In the post I wrote last week I talked about all the different possibilities we had for the weekend and what might work, what wouldn’t and all the issues we have to consider when planning family events and outings.
So what did we do in the end? Well, to begin with it was all a bit of an anticlimax. B came back from his school trip on Friday evening and was, as predicted, absolutely shattered. But, as for all of us, coming down from these kinds of trips is hard. He was exhausted, but didn’t sleep that well. It took him a while to wind down and relax and then he was awake earlier than we’d hoped on Saturday morning. So Saturday we just chilled at home and had Grandma and Granddad round for dinner to hear all about the trip.
On Sunday, all other options, having been discounted for various reasons explained in the previous post, the plan was to go to the local music festival. We were all set, mooching at home, watched the first hour of the river pageant on the TV and were all set to go. B had opted out. He phoned my Mum and skipped off to her house to play games with his cousins rather than endure (whoops – I mean enjoy) the music. This decision had been firmly made at 2.45 when I opened the front door to see if I could hear our local church bells ringing when the bells began to ring at the start of the river pageant. I couldn’t hear if the church bells were ringing or not, because all I could hear was the music. The venue for this festival is probably about 3/4 mile away from our house, so it was definitely loud!
So, B went happily off to Grandma’s and we were all about to leave the house when the heavens well and truly opened with no intention of stopping in the near future. Call me a party pooper, but quite frankly standing at an outside music festival in the teeming rain was not my idea of fun, so we decided to stay at home and eat roast lamb instead.
Monday dawned and we had still done nothing vaguely jubilee like. as I have said we’re not incredibly enthusiastic royalists, but we did feel that it would be nice to do something to commemorate the historical event and that the children could look back on in years to come and remember the event and what they did. After all, whether you are a royalist or republican, or simply couldn’t care less, this event will go down in history and I would rather that my children are able to grow up, whatever their views turn out to be, to be able to have some memory that they were part of it.
Well, Monday was the day of the evening picnic and beacon lighting. It was billed by the Council as a free community event with fun fair, live music and culminating with the beacon lighting. So we planned to go complete with Grandma, Granddad, Auntie, Uncle and cousins. The ever unpredictable weather hung over our heads in the form of literal and proverbial black clouds. Our family contingent decided to be optimistic. We prepared the picnic, gathered together plates, picnic rugs and chairs. My parents and brother tried to cry off, but we shamed / convinced them to give it a go.
As we got nearer to the evening showers were still threatening, in a half-joking way I said perhaps we could do with a tent or gazebo. I should know by now, not to make such flippant comments! No sooner than the words were out of my mouth B was in the garage retrieving the tent and telling Daddy we were taking the tent. Somewhat horrified Daddy proceeded to try a compromise by suggesting they take a toy tent or the pop up beach cabana thing we have. Toy tent was dismissed immediately as ‘not fit for purpose’ – there are holes in the top and it wouldn’t keep you dry. The beach cabana thing did get a try, but after Daddy and B spent half an hour trying to put it together they realised that wouldn’t be very waterproof either and it probably took as long to put as the real tent. So, not to do anything by halves – decision was to take the tent.
Ok, so we have 2 picnic bags, several picnic rugs, 2 camping chairs, a backpack with spare fleeces and a camera and a tent. M had a bag of her own complete with her book and a torch. How the **** are going to carry all this stuff? Answer – Get the old buggy out of the shed. – See told you we don’t do things by halves! Finally, buggy loaded with tent and chairs, backpacks zipped, we set off, looking like we were off camping for a week, not just to the local fields for a picnic.
The picnic was lovely. The tent insurance policy worked, the sun came out and it was a beautiful, if rather chilly, evening. When I say the picnic was great, I mean exactly that. It was lovely to sit with the family and most of the live music was nice. It wasn’t too noisy for B and it was great because the children were able to run about and play.
There was a fun fair, but it was very small. B isn’t particularly into fairground rides, but the other children thought it was all a bit tame. The one hit was a stand with snakes. I didn’t actually see it because B discovered it and went off to show Daddy. B loves snakes and on his long wish list owning a snake is somewhere near the top. These people were brilliant. Apparently they are a rescue organisation but they raise money by going to these types of events and charging people to hold the snakes or by going out to parties and education visits etc. Anyway, they realised that D couldn’t see and they spent loads of time with my boys and they got to hold all the snakes, much to B’s delight. So between the snakes and running about with the others using our old buggy for Kamikaze buggy races, B had a great time.
During the evening, however, we all began to wonder where the ‘beacon’ would be lit. The park where the event was held is a big expanse of playing fields and is where the largest local bonfire and fireworks display is held on Guy Fawkes night, so we all assumed that the ‘beacon’ would be lit on the hill where they have the bonfire. Now, when I say ‘beacon’, we had all gone to this event expecting that the ‘beacon’ was going to be a big bonfire. I think that is a fairly natural assumption don’t you? Well, could we see any sign of a bonfire waiting to be lit? No we couldn’t. Several people asked us during the evening if we knew where it would be, it seemed we were all looking for said bonfire. As time wore on we decided there must be another option. Someone suggested they may just light a big gas jet that shoots up into the sky. OK, perhaps that’s what the little gathering of cars is doing over on the top of the hill. Well, I’m afraid we were all to be hugely disappointed. At just after 10pm the live music stopped and an announcement was made for people to gather round the stage as they were going to bring out the ‘beacon’ and the Mayor would light it!!!!!!
What a load of absolute rubbish! The Mayor lit a contraption that was basically a giant bunsen burner. Ok the picnic was free, but what a pathetic attempt at a ‘beacon’ we were all thoroughly underwhelmed. I wish we’d stayed at home and had the picnic in one of our gardens and watched the concert on the Telly.
So, snakes apart, this was another jubilee event that had turned out to be a bit of a flop. We only had one day left to give our children some sense that they took part in this historical occasion.
Well, I’m happy to say Tuesday was somewhat more of a success. My Mum and I had toyed with the idea of going into London to one of the big events for months, so on Monday we made a firm decision to take the children up to The Mall or St James’ Park to watch the procession and see the fly past. In order to have any chance of seeing anything we would need to be at the front of any crowd and I knew that the children, and particularly B, would get nothing out of ‘the atmosphere’. The downside of this policy was that there would be a lot of waiting time, so we packed a picnic, the children took books and iPods etc and the weather forecast was reasonable, so we decided to give it a go. Much to his disgust Daddy came too. For those of you not familiar with my blog, Daddy has got no sight at all, so hanging about in a crowd while everyone else watches a few soldiers and carriages marching past is not his idea of a great day out. But he came, because he knew that if he had opted out both children would have insisted on staying home too.
We left home at 9.00am to make the trip into London. The plan, such as it was, was to go up to The Mall or St James’ Park. We decided not to be any more specific as we knew that a lot of the roads would be closed and weren’t sure how busy it would be in different places. The first decision was which underground station to go to. B likes to know exactly where he is going and often wants to plan our routes for us and can get quite upset if we don’t want to go with his desired route. So having, talked him out of a circuitous route to St James’ Park underground station on the grounds that Green Park station is an easier journey and Grandma would quite like to stand on The Mall if it was possible we set off. The journey was fine and we arrived at Green Park by 10.00.
You may be wondering why I am waffling on about the journey? For B the journey and the planning is a huge part of the day out and often it is the journey that can provide the interest and challenges. So on arrival at Green Park we were directed by Marshalls to follow a one way system. Great, I thought, we just follow the crowd. This was not such a great solution for B. We had what I call ‘a classic asperger moment’. He started to nag at us all to stop. This wasn’t immediately possible as we were on a narrow path with a stream of people in front and behind. Luckily we managed to pull over as soon as we could to establish the source of B’s anxiety before he got too stressed. He had his phone out, which has a map / navigation app on it. ‘We’re going the wrong way’ he said. ‘The Mall is the other way – You’ve got to turn round’. We explained that everyone has to go this way because the other roads were closed and that all the people were going to the same place for the same reason and suggested that, on this occasion he put his phone away and just follow the crowd. He agreed and I gave him a flag to carry instead and Daddy asked him to guide him to give him something else to think about.
