On a warm July day in 1977, the Queen came to Ipswich for her Silver Jubilee. My friend, Helen, and I, had left school the year before in that long, hot summer of ’76. Now we were stuffed like sardines on Ipswich High Street, waiting hours for a glimpse of her.

The Royal Cavalcade arrived at last. Prince Philip, hands clasped behind his back, came over first. Then came the Queen, resplendent in yellow and her sunshine smile. My Kodak Instamatic at my eye, finger hovering above the button… Snap. The woman in front of me leapt up to wave, giving me a wonderful close-up of her pink, feathery hat, the Queen’s a flash of yellow in the background.

Though one among several warm memories I share with Helen – bonded since flute recital at middle school in Stowmarket at thirteen – I admit I found the Royal Family a bit stuffy, uninspiring. Yes, it was exciting to see the Queen so close, and as close as I ever would again, but I took her for granted. She was always there, all my life.

Up until then, my brief and passing interest in the Royals came by way of an assigned school project for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in Wales. It was 1969, he was twenty-one. I was ten. Beneath various cut-out newspaper and magazine photos which I pasted into a scrapbook, I wrote my summary in blue, felt-tip pen. Like a news reporter. Pens and paper and glue and scrapbooks were some of my favourite things. I look back now to 1969. It was also the year my parents split up, when we left our home in Surrey for Suffolk, a million miles away. Another planet. Yet I vividly recall the sense of empowerment and achievement that project gave me, immersing myself into something creative.

But The Royals? Back then? Not so much.

And then came Princess Diana and everything changed.

Through the divorces and the scandals, and accusations and tragedy to follow, the Queen was a constