The Diary of a Royal Wedding Watcher

Helen Meredith who was in London for the wedding of the Prince William and Kate Middleton, now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.Helen emailed her family and friends from England . . . “There aren’t many days when I want to be two places at once, but April 29, 2011, may have been one of them.... “Having walked the route of the wedding on Thursday and scoped out various locations and noted the people already camping out along the route we – Cynthia Price and I – finally decided to watch the wedding from a giant screen in Trafalgar Square (TS) and then, after the “I will”s were said, to run over to Buckingham Palace in time for the kiss on the balcony. This meant we got to see the proceedings and all the BBC commentary and pre-show stuff. They were selling wedding programs so you could follow along, word-for-word, during the service. It was fun to be in the crowd and catch the buzz in TS. There was a huge screen, a bar selling beer and Pimms (yes, at nine in the morning!) and thousands of people watching. We got there early enough to get prime spots. “Cinnie wanted to sprint to Buckingham Palace as soon as the vows were made but I asked to stay long enough to sing ‘Jerusalem’ knowing the crowd would sing along. When we finally decided to make our break, we realized that not only was TS ringed with barriers with only one exit available, but also we couldn’t access the grounds of St. James Park (where the Mall is) because it too was sealed, though that only became clear after we had left TS. “We walked/ran with many others trying to find a way into St. James Park which would then give access to the Mall. St. James itself was definitely out, so we kept moving towards the adjacent Green Park where access points were also closed. We followed the lead of some others, walking the periphery of the park. Suddenly, there was a gap in the hedge along Picadilly and others were leaping through the gap and scrambling over the fence. Thinking we could cut through Green Park to get back to St. James Park and the palace, we did the same but public security had thought of it before we did and there was no access to Buck House grounds and the mall from Green Park. “Once that reality set in, we sat down in front of a giant screen and enjoyed the kiss on the balcony from there and also saw the fly past overhead. We eventually retraced some of our steps to Waterloo Place and got onto the Mall and then found our way to Westminster Abbey to hear the end of the three-hour peal of bells, which was nice. We then repaired to a pub and toasted the event with some Pimms. “As I speculated before everything started, the choice was “buzz” (e.g. crowds, big screen) or view (line the route). What I had underestimated was the impossibility of doing a bit of both. We tell each other that we shall come back for the coronation and be old hands and know exactly what to do! “I have to say that after two days of pre-wedding hype, the actual wedding was almost anti-climactic. There we were at 3:00 p.m. and the party was effectively over. “The next day Cinnie suggested we see the flowers in the Abbey which were to be on display from Saturday to Friday. She arrived early and managed to get in when the doors opened at 9:00 a.m. but by the time I arrived about 20 minutes later, the queue was an hour long. So I just sat in the sun at the foot of the monument to George V and wrote some emails, figuring I would return the next day and see them by simply going to church. “On Sunday morning, I was not the only one to have had that idea. There were few enough however, that we all sat in the chancel. I looked up at one point and noticed that I was sitting across from Canadian Governor General’s place - so that was pretty neat. “The flowers and trees looked lovely and abbey staff worked hard to stop people from taking pictures. On Sundays the Abbey is not open for tourists, but for worship, quite fitting even if staff have to work hard to make people understand that as they stand in the doorway snapping pictures. “On Tuesday I cycled down the Mall during rush hour, the party is really over - though it was nice to see all the bunting and flags still up.”