We found a spot on The Mall not far from Admiralty Arch and across the road from St James’ Park, and were able to get really near the front. There was a group of Canadians who had been there from 6.00am and who proved to be good entertainment value and were also friendly enough to let the children stand right by the railings and to let my Mum have a sit down in one of their picnic chairs. So, it was 10.30. The official parade was due to leave Westminster Hall at 2.20pm. What do you do for 4 hours standing by the side of a road? Well, the time passed laughing and chatting with the other people listening to the stories of the friendly policeman., watching the odd regimental band marching down the Mall, waving at police horses, eating picnics and waving flags.
I am so impressed with my children, it’s a long time to wait, but they both did it. We had a picnic blanket, so they were able to sit down and read etc. Eventually at just after 1.00pm we saw some action in the form of a procession of horse-drawn gun carriages carrying the Cannons which were to provide a 60 gun Salute.
Finally, the waiting was over. At 2.20 the boom of a cannon errupted from accross the road on the other side of St James’ Park. I have to admit to having a little wobble at that point. We were nearly there and both children, but particularly B had done really well. I was worried that the cannon shots were going to be too much. The first one had been a shock. His face wrinkled up and his hands went up to his ears. I explained that there were probably going to be lots of bangs, they would all be about the same. I also suggested that he count the seconds between them, thinking that this would, in part offer a distraction, but would also help him to anticipate when the next one would come. This solution seemed to work as after a couple of shots he moved from counting the seconds between them to counting the number of shots.
The parade passed by much more quickly than I had expected. We had a great view. The children saw the Queen and Prince William and Kate. It all seemed to go so quickly, it was like they couldn’t get up The Mall fast enough! At that point, it did seem like a lot of waiting for very little reward. But I think in years to come they will remember that they were there.
After the procession Daddy and the children were keen to go home, they didn’t want to stay and see the aeroplanes, they had all done really well, so we didn’t push it. D went home with them while my Mum and I decided to stay for the rest of the event.
Before they left, we experienced one of those strange bizarre moments. which makes you realise what a small world it is really. A police woman stopped D and B and said ‘Hello, didn’t I see you yesterday looking for a sports shop?’ In amongst a crowd of up to 1,000,000 people, if you believe the news stories, a policewoman who had helped them find a shop the day before in a town 10 miles away, spotted, recognised and spoke to them.
Having despatched Daddy and children my Mum and I set off up The Mall to see how far we could get. Ever since I was little my Mum has had all the big events on the television, but had never been there in person. The first time she watched a television was The Coronation, so it was quite exciting for her to be amongst the crowds on The Mall. As we were right at the other end, we didn’t think we would get very far, but we did, by some feat of luck we happened to be near the section where they opened the barriers and we walked all the way up and stood in front of Buckingham Palace, just in front of the big stage, so we had a view of the balcony. There was lots of flag waving and cheering. I managed to take a picture. It’s very blurred, but it was a real feat even to get that, as there were loads of taller people than me, flags were waving and half the times I raised my arms to take the picture only to be bumped or jostled, but I got one!
The culmination of the day was the fly over by world war II aircraft and the red arrows. Unfortunately I didn’t manage a picture of the red arrows, too many flags waving!, but I did get the other aeroplanes. I also got a call from B a couple of minutes after the planes had flown over. He was calling to tell me that they were waiting for the bus and had seen the red arrows fly over Wimbledon, so I reckon that was a pretty good day and should hopefully make for some memories in the future.
So, that is the epic story of our jubilee weekend. It was definitely a case of ‘save the best till last’. If you’ve made it to the end of this post thanks for reading. and hope you enjoyed the pics. – Another first for me 🙂