I found myself in London today as I took Eldest to begin his University adventure. Once he was settled in, I had the chance to soak up some of the atmosphere of a capital city preparing for the funeral of our Queen tomorrow.
Normally I wouldn’t be in a position to hop on a train specifically for an occasion like this, but today, I found myself in the right place at the right time.
The famous queue of people waiting to see the Queen lying-in-state was inescapable as we were based on the south bank of the Thames – right next to it. After settling my son into his new home, I was free to wander and experience the atmosphere.
As the sun set and the rain came, I followed the queue along the South Bank…
By the British Film Institute there was a huge screen showing footage from the Queen’s 70 year-long reign…
The atmosphere was remarkable, amicable chats amongst those in the queue. Not one raised voice. Just patient shuffling along the side of the Thames.
As 8 o’clock approached, I wanted to be somewhere significant for the National minute’s silence. I was hoping to make it to Buckingham Palace but was warned roads nearby were closed because of the reception for world leaders so I opted to stay close to the Palace of Westminster.
Road closures meant pedestrians could spill into the road over Westminster bridge. However, those same closures meant a diversion for pedestrians back along the Embankment and then on to Whitehall, where people were already camping – some with tents – to have front row seats for tomorrow’s events.
Parliament Square was a hive of activity as contractors removed all the traffic lights and many police officers and army personnel were involved in preparations.
I found a perfect vantage spot to wait for half an hour or so ready for the silence. I even spotted the Castle & Key of the Gibraltar flag hanging opposite the Houses of Parliament.
Tannoy announcements told the gathering crowds that the silence was imminent and slowly the noise levels fell. Work came to a halt. People stood still and you could hear a pin drop. The silence was impeccably marked and was really quite moving. Being so close to where the Queen was lying in state felt right.
I’m so glad I went. The silence was ended with a round of applause and a spontaneous rendition of the National Anthem.
Then it was time to head back across the river..
The queue continued to move slowly along the South Bank and nightfall meant a projection onto the front of the British Film Institute had appeared.
I stood for a while to watch black and white footage of the Queen at important moments in her life.
It was lovely to see all the different ways her passing had been commemorated at different locations.
There was a beautiful and huge light & sound sculpture at Tate Modern – an unexpected surprise.
At the Globe Theatre there were wreaths of Rosemary for remembrance and photos of the Queen & Prince Philip from the official opening of the venue.
And then, unlike those hardy folk in the queue or camped out on the funeral procession route, I returned to my hotel by following the queue back to where I’d started. I am unlikely to be able to watch the Queen’s funeral tomorrow because of travel back up north but I’m glad I was able to spend some time in London at this particular moment in history.
Sending love to all those who need it.