Kate Allan

The online diary of Kate Allan, author

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A day of the past and of the present

Today I went to Buckingham Palace and saw the Queen.

Yes, really!

Official home of the Royal family since 1837, I couldn't help getting a little heavy chested at the sight of the fabulous carpets, guilding and, oh... the paintings! In a room I believe is called the Queen's Gallery was a fantastic seven foot high (est.) portrait of a young and dashing George III. To his right was a delightful pastoral of three of his cherub-like children. And to complete the trio on their right his seven-foot high wife.

Unfortunately there was no real time to linger. I was there as a guest at today's investiture ceremony where people get knighthoods and other awards. The most famous face on the menu was probably Dr Peter Waterman, there for his services to music. Most moving maybe policeman Inspector Michael Tanner, awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for his "actions involving a man brandishing a knife in Finsbury, London." (Official wording in the programme).

The Queen appeared as she must have done on so many occasions before. With dignity, command and reserve. And when a lady came up to collect a military honour on behalf of her late husband, clearly visible pathos.

Our monarch, so it seemed to me, indivisable from her ancestry, and her heritage.

And yet the press were full today of further speculation on her decision not to attend the civil wedding of her son Charles and Mrs Parker-Bowles. Curiously modern seeming problems.

It was about 4C in London today with occasional snow flakes in the air, though they were not settling. We skipped out of the palace actually pretty fast to escape the cold, and went bang up to the present for lunch.

The Wolsey is one of the places to eat at the moment. The food was very good wholesome stuff. I had smoked salmon with soda bread, followed by Wienerschnitzel with French-fry-style chips and buttered spinach, followed by blood orange sorbet with caramelised orange pieces...
On the table next to us were Harold Pinter and Lady Antonia Fraser. Two tables down, Sir David Frost, and two tables to the left of him was Lloyd Grossman.

And according to one of our waiters Mrs Parker-Bowles had been in earlier.

A day of the present and of the past.

Lady Tess writes about her obsession with writing historical, and how there is no lure for her to write contemporary. I feel the same. Like the Queen, I cannot sever the present from the past. In the way I see things, our shared and personal histories are always too strong to be ignored. This is one of the themes of BIRDS. It matters to me, and part of the challenge of BIRDS is to a write a story to make it matter to other people.


  • At 4:25 pm, Blogger Tess said…

    Kate - very cool to see such an old ceremony performed in person. Is the knighting still done with the sword? Or has that taken place privately and the recipient awarded something else?

    Neat being seated next to Antonia Fraser.

    All we heard here in Canada was the controversy over HM not attending the wedding ceremony. Nothing about the ceremony you attended. A real shame.

  • At 8:01 am, Blogger Kate Allan said…

    Yes, there was a sword!

    The ceremony I was at is quite common. The Queen does 22 a year apparently.

  • At 2:21 pm, Blogger Tess said…

    Very cool about the sword. Would love to see the ceremony some day. Had no clue there were so many each year!


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