Olivia Boland reflects on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee
OBV MP Shadowing Scheme Graduate Olivia Boland, Chair of the Suffolk Chinese Family Welfare Association was invited to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Sandringham Garden Party last week and shares her experience of this unique occasion.
A few months ago, I received a letter of invitation to be at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Sandringham Party. “Of course, myself and my daughter will be delighted to come” I replied. The Royal Family to me are the Head Family of all British families. They create a sense of historical continuity and of belonging, so I was naturally delighted.
Since then, it has been a journey for the mother and daughter (also called Olivia) to get ready for the party. Being women, there are the important questions such as,
“What should I wear”, “Do I look too big in this? Should I wear a hat or a fascinator? What about the handbag and shoes?"
I quickly realised that I had the prefect dress that had been sitting in the wardrobe for 2 years - ”just the dress for a summer garden party”, I thought. However, when I put it on, the long zip at the back stopped just above the waist and the rest of the dress above had a 3 inch gap, a gap too wide for the zip to close.
I was undeterred. With 2 months still to go, I decided I would just eat less and lose one stone in 2 months, and then the zip could actually be fastened all the way to the top! That decided, I bought some matching shoes and started to wear the high heels shoes around the house to break them in. I was set and ready for the Garden Party.
As the rain poured down during the Thames River Pageant, I checked the weather forecast for the day of the Sandringham party, - 6c to 11c, showers !! Oh oh. The alarm bells were ringing - this is not good.
During the car journey there, the sky was heavy with clouds and as we got nearer, I could spot some blue sky breaking from behind the clouds to the north-west, which was the direction we were traveling towards Sandringham. We cried with joy,
“Hooray, we are saved!”
The ground looked dry in Sandringham, however, stepping out of the car onto the grass to walk towards the entry gate, I realized that all the practice on the wooden floors did not prepare me for walking on the soft grass. My thin pointed high heels went into the soft ground like tent pegs. With my next step, I lost my shoe and stepped barefooted onto the grass, my right shoe firmly planted in the ground behind me. Scrambling on my knees, I said to my daughter,
“I don’t think I can spend the next 3 hours trying to retrieve my shoes like this”.
Luckily, I had a spare pair of shoes in the car and though they were the wrong colour, they were better than walking around bare foot.
With the blue sky breaking through and the brass band playing in the background, we walked around the gardens that were naturally beautiful and not too contrived or manicured. There were local dignitaries, councillors, as well as a number of people from various charities.
I noticed a group of elegantly suited and very refined looking older gentlemen standing at the patio all wearing a blue flower in their buttonhole. Some of them were talking to the guests and wrote things down on a small writing pad. I curiously asked one of them,
“What is this lovely blue flower, are you from a particular club?”
“They are corn flowers. We are Queen’s ushers.”
People started to gather closer to the patio as the time drew closer to 4:30 pm. The trumpeteers in their glorious red and gold uniform sounded their instrument and handclaps burst out spontaneously as Her Majesty the Queen appeared. She was accompanied by the Duke of York, Prince Andrew. As she walked down the stone garden steps from the patio, I was able to see her face, and on seeing her face in flesh, I whispered to my daughter,
“She is very pretty !”
The Queen and Prince Andrew each took a different path, and they were being introduced to various guests and it dawned on me that the ushers were using the pads they jotted on to help them to remember the names and some details of the guests who they wanted to introduce to her Majesty the Queen.
With thousands of guests waiting along the path to get a close glimpse of the Queen, the marquees were almost completely empty. I looked at my daughter and she looked at me, we both headed towards the marquee, no queue for seconds!. The sandwiches and the daintiest cakes, the red, white and blue macaroons were just there waiting for us. We both piled our plates high with no hesitation.
A gust of cold wind suddenly blew; I raised my arm to hold on to my wide brimmed hat that was eager to take off, my daughter whispered urgently,
“Mum! Keep your arm down, there is a big hole in your dress!”
Well, despite my careful dieting, I’d only managed to lose half a stone. With the second helping starting to “fill the corners”, the seam under the left arm had now decided to give way and opened up. “I think it will be wise to go now before the whole dress bursts open.”
We made our way to the car and felt really happy that we had been part of the crowd joining in this celebration. It had been an exhausting day. Just getting ready to attend this one event - and the preparation beforehand made me reflect on the Queen and her role. Looking the best I could and the energy it took me to talk to and engage with many strangers while walking around in the fresh air with a constant smile on my face for hours - I can not imagine doing it day after day, never mind year after year. It filled me with an absolute respect for the Queen and for her dedication to her role as the Monarchy for the last 60 years. The Diamond Jubilee Sandringham Garden Party was a relaxed and joyful occasion that I will always remember.