Having been thrilled to be awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours, I have waited until the summer for my investiture date to come around. With 6 weeks’ notice to buy my outfit (including an appropriate thing to go on my head) I thought I was all sorted. Then, I realised I was taking three men along (husband and two sons), so there was a little more shopping to do to make sure we were all prepared.
We set off for London the day before along with the ladies (a daughter-in-law, a girlfriend and my beautiful granddaughter Grace) and decided to make it a few days of luxury, booking into the Shangri-LA at the Shard.
On a sunny Wednesday morning our driver arrived and we set off at 9.30 for Buckingham Palace. After a security check we drove through the main gates into the quadrangle where we were shown into the palace. We were greeted by servicemen and guardsmen in full livery and directed into the palace where my family and I parted company.
I was shown to an upper room with other recipients where we were given a cold drink in beautifully engraved goblets. Here we were left to mingle (nobody famous!).
We were told how the morning would run and had a live feed of the formalities in the ballroom downstairs. A total of 87 people were to receive awards, I was to be near the end. Time to use the royal bathroom!
From a balcony we looked out across Buckingham Palace gardens, although, I am uncertain that we were supposed to be out there. The lady I trespassed with offered words of wisdom – it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission – I think I will use that again!
The Princess Royal, Princess Anne was hosting the ceremony. Now interestingly, Princess Anne has local links. She lives within a mile of the practice where I have worked for the last 26 years and is the patron of the Minchinhampton Surgery Trust – a charity set up for our practice to pay for additional services that the NHS are unable to fund (currently clinical acupuncture and counselling held in house). As a result of this our paths have crossed on a couple of occasions.
So I approached the Princess, moving from person A to B as instructed. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by my greeting. Instead of a formal curt chat, as she placed my medal onto the waiting clip on my dress I was greeted with “well, fancy seeing you here”. A relaxed chat followed regarding my role outside of the surgery – I am the nurse lead and executive board member for the Primary Care Respiratory Society UK (PCRS-UK) – and the I was off, back to my family.
We were again met by the ladies of our party and celebrated with lunch at Roux at the Landau. We rounded off the evening with cocktails on the 55th floor of the Shard where we watched a spectacular lightning storm – quite something when you’re that high up.
My next blog will be back to matters clinical but it isn’t every day one gets to visit the palace so I thought I ‘d veer from the clinical to share it with you.
Carol Stonham is the expert blogger for the Nursing in Practice respiratory resource centre. She is a senior nurse practitioner working at Minchinhampton Surgery in Stroud, which is part of Goucestershire CCG. She has worked for many years as a practice nurse specialising in respiratory care and is also the nurse lead for the Primary Care Respiratory Society UK, a UK wide society for primary care health professionals keen to deliver high value patient-centred respiratory care.
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