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England

Windsor - Friday, 3 May 2019

The big day

overcast 13 °C
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Harte and Garter Hotel - Room No 109

Up early and down to breakfast at 7 am. Everyone is getting excited.

I started to get dressed and then realised that the three weeks on board the Queen Mary 2 had taken its toll on the hips and when I went to zip up my skirt - oops, it was a tad difficult. I needed a bit of help from Phil to do the final two inches!!! So, now the hat. This is the part of my outfit that has been causing me the most angst as I am not used to wearing hats and am hoping that it will just sit beautifully and not move. The hat is on and it is looking good. I keep bumping it because I'm not used to wearing a hat, but on the whole it feels pretty secure.

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Those of us staying at the Harte and Garter have agreed to meet in the foyer at 9am, because the entrance to Windsor Castle opens at 9.15 am and we have noticed that this year, that there are no seat numbers on the invitations. There is free seating for all within their dedicated sections and I want the Aussies who are attending for the first time, to have a seat in the front row.

We notice the Town Crier is out on the street, so we gave him a whistle to come and have a photo with us, as we are all looking pretty "spech", even if I do say so myself. We are bombarded by the Australian media who have heard our accent. There is a television crew from Channel 10 Australia and a reporter from NewsCorp. They want to talk about the baby, but what would we know. Then they suddenly realise we are all dressed up with medals and then asked about that and Doug told them all about the Royal Victorian Order. It was great fun and I believe that that night, we were seen on the Channel 10 news in Australia!

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So we all enter the Castle and proceed through security and then into St George's Chapel. As I am sitting in the Quire, I have a different entry from the others, but there is someone on hand at every turn, and it was a breeze. I am the first to arrive in the Quire and am met by Maxine Murray, the Deputy Secretary at the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood who has been so nice to deal with over the months and who is responsible for my fabulous seat in the Quire. Thank you Maxine. I gave her a small gift, just to say thank you. It is a gold kangaroo lapel pin with an opal tummy. It is lovely and she puts it on straight away. It looks very nice on her suit and during the morning I noticed her colleagues commenting on it.

As it is very early, not many people have arrived yet, so the girls come into the Quire for a peek. They came and sat with me and chatted for a while. It was nice. Kevin Skipworth took a totally illegal photo of the four of us sitting in the Quire!

There are only 52 seats in the Quire and most of them are for members of the Royal Family, the Choir of St George's Chapel, the Choir of The Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, Knights and Dames Grand Cross of the Order and the Military Knights. The Military Knights are resplendent in red uniforms emblazoned with so much gold, I almost needed sun glasses!

I am sitting in the back row with seven "normal" people, five places away from Her Majesty. There are about 10 "normal" people on the other side, so I am feeling very special. Michael Jackson, LVO from Canada is on one side of me and Captain David Guy, MVO, RN, an equerry for The Queen's 1977 trip to Canada, is on the other.

The organist has been playing for about half an hour and then a fanfare announces the arrival of Her Majesty and the Royal Family. They include Princess Alexandra, Princess Anne and her husband, Tim Laurence, Prince Michael of Kent, The Duke of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Princes Andrew and Edward. We are disappointed that Kate and William aren't there, but it is Princess Charlotte's birthday party today, so that's where they are. And Meghan and Harry - well that goes without saying. Prince Charles and Camilla don't ever attend. I'm not sure why.

During the service, I kept looking up at The Queen and each time she was staring at me so we had quite a few eye contact moments. I really think she wanted my hat!

At the end of the service, we all proceeded to the reception rooms. I followed the other people from the Quire and found myself alone in a huge room, keeping my eye on the door for the other Aussies. Finally Geoff Hay found me having a champers, but as the room filled up it was harder and harder to spot the others as everyone was so tall and with 1,200 people in several rooms, this was going to be a task. I wandered around a few of the rooms until I found the group, and then we went Royal hunting.

We found Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and her husband Vice Admiral Tim Laurence and had nice chats with them. We went searching for The Queen but we couldn't find her. She is quite short and unfortunately for the newbies, we didn't even glimpse her. Such a shame for them. We did have a chat with Reverend Canon Professor Peter Galloway, the Chaplain of the Order (at St George's Chapel and the Savoy Chapel) and apologised for not being able to attend the service at the Savoy on Sunday, but we would be on our way home by then.

All too soon it was time to go, so we wandered down the hill, out the huge gates and back to normality. A local woman on the streets of Windsor stopped us and asked us why we were all dressed up and where we had been, so we chatted to her for ages.

I got back to the hotel at about 3 ish, and Phil was sitting in the lounge with Kathy and Maurice Dalton having a drink. Maurice was with Phil in Turkey in the early seventies, and as a member of the Royal Victorian Order had come up from Kent for this morning's function. It was nice to meet then and we sat there for hours chatting.

