Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Rhys Recommends... getting an OBE!

So yesterday, I was just hanging out at Buckingham Palace, wearing my finest new suit (Debenhams. Sale. Mid-grey. Compliment-attracting.) and my finest pair of new shoes (Clarks. Sale. Black. Creator of a multitude of pus-filled blisters) and then suddenly, everyone's all like 'guests up the stairs, recipients to the right.'

Well, imagine my surprise to learn that there was an 'Investiture' happening that day, the ceremony where the Queen of England hands out awards and knighthoods and such. As luck would have it, she'd intended to give one to my stepdad this whole time, who was also there, with my sister and my mum too. We were very lucky, I thought, to have put on fancy clothes that day, because really it was shorts weather.

So we went up the stairs, past enormous paintings of past monarchs and suits of armour (with people inside!) and arrived in the State Room, which has very high ceilings, extravagant chandeliers and an orchestra playing all your favourite show tunes (I spotted a couple from Mary Poppins and one from Les Mis), and also the National Anthem. In the room were all the recipients' families, a vast array of people from all walks of life. You forget that Britain has an empire sometimes...

A charming man then came and told us that they were about to begin and that we shouldn't clap and to try to keep talking to a whisper. And then a delightful little old lady walked out, carrying her handbag and wearing a lovely silk floral number. And then she told us we were allowed to sit, which she didn't have to, because she's the Queen and she can make us do whatever she wants. But she just wanted us to sit.

And then the ceremony began!

They did the knights and the dames first, and then there were the OBEs. The Queen would stop and have a chat with each one, which was very cute, and then they would bow/curtsey. I don't think it had occurred to me that bowing and curtseying were different things before, and that they are gender specific. If you'd asked me before yesterday to bow, I think I may actually have curtseyed. Essentially, bowing is bending with your back and curtseying is when you bend at the knees. And I have a bad back, so I'm inclined to bend with my knees, you know? But I won't make that mistake next time, oh no!

So, we were all supposed to be quiet, but then some woman called Ann Lennox came out, for her services to Oxfam (NB. I'm assuming that this is all a matter of public record already and I haven't invaded anyone's privacy here), and there was as closed to an uproar as there got in the room, as I discovered the sound of 300 people whispering, 'Is that Annie Lennox?' Which it was, and she looked pretty amazing. and then we settled in for more of the OBEs (which, by the way, you pronounced phonetically if you are in any way a bit subversive) and then came John, who we could see chatting to the guards as he waited to speak to the Queen (who I am resisting giving a nickname on account of respect), with his hands behind his back, wearing a slightly unironed shirt. Because he's like that.

And then he got his award! For services to local government in West Sussex. The Queen pinned on the badge (photo below - just of the badge - we weren't allowed to take photos during the ceremony), which I reckon she must do about two thousand times a year and so was an absolute pro. And then he wondered off stage and then we had about another 80 awards to go. Some of which were very inspiring (the man who saved 23 lives, the lollipop lady, the one who got an award for services to netball), but as I've mentioned, The Queen takes the time to have a chat with each and every one. So I may have got a bit fidgety and hot and thirsty and whiny.

Still, this was broken up by John's entrance back into the room, where he took a sit. While my sister and I pinned our mother down to get her to stop waving at him, we noticed with glee that some lady from the Eurythmics had just sat down beside him. And then they started talking to each other! My sister and I debated over whether it was more appropriate to ask him what The Queen had said or what Annie Lennox had said, when we spoke to him after.

Well, I was feeling classy, so I went for the Queen.

And that was the Investiture. Apparently we're getting a video, both of John getting the award, and of our reactions. I hope they didn't catch any of the eighty-five times my mum told my sister and me off for misbehaving...

Just briefly, we also went to Atul Kochhar's restaurant Benares, and that was amazing. We ate this:

Which looked a bit like this (if you're interested, the lamb was possibly the best thing that's ever been in my mouth):

So yes, as a day out, I recommend that you all have a family member get an OBE.

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