“Are you descendants?” asked the overly enthusiastic lady as we stepped out of our car, onto the tarmac. We were momentarily thrown.
Descendants? Well we are certainly descendants of someone but we guessed the lady to be referring to persons more specific.
We were heading to The Re-dedication of HMS Alliance at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, in Gosport, by special invitation.
HRH The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, was to be guest of honour. We had been invited because we had, some time before, donated a sum of money to the project which went on to raise £7m with the help of a lottery grant. HRH Prince William is Patron of the Conservation appeal. Our neighbour, Sir Tim McClement KCB OBE, happens to be Chairman of the Submarine Museum.
We were looking forward to the occasion, which was also commemorating the roles of the crews of two other World War Two submarines, the AE1 and the AE2, to be represented by an Australian contingent.
Normally, my week consists of walking the dog, writing, proofing a few projects, spending time with the grandchildren and carrying out the usual chores. This invitation provided an interesting addition to my timetable.
The sun shone, the wind was gusting but it was fairly warm all things considered. This was lucky since I had opted for a summer wardrobe of dress and jacket and sandals. (Our recent week’s holiday in Spain, means I officially recognise summer now, even when the British climate does not).
The lady who had accosted us, was waiting for our response.
Descendants? We assumed she must be referring to those who had manned the submarines.
“Er no,” we smiled. She looked a little disappointed but appeared to be waiting for our reason for being here.
“I made a donation to the project,” Dave said by way of explanation, eventually.
“Ah, you are a local businessman!” she seemed pleased to have placed us in a category.
“Well, I am but the donation was a personal one,” Dave explained.
“Oh, thank you, how wonderful!” the lady enthused.
I was tempted to add that I was, loosely, a descendant of the Royal family, “on the wrong side of the blanket”, via the Duke of Buccleuch, according to family folklore, but I refrained from such bad manners.
We left her and walked between the lines of naval cadets and personnel who lined the route. HMS Alliance stood proud in all her glory, to our left.
We were given name badges at the desk. Dave’s name badge said, “Donor” (of money not organs) Mine said simply, “Guest”. (Should I pencil in the bit about the Duke of Buccleuch?…maybe not…bad taste.)
The Prince was flown in, and out again, by helicopter. Certain people were designated to meet him in person and chat informally. These included a group of Australians and some people sporting purple badges who had equally relevant connections. (My badge was white and so was Dave’s. No purple pen to hand unfortunately.)
We had to be content with occasional glimpses of HRH as he performed his duties but we were close enough to note how tall he is and had I remembered my camera, we may have obtained some good snaps. As it is, I have to rely on the photographs taken by the media. The event was widely covered by the press of course.
At some point, the sun disappeared, the sudden shower became a deluge and I had cause to regret not wearing something a little more robust but at least I was not the one climbing the gangway, surrounded by photographers, as the rain lashed down.
Watching the evening television news, one of our daughters asked if we could be seen in the film.
“No, but see the Prince and Tim going through those double doors? Well, we are just behind the doors,” I said. (Just knowing we were there must surely impress.)
I am sure HRH Prince William was mortified not to have met us but perhaps he will get another chance, who knows?
Meanwhile, we met some lovely people and were made to feel part of it all – an honour indeed!
(I forgot to take my camera so am linking to the reports from the BBC)
HRH Prince William at the Re-Dedication of HMS Alliance 12/05/14http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-27370492
Other less Royal but equally enjoyable highlights since last I posted here, include a wonderful week’s holiday in Mijas, Spain, spent with eldest daughter and family
and an impromptu barbecue held on our return, at our youngest daughter’s home. Of course, our own William H.R.H is in the forefront of the photo below, in which all four grandsons are happily playing in the sun.
Stop Press! Giggle post alert
Three year-old Leon has just come into the room as I type and supplied this month’s first giggle for me to post:
“Grandma, a ghost has just walked across your garden. Come and see!”
How could I resist? I followed him to the patio doors where the garden looked pretty still to me and not at all haunted. The light began to dawn.
“Was it an animal ghost?” I queried.
“Yes Grandma, an animal ghost. It went into that hedge. If you watch, it will come out in a minute, I think.”
We watched for some time but the ghost failed to reappear.
I am pretty sure that Leon thinks he has seen a goat. (I recall from our holiday that he muddled the word “goats” with “ghost”.) What he actually saw was probably a deer. The fence is down in part of the garden and it would not be unusual for a young deer or two to wander through the garden. A deer can look very like a goat to a three year old I am sure!
Thank you Leon for making me smile!