A German man in the lounge approached us and asked me if he could take my photo, because I looked so nice! It's THAT hat again! We all laughed and I said yes, of course. We all laughed a lot at that!

We were given a huge bottle of champagne on our arrival on the Queen Mary 2 and it was too big for just two of us to drink in one go, so Phil has been lugging this thing all over the UK for three weeks. So when Doug, Maria and Caroline joined us, Phil got the bottle from the bar fridge, and we polished off the champers in record time. A very nice way to end a very special day.

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But there was more to come. Gerri Warner had told us about a fabulous Greek restaurant just down the road, so twelve of us went there for a very nice dinner. All reports were that everyone enjoyed their meal and wine very much. Poor Kathy and Maurice then had a two hour drive to Kent, but they were happy to have missed peak hour traffic.

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It has been raining a bit and it's freezing, but I still can't say that I am happy to be going home tomorrow. This has been a very memorable and wonderful six weeks.

Phil has never been to Windsor before and he just loves it. It is a very pleasant town with lots of eateries and very easy to walk around.

Haven't packed yet and into bed about midnight, a very tired but very happy girl! It has been a very special day!

Posted by gaddingabout 01:59 Archived in England Comments (0)

London to Dubai - Saturday, 4 May 2019

Starting the long journey home

sunny 10 °C
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Very sad day today. Our journey is over. It has been an amazing six weeks, culminating with the Royal Victorian Order function at Windsor Castle yesterday. We went to breakfast at 8 ish as we both still have to pack.

We had breakfast with Maria and Doug, then Amanda and Jennifer came along, followed by Caroline and Geoff Hay. Then came Gerry and Gerri Warner. I am also pleased to report that after five breakfasts, Phil's eggs were perfect this morning! He has had an ongoing battle with the kitchen on how to cook fried eggs, with the white hard and the yellow runny. The girl in the dining room has been SO good natured about this and each morning the eggs got better and better and today they were perfect. We laughed a lot this morning and we had a big hug when we left the dining room. I think she was very glad we were checking out!

We have had the media camped in the room next door to us all week, waiting for Baby Sussex. We have become quite friendly with them and on the way out today I asked them exactly why they were camped at the front gate of Windsor. "Because Harry and Meghan live at Frogmore House on the estate". "Yes, I know, but do you think they are going to bring the baby (whenever it arrives) out to the front gate of Windsor Castle?" "No", they said, "then why have you been camped here for a week?" "Because that's what we were told to do by the boss". Nice work if you can get it, but pretty boring I would imagine, hanging around for days and days waiting for something to happen!

Check out time is 11 so we packed up and were down stairs at about 10.30, saying our goodbyes to everyone. It is absolutely freezing today. It was 2 degrees overnight and now it is about 4 and the wind has started up, and it's cold. The Brown Button came to say goodbye too. Gregg is not feeling too well, so he didn't come to say goodbye as he didn't want to spread whatever he has around. Now that is thoughtful.

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We shared a taxi with Doug and we got out at Terminal 3 and he continued on to Terminal 4. This leg from London to Dubai is an Economy flight for us (eek, we haven't done that for a long time but it was all we could get when we had to change flights).

So we are heading towards a very long queue of Economy passengers, when a guy beckons us over to the Business Class line, which only has a couple of people on it. "We're travelling Economy", I said. "Doesn't matter", he said. I think it is the grey hair that does it every time.

Checked in and we are now heading for immigraton - fine - next step is security checking, which Phil always fails, but he is quite certain that he'll be fine this time.

No, his carry on bag is kept back so he had to open it and stand back while they systematically went through it layer by layer and finally, right in a bottom corner they find the offenders - three small jam jars full of VEGEMITE! So the jars are placed in a plastic bag and go through the scanner again. They are cleared and we are allowed to continue on our way with the offending Vegemite.

At security, a woman in a full burka had to take her shoes off before proceeding through the scanner. I wondered about this because no one else had to take their shoes off, so why should she. If she had anything concealed, it would be revealed on the scanner.

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We had a coffee and a couple of lovely fresh ham and cheese rolls and then wandered around to our gate and in no time we were boarding. We are both sitting in the same row, but with the aisle between us. We are on an Emirates flight and have plenty of room. I usually sleep on flights but this flight was only six and a half hours so I watched three movies - Mary Poppins Returns, Mother's Day and the Professor and the Madman. They were all pretty good, but it took a while for me to get into the Professor and the Madman.

We landed in Dubai at about 11.45 pm and by the time we had cleared immigration, collected our luggage, caught a taxi and checked into the hotel, it was 2 am when we arrived in our room. Not tired at all.

