On the day the Royal invite arrived, the Buckingham Palace postmark caused a flurry of excitement; an emotion only slightly tarnished by the fact that the postman had scrawled “parcel round the back” across the front of this prized envelope.
Graham with one of the project's adaptive mountain bike riders on the Hand Bikes @ Dawn Skiddaw Challenge, April 2015
There was much to plan, but a few not entirely trivial questions immediately sprung to mind. Firstly, though not specifically mentioned on the paperwork, we presumed our invite did not extend to two boisterous and toy-obsessed border collies, so some hasty dog-sitting arrangements were made. The second issue would not be so easily resolved: what to wear? After university, my career as a research scientist, and more latterly as a mountain bike coach had carved their own sartorial furrow in a very different direction from anything that might be considered smart.
On the day itself we were staying with friends near Wimbledon, so the journey in by rail was straightforward. As we approached the Palace it was easy to spot the many others who were heading the same way as us.
Entering in through that front gate was a bit of a buzz; somewhere in a far flung corner of the world, one of the people peering through the palace railings will have a picture of me in a suit! We were ushered across the gravel, under the famous balcony and through an archway into a large closed and reassuringly echoing courtyard. The way then led through a gallery and finally out onto the lawn, and in that sea of people, marquees and bands was finally revealed the true, huge extent of the proceedings.
As we stood taking in the scene, the crowds began to morph into strange patterns of branching lines. We studied this for a while, still none the wiser as to what was happening, then concluded that, with the crowds otherwise engaged, this would be the perfect time to hit the food marquees with their mountains of sandwiches and cakes. It finally dawned on us that these were the greeting lines, and so we managed both early access to a fine spread of cakes in the tea rooms, and a glimpse of the backs of the heads of our hosts. On our day this included The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
And then it was over. We made our way to a local hostelry to meet friends, and found the tables awash with discarded fascinators, top hats and clutch bags. Clearly we were not the only ones with an idea of how to round off such a remarkable day.