Last evening, as members of a cast of many hundreds, we attended Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Reception at Buckingham Palace.
Held in place by much elastic underwear, (and no liquid intake since 2.30pm) I was hooked into Granny’s black velvet without the aged fabric disintegrating. Velvet pumps blinged up with butchered earrings from M &Co, black satin elbow gloves a la Cruella De Vil and the diamonds belonging to the aforementioned Granny, completed the ensemble. He was kitted out in white tie and tails.
Our Addison Lee people carrier (no fancy Government Car Service, the Scotland Office contracts out) managed to push into the ambassadorial line of flag-flying Mercedes approaching the Palace and before we knew it, we were making our way upstairs and into the Queens Picture Gallery where we were greeted with a glass of champagne and too many Titians, Vermeers and Rembrandts to comprehend. People with clipboards then effected a separating of the diplomatic sheep from the political (and other) goats to opposite sides of the room, as if we were about to start a record-breaking Grand Old Duke of York. (No, he wasn’t there.)
The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay and Cornwall made their way up the diplomatic line while the goats, none of whom were to be presented, indulged in conversation. Amongst other things, I learnt that The Archbishop of Canterbury (must be difficult for his wife to compete with the finery) is a fan of Ron Ferguson and that St James’ Palace has the best car-parking in London. Hand shaking and curtseying completed, the assembled hoards made their way to the Ballroom for Supper.
My late father had always been concerned that my table manners would let me down on such an occasion, but he could rest easy, as I was given only a fork to go with the plate with clip-on wine glass. Perched on an upholstered bench eating some sort of chicken pie, it had echoes of a TV dinner with the programme being one’s fellow guests. There were ladies in tiaras, presumably part of the hereditary system connected to the Royal Household (the headgear had certainly not come from Claire’s Accessories), there were men with medals and sashes, there were African colours and Oriental silks, some of which were not suitable for London in December. (The lady with the thick socks and flip flops being a case in point).
After the profiteroles, it was time to cruise around the room and indulge in more chitchat before music from the Royal Air Force band drew us into a side room where there was dancing. Unable to resist, we had one turn around the room before making our way down the stairs to the waiting Addison Lee coach. Normal life has now been resumed.