When we checked in at 2 am, we asked if we could have a late check out. Yes, how about 3 pm. Well, as our flight is at 8 pm, we were wondering if we could check out at 6 pm. No, the hotel has a group arriving at 2 pm (so what does that have to do with us?), but after a lot of friendly bartering, we agreed on 5 pm, which is fine for us, because we can go into the Singapore Airlines lounge at the airport. However, I think airport hotels should be a little more flexible with their check-in and check-out times. If you arrive at 2 am in the morning, you should be entitled to 24 hours stay, especially when you are paying full price $200 AUD plus for a room. Their clientele is a little bit different from the normal tourist who is staying for a week. Just saying.

Posted by gaddingabout 00:22 Archived in England Comments (0)

Windsor - Thursday, 2 May 2019

Afternoon tea at the Australian High Commission, London

semi-overcast 15 °C
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Harte and Garter Hotel - Room No 109

I had a lovely, long warm bath last night (as I do every night) but it was especially welcome last night after our long, long 5 mile walk in Windsor Park. Then into bed reasonably early, out like a light and slept like a baby all night. There is nothing like a good night's sleep!

The weather seems to be changing for the worst. Getting colder.

During the breakfast Gregg and Muriel Button (the Brown Button) sat down with us and we had a big chat. Nice to see them again. They are lovely.

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They came up to our room for a look at the view and then something started happening down in the street. Police blocked off the road and then the guard and band came marching up the street. Great! Everyone loves a band, especially a Scotty band. It was the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle.

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All done.

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Time to get ready for afternoon tea at the Australian High Commission in London.

This Town Crier has just started ringing his bell and shouting out something but I can't hear what he's saying, but I don't think it's about the birth of baby Sussex. The crowd is too subdued.

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Oh yay, oh yay, oh yay, a royal baby is on the way. God Save The Queen.
Sir William and Lady Heseltine have arrived. Sir William was The Queen's Private Secretary for many years during Princess Diana's time.

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At 1.00 pm we met in the foyer and booked a couple of Ubers to take us into the Australian High Commission for our afternoon tea, hosted by George Brandis, the Australian High Commissioner. Maria and Doug squashed into a car with me and Phil and in just over an hour, we arrived at The Strand.
We were a bit early so we went to the pub for a quick beer. Then to the Australian High Commission and checked through security before we could enter. Long gone are the days when Australians could wander in and out of their High Commission and read the Australian papers. It's all high security now.

We all gathered in a room where afternoon tea was laid out on a couple of tables and we helped ourselves and chatted amongst ourselves until the High Commissioner arrived. He made a very nice speech and chatted with each group. Peter Tilley responded on our behalf with a short but to the point speech. Then we were taken on a guided tour of the High Commission. It is a beautiful old building, 101 years old. It was opened on 3 August 1918 by King George V and was Australia's first diplomatic mission abroad. The building is heritage listed inside and out, so not much can be changed, but you wouldn't want it to be - it is a stunning building. They are expecting 15,000 Australians in here over the next couple of weeks to vote in the Australian Federal Election.

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We left at about 4.15 pm and when we checked out an Uber, the price had quadrupled from earlier in the day. It is now getting into peak hour traffic and it is starting to rain. What to do?

So Doug, Maria, Peter Tilley, Phil and I hopped into a taxi that took us to Paddington Station. We arrived at one entry only to find it was closed - due to a fire we were told, so the cab driver decided to drive to the other entrance. I'm not keen on going to the underground, if there is a fire there! The other entry seemed to be working like normal so I asked a policeman if everything was okay. Yes he said, so we bought tickets to Windsor, boarded the train and had a nice trip to Windsor on the train.

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We didn't get back until about 6.30 pm which meant that we had missed Evensong at St George's Chapel. I wanted Phil to go inside to see how magnifcent it was - maybe next time.

We had dinner at the Harte and Garter with Geoff and Caroline Hay, Maria and Doug. It was very nice.

Now to bed and try to sleep as tomorrow is the big day at St George's Chapel.

Posted by gaddingabout 14:27 Archived in England Comments (0)

Windsor - Wednesday, 1 May 2019

semi-overcast 17 °C
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Harte and Garter Hotel - Room No 109

The bed and pillows are lovely, but I had a very bad night. I just could not get to sleep. I must be too excited about the coming week.

We went down for a late breakfast and the eggs were cold and not very appertising. Phil ordered some eggs and they took ages to come and were pretty much inedible. So he ordered some more and tried to explain how to cook eggs over easy. They finally arrived 40 minutes later but by that time, it was too late. He was furious. The tea and toast were cold. He had a quiet word with the manager after breakfast! Hopefully things will be better tomorrow or else we might be poisoned!

Maria joined us at breakfast, just to chat and Peter Tilley walked up the hill from the Sir Christopher Wren hotel for a chat.

