A visit to Buckingham Palace
Thank you to all who nominated us for the invitation to the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday 24th May.
We flew from Belfast International to Gatwick on the Tuesday morning, and then took the train to Victoria station which was only a short distance from the Nadler Victoria Hotel where we got changed into appropriate clothes.
Day dress and hat - fascinators are hats now - are specified for ladies. A lounge suit, morning suit or uniform is appropriate for men. National dress was also acceptable, but we didn't think that included the leprechaun hats worn on St Patrick's day, so we left them at home.
After a short walk to the Palace, we joined the queue with a thousand other guests at the front gates. We were efficiently admitted through the security check and went in through the front doors, across a courtyard and through the back of the Palace into the gardens.
We sat down at a table with another couple and got chatting. By chance, the man, Robert, knew my brother-in-law as they are both international bowlers - one for Northern Ireland, the other for Wales. What are the chances of that happening?
The food was lovely. Lots of delicious little tarts and Dundee cake with loads of roasted almonds on top. And yes, there were cucumber sandwiches, but Nancy didn't have any as there were other more substantial and tasty ones. I went back and lined up for seconds.
A military band played throughout the afternoon and the Queen came out and spoke to a selection of guests on the way to her tea tent. She spent a long time in conversation with each group and gave her full attention. She looked lovely in turquoise and, according to Nancy, has amazingly good skin.
We dandered around the extensive grounds, which had a lake and were very natural rather than being manicured.
Then it was time to leave and for Nancy to kick off the high heels. Dinner that night was is a Thai restaurant called The Mango Tree, which was a short walk from the hotel.
We stayed in London for another night and did some sightseeing and a walk along the South Bank. In the evening, we went to see The Mousetrap, which has been running for 64 years. The butler did it! Only joking. We are not at liberty to tell who the murderer is.
On Thursday morning, Nancy was convinced we saved a young cyclist's life. As we were about to cross a road in front of the Palace, a speeding car came round a corner through a red light, dangerously close to a cyclist. I shouted out, causing the cyclist to brake sharply. If she hadn't, she would have been under the wheels a second later. She was shaken and we stayed with her until she was able to go off on her own.
After that, we just had enough time to go to Trafalgar Square and visit the National Gallery for some culture before checking out and heading off on the return journey.
Andy Panayotou is a Team Leader with the SOS Bus Night-time Service