Authie et Mi

Elderly lady gives money to the old

28th March 2013

One of those very early starts required by the M25. Even by 0615 hours the road was far busier than I am ever subjected to here in France apart from possibly Lille at nine in the morning.

The 170 kilometre journey to Oxford was carried out in two hours with few problems encountered apart from the ever present roadworks on the M25. I haven’t travelled this road since the last time I drove over from Ulster. Happy days.

Although the roads and fields were cleared of snow in much of Kent, by the time we reached the M40 and Buckinghamshire there were plenty of snowdrifts lingering in the corners of fields. But we were having a sunny drive and in the car it was most comfy. Then we arrived at the Park-and-Ride and had to get out. Not nice.

Everything was well organised with half the car park cordoned off for those attending the service. Special buses had been laid on for the invitees and there were plenty of staff to ensure that all went smoothly. Mum and dad arrived at about eight and were soon getting their tickets sorted for the ride into town. We got on board our bus and my premonition that the folks would have to go upstairs on their double-decker, as they were athletic enough to do so, proved correct. Front seats upstairs and waving like eejiots as we passed them bye.

Like all ceremonies and functions, those who attend are kept busy, those who are in support do a lot of hanging about and rushing-to-wait. I reckoned that if the Queen was going to be at Christ Church College Cathedral for 1055 hours then we needed to be there for, at the very latest ten. That gave us plenty of time to find Wetherspoon’s and have breakfast. Half a day’s calories in one large plateful of food, but as Anton said: it was all we were getting until we got home.

We were outside the college gates just as they were getting the barriers organised. Unfortunately we were on the shaded side of the street so even on the now rare occasions when the sun did come out we were not amongst those who benefited. It had turned bitterly cold.

Poor old mum, she had to be in her seat in the cathedral by 0930 waiting on the invitees to head across the road from the reception area at half ten. The crowd outside was not enormous but grew steadily as it gradually filled up the pavements. The mounted police arrived to ensure that—well I am not certain what they were going to ensure; but they looked good doing it.

I had found myself a place by the gate which was going to give me a good view as dad crossed the road, and hopefully of the royal entourage as it arrived. The barriers were organised to create a pedestrian crossing and people started to file out and cross the road on their way into the college grounds and the cathedral. Dad came into view.

It was necessary at this point to speak to the chap just to my left who was recording everything and thus momentarily blocking my otherwise advantageous view. I tapped him on the shoulder and enquired if he spoke English. Yes he did. Well then, just to let you know; my father is about to cross the road. If you block my view I will break your arms. Photographs as good as I was going to get under the circumstances ensued.

I would add that the chap was very polite and informative: a local, he was able to tell us tourists all sorts of things about previous visitors and where the Queen was going next.

We were joined by some of our former colonials, from Philadelphia, who were most enthusiastic about having landed in Oxford on the day of a Royal visit. They were obviously overwhelmed by the moment because I am certain that none of them uttered the word—awesome—even once.

One did ask if the Queen had a special song (perhaps Obama does!). “We are the champions”, “Eye of the tiger”, or the more traditional National Anthem were proposed.

What really impressed them above all else was the fact that the Queen was going to drive past, right in front of them. A situation that would be out of the question for the President. Our Oxfordian guide told us that Michelle Obama had previously visited the college and it had been completely sealed off.

The moment approached, the press photographers were warning each other off that the helicopter had landed and that the party was on its way. One out-rider and then another turned the corner at the top of the street and a ripple of flag waving began within the onlookers.

Despite our best efforts, we had not managed to convince the Philadelphians that an ecology conscious monarch would arrive on board a Park-and-Ride double-decker flying the sovereign’s standard. For my part I was pleased to see that it was a Rolls Royce with all the paraphernalia and not a Peugeot 107.

The car glided past us and we all clicked away with our cameras. An hour of waiting and it was all over in seconds. Everybody immediately flipped to ‘view mode’ to see what they had. Probably more by happenstance than skill mine came out well (and please note that I slipped that American word in because I think it is so neat and awesome).

More time to kill then before the folks would emerge about 1430. Back to Wetherspoon’s for more coffee. My hands had gone blue in the wait and we were all stiff from standing about in the cold. Having warmed up a bit we set off to go window shopping. Any shop would do so long as it was heated. It was a shame that the weather had turned grey and constantly threatening snow because the town is very pretty. We took a few photos as we pottered about the town of Harry Potter. Much of the filming was carried out within various colleges and in fact the lunch following the service was being held in Hogwart’s dining room.

I was interested by Balliol College because it’s founder (1263) came from not far away in the valley of the Somme at Bailleul-en-Vimeu. We visited Radcliffe Square where Hogwart’s library is situated and pondered the coincidence of the name. No good though, it was just too cold: back for more coffee (some of us had cider).

Of course sod’s law says that the moment you sit down for a pint you will notice the special buses heading up the street and get a message announcing that the lunch had finished. Anton and I, having finished our coffees headed off to collect mum and dad.

Mother had a glass of red to drink and a mug of coffee to hold. Dad showed us his coins and before we knew it, it was time to begin the trek back to Kent. Anton had to be up at two in the morning to go to work.

Our drive back managed to catch the great Easter exodus and took us four hours. The fastest bit was probably the roadworks where everybody was confined to 50mph.

Luckily for us there was whisky in the jar-o.

Posted : 6 April 2013

Travel, England