After breakfast, Phil and I walked down to the Sir Christopher Wren hotel where Peter is staying and had a lovely G&T on the deck with him, overlooking the Thames. It was just lovely. Phil was trying to help Peter download some apps on his phone. This is a very lovely part of Windsor. I have never been down this end before. But I still prefer the position of the Harte and Garter which serves my needs very well, of getting to Windsor Castle with a minimum of fuss.

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Did you know that The Queen owns all the swans in the UK?

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Phil and I were meeting Maria at 2.30 pm to go on The Long Walk and when I went down to the foyer to check that she had moved into her new room, a man in the reception area kept looking at me. Finally he approached me and introduced himself as Gerry Warner, LVO, the Mil Sec/Comptroller from Government House days in the late 80s. And his wife Gerri. My, how we have all changed! It was lovely to see them both and we chatted for a while but had to leave them as Maria, Phil and I are attempting to walk the Long Walk through Windsor Park. I have always wanted to do this.

On the way to the start of the walk, we came across the local Anglican church in Windsor. We went inside and took some nice photos. There is a lovely photo of the Last Supper in there.

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Also a magnificent tree in the church grounds.

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And a typical English pub. Patrons enjoying a pint in the sunshine.

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We walked on to the start of the Long Walk. It was a very long way to the end where there is a magnificent statue of King George III. We walked, and walked, and walked - about 8 kilometres - up and back!

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Phil came the whole way too. Very proud of him. It took 2 1/2 hours and we got back at 5 pm with very, very sore feet. Don't you just hate these kids - running all the way - up and back!

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A very well deserved G&T and an hour's rest before dinner.

We went to dinner to a pub down the road called the King and Castle. Peter Tilley and Maria came with us. Maria and I wanted to have salmon but that wasn't on the menu so we settled for chicken and avocado salad instead. The weather is changing and it is starting to rain a bit.

I am so tired after broken sleep last night and the Long Walk today, so it is time for a relaxing bath and into bed.

Posted by gaddingabout 13:25 Archived in England Comments (0)

Windsor - Tuesday, 30 April 2019

From London to Windsor

semi-overcast 16 °C
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Harte and Garter Hotel - Room No 109

Slept in, had breakfast, packed our bags and phoned for an Uber to take us to Windsor at 11 am. Our driver was a lovely young Greek guy and we chatted for the hour and a quarter it took us to get to Windsor. Our room wasn't ready unti 2pm so we went for a walk around lovely old Windsor. It is Phli's first time here and he loves it.

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We had a beer at the Carpenters Arms and then we wandered down the street and found a Cornish Pastie shop! Is there no getting away from them?

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While we were walking around Windsor, a TV crew came along and interviewed us about Harry and Meghan's baby, whether we thought it was going to be a boy or a girl. A girl, I said. Maybe we will be on TV tonight.

This guy is all set up on the corner, hoping the baby will be born today as it's his 84th birthday.

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We receive our room keys and I ask for my invitation to the Royal Victorian Order Church Service and Reception being held at Windsor Castle on Friday, 3 May. "We don't have any mail for you", they said. "Yes you do because I received an email from Ivanka at the end of March saying that mine (and others) had arrived". Great confusion ensued with phone calls being made, Ivanka arriving to participate in the search, safes being searched - the whole works!

Meanwhile, Amanda O'Rourke had phoned me to say that she had phoned the Harte and Garter and they told her they didn't have her invitation either! Good grief. Here we go again. In 2011, the Clarence Hotel sent our invitations back to the Central Chancery, even though we asked them to hold them for us.

However, all's well that ends well, and after a little while, Ivanka had found ALL our invitations. Thank goodness.

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Now to the room. It is lovely. It is on the first floor, we have a lift AND a bath and a balcony overlooking Windsor Castle. The bathroom is HUGE - we could hold a party in there. The balcony needs some attention so we are not supposed to stand on it, but we can open the balcony doors for fresh air, and street noise!

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The room next to us has been taken over by the media. They are training their cameras on the gates of Windsor, waiting to see who comes and goes, re the new Royal baby.

We walked down to an Italian restaurant for a quick snack so we could come back to our room and watch the semi finals of the World Snooker Championships as there is an Australian who is doing quite well. In fact he was leading when we went to dinner.

We had just settled into a restaurant when two women arrived with seven very noisy boys! The waiter moved us to a different part of the restaurant but we really didn't mind. We had been reading the menu in the restaurant earlier this afternoon and the owner came out and gave us a 25 per cent off voucher, so we were definitely coming back. The pizza was quite nice.

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All the tourists and baby watchers have now gone home and the street below us and the front gates of Windsor Castle are now deserted. I guess it will be full on tomorrow and every day until the baby Sussex is born.

Posted by gaddingabout 15:30 Archived in England Comments (0)

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