcony.
An ungodly time of day…
This seemed all well and good at the time, but at 6 AM the next morning I have to admit that I did feel a little differently about things. 6 AM is a horrible time of day one that nobody should ever have to suffer. Mindful that the weather forecast was not stellar, I nevertheless bravely packed my umbrella and headed for the city centre, already excited at the prospect of seeing the Queen.
I managed to get to the Market Square at just after 8 AM, and there were already hundreds of people staking out their claims to patches of pavement. Luckily I managed to get a very good view of the balcony (still empty) towards the front of the square with a cordoned off shrubbery in front of me, making sure that no one would stand in front of me and block my view. And now, the waiting game began. I spent about three hours waiting for the show to start and the crowds thronged in the thousands. It is a strange experience waiting for a national event to happen, you start to get to know the people who are waiting around you and you almost develop a curious and temporary sense of group identity – sharing jokes, exchanging stories, and above all enjoying the day together.
The sovereign arrives
While the band played and the people sang along, we knew that the time was drawing near when the monarch would be arriving because the Union Jack flag was lowered from the council house, leaving an empty flag pole in its place … just waiting for the standard of the monarch to be raised upon her residency in the building. With 30,000 people in the Market Square, the only indication I had that the Queen’s car had arrived was when I heard part of the crowd at the other end of the square start cheering and I saw the little Union Jack flags wave furiously in the air. As the car got closer, so did the cheering and flag-waving.
The Queen, Prince William and Kate spent a wonderful time meeting those close to the front of the crowd before entering the council house, at which point we all waited with bated breath for the balcony appearance. And then, suddenly, a petite lady in mint green appeared, flanked by two young people in navy blue. It was the Queen. The flags flew up and the crowds cheered as she waved back to us all. Experiencing the jubilation at seeing the Queen in person is such a euphoric experience, as if you had suddenly caught a glimpse of something so rare it is almost supernatural and you can’t believe it is really happening. I am so glad that I experienced this moment, as I feel that it is one that my grandchildren will ask me about when quizzing me about my life lived so long ago – just as I asked my own grandfather about whether he had ever met key historic figures in his lifetime such as Winston Churchill, I am sure that my own grandchildren will ask about the defining monarch of the 20th and 21st centuries, the Diamond Queen.
The Queen’s choice of a mint green dress was immediately impressive – she has chosen a colour which makes her stand out from the crowd from a distance away, ensuring that everyone in the crowd gets to spot the Queen they have been waiting to see. In addition, choosing a shade of green is a compliment to the city of Nottingham itself, whose woodland shade of forest green colours the city’s flag in homage to our city’s hero, Robin Hood. H. M. also paid tribute to out civic hero Robin Hood, a famous archer, more directly by choosing a hat which was adorned with arrows.
The recovery period
A crowd of 30 thousand takes a while to disperse, and my main concern on leaving the Market Square was primarily to do with not having had a cup of tea for a good four hours. After standing in the cold for a few hours and experiencing all the excitement of the Queen’s visit, I have to confess that I was feeling in dire need of a nice cup of tea and a sit down. A few other hundred people felt the same way, and the great scone rush of 2012 descended upon the John Lewis coffee shop. After scouring for a place to sit down, I spent a good while drinking pot after pot of tea with a slice of cake (they had completely sold out of scones at this point) until I felt completely better and then a thought struck me… if I am this exhausted after one day seeing the Queen at the age of 25, then how does H. M. complete over 400 UK engagements per year (plus a minimum of 100 overseas in addition) at the age of 86? I have a deep respect for a queen who has the stamina to come out and meet her people on such a regular basis, and even deeper respect for one who always greets her people with such a warm smile.