We have spent our last two days in London catching up with the last few things that the girls wanted to see.
One of these was Buckingham Place and we put this off until yesterday as that was the day that they were changing the guard. We arrived one hour before the parade and the crowd was already three or four deep along the fence but we found a position right at the end where Audrey and Violet could get a front row position. It certainly tested their patience having to wait for a whole hour until 11.00 am when the parade started. They did well, and were amused by occasional things happening such as a police officer patrolling along the crowd or a truck that arrived to take away the old guard’s kit.
The soldiers were from the Irish Guards and they wore their grey winter overcoats over their blue tunics. Their drill was superb and I could remember enough from my National Service days to basically know what was going on and to keep the girls informed.
I found this description of the parade omg a website, so where’s how it went:
At 10:30am a detachment of the Old Guard forms up in Friary Court, St James’s Palace (Marlborough Road), and is inspected by the Captain of The Queen’s Guard. This contingent then marches down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace preceded by a Band or Corps of Drums.
Meanwhile, the Buckingham Palace detachment of the Old Guard forms up in the Palace forecourt and is also inspected. At 10:43am, the St James’s Palace detachment enters the forecourt of Buckingham Palace through the South Centre gate and takes up position beside the Buckingham Palace detachment on the South side of the forecourt.
Now complete, the Old Guard awaits the arrival of the New Guard from Wellington Barracks.
At Wellington Barracks in Birdcage Walk, the New Guard and the Band form up. After being inspected at approximately 10:40am, the Band forms a circle and plays music while waiting for the arrival of the Regimental Colour (flag). When the New Guard is fully assembled, it marches out of the barracks towards Buckingham Palace.
The New Guard enters Buckingham Palace forecourt at approximately 11:00am through the North Centre Gate. It marches in front of the Band and halts to face the Old Guard.
The Band then plays the New Guard’s Regimental Slow March as it advances towards the Old Guard. The Old Guard and New Guard then ‘Present Arms’ (salute with their rifles) after which the Captain of the Old Guard hands over the key to the Palace. This symbolic gesture represents the transfer of responsibility for the Palace’s security.
When The Sovereign is in residence, the Royal Standard is flown from the Palace. Upon such occasions, the Foot Guards on the forecourt of the Palace will wait for the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and will ‘Present Arms’, as the horses pass between The Queen Victoria Memorial, affectionately known as the ‘Birthday Cake’, and Buckingham Palace.
After the ‘Present Arms’, Officers of both the Old Guard and New Guard salute the Senior Captain on parade with their swords. Retiring to the Guard Room, they will later report to the Senior Captain after completing handover procedures. During this period the Ensigns, carrying their respective Colours, patrol the length of the forecourt from left to right. Officers not directly involved in the ceremony will patrol between the Palace and both Guards.
As each new sentry is posted, a Lance Corporal distributes any special orders previously collected personally from the Palace by the Captains of the Guard. During these procedures the Regimental Band, originally accompanying the New Guard, moves to the centre of the forecourt, forms a semi-circle and plays a programme of music.
The original sentries, having been replaced by those from the New Guard, return to complete the Old Guard. The duty Drummer informs the Director of Music that the handover is complete. The Band then re-forms in front of the Centre Gates.
After the Parade was over, we walked around to the Royal Mews with the intention of seeing the Queen’s coaches but it was another attraction that was closed at this time of the year. Instead, we popped into a cafe across the road for a hot chocolate and a coffee. The weather was a bit colder (about 6C) than the last two more mild days, so the hot drinks were very welcome.
From there, we walked though Regent’s Park back to Whitehall. Violet was very excited about the number of squirrels that we saw. There were many water birds along the edges of the lake in an area set aside as something of a sanctuary for them. There was even a black swan. It looked a bit out of place with all the white ones!
We waked across the parade ground at Horse Guards and came out onto Parliament Street where the sentries sit very patiently on their mounts. Occasionally a tourist would get too close and start to annoy the horse and they were forcefully told to move away.
Along Parliament Street, we could see the Cenotaph which remembers British war dead. We also passed Downing Street which now has huge gates at each end. Access is now prohibited. On my first trip to London, I can remember being able to walk along Downing Street and see the police officer on duty outside the door of No 10. Modern security requirements have certainly changed our access to many places.
From Westminster station we caught the tube back to our hotel at Kensington. For dinner, the girls wanted to go back to the same pub where we eaten on the night before (The Hereford Arms). Now that it was night and dark, the little lane of Mews that I wrote about yesterday was lit up with pretty Christmas lights.
Today, our last day here, we have to pack up for an evening flight to Singapore. I was able to organise a late check out from our hotel so we were able to pop out for a final bit of sight seeing before we left.
We took the tube to Piccadilly and saw the circus. There were no animals – the word ‘circus’ comes from the Roman word for ‘circle’. The word Piccadilly comes from an old tailor’s shop near here where Piccadils were made. These were a form of men’s collar. I’m not sure how the statue of Eros fits into this history but there it is.
One of the roads that connects with Piccadilly Circus is The Strand. It is full of glamorous shops and every ‘name brand’ store in the world seems to have a shop on this street. We walked along a short way and I popped into the Charles Tyrwhitt mens wear store to check my measurements for a new suit. I only ned one for attending funerals these days. I have bought a number of shirts on line from this company but haven’t been game to buy any really expensive items because I was unsure of what size to buy. Now, I know!
From here, we walked down to Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s Column. After a good look around, we went over to the Waterstones book store where Audrey found the Harry Potter section. They had a very fitting blackboard message after our trip to the Palace yesterday.
We were back at the hotel for a latish lunch and to get packed ready to leave for the airport. Jill noticed this sign on the door near our table. We weren’t quite sure what it meant. I assume that if it led to the crematorium, it would have had curtains around it. After all, it is curtains for everyone when they finally depart. Without curtains, perhaps it just led straight to the grave yard.
Our next destination is Singapore and then we’re back to Melbourne on Sunday morning. We have had a wonderful trip and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of it.