I can’t believe that it has taken me so long to write the concluding part for this. The first post (‘The Day That I Met The Queen – Part 1‘) was written all the way back in May – so read that first before you read this. Listening to the Queen’s speech today compelled me to write this final chapter, while it is still fresh in my mind.
It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining. We got through security and the police cordon, making our way to our specific tent in Valentines Park. There must have been 8 or 9 other pieces of work alongside ours, but we were bang in the middle, there was no way that she could miss it. We could hear the dull roar of a crowd gathering behind us. There were red, white and blues flying around and there was a hubbub of excitement. 15 minutes to go.
Then we heard the screams and the hollering. The park was now a hotbed of noise as the distinguished guests touched down and tentatively made their way to the art exhibition that had been set up – worth something like 4 million quid. All of a sudden, the chattering in our tent was reduced to an awkward silence as it all became very real. In only a matter of moments, a piece of history was about to look us in the eyes and shake our hands.
We must have been waiting an age before we got the signal. No official signal – just the smiles of the people outside suddenly grew wider and their eyes forgot to blink. And then a tiny lady in a sky blue dress became visible and there was a deadly silence in the tent, I started to bake in the sunlight. I told myself, regardless of whether she walks past or not, whether I get tackled by a security guard, I was going to talk to the Queen. Screw protocol.
She walked slowly to the first few students, asking them their names and exchanging niceties. But the poor girls were too nervous to speak and so just smiled sheepishly. This increased the nerves of every other person in the tent. The next few people froze too and it seemed as if she was not going to stay long. The sunlight through the tent was starting to make me sweat – as if I wasn’t nervous enough. Then the fateful moment came. Rather than describe the conversation, I will transcribe it.
The Queen: (noticing the badge on my lapel shining in the sunlight) That badge…does that have your name on it?
Me: (slightly bemused) No it doesn’t Your Majesty, it says head prefect.
The Queen: Oh! (slight smile and looks at the piece) So did you make this?
Me: I was a part of it ma’am (as in ham, not as in palm), but there were a whole team of us. It took us a few weeks to put it together, but we tried to get the whole school involved?
The Queen: Is that so?
Me: Yes, we made sure that everyone contributed at least one stamp so that we could put them all together in this piece.
The Queen: (peers closer to look at a few stamps)
Me: They represent the 60 years of your reign, we have some stamps here that date back to the 1950s.
The Queen: Yes, I can recognize some of them (looks at some of the older stamps as well as the ones of Diana and Sarah Ferguson)
Me: Well, do you think that it is a good resemblance ma’am?
The Queen: I am not sure. Let me have a good look. (takes a step back to have a look)
Me: (takes a step back to look as well – gets a dirty look from the security guard)
The Queen: Yes, I think so (turns to us, smiles and moves on to the next person.)
At this point, I looked back at my teacher and he gave me a warm smile as if to say, you done good. The conversation did not last longer than a couple of minutes, but when she walked past us and moved on, my smile matched that of everyone else’s in the room. There are not many moments in life where you feel like you have made it, achieved something, but at that point in time, I felt humbled by where I was standing. And 9 months down the line, that conversation and what happened are as vivid to me as that day in March when it happened.
And so this chapter comes to a close, and in a week’s time so will the year. Luckily for me it didn’t stop there. The picture above was taken and posted in The Sun, the Huffington Post, Telegraph and even the Ilford recorder. It became the official photo for that particular visit – which is now sold on postcards at my school. It is funny when life gives you lemons, you made lemonade – and when life gives you a thousand stamps, you meet The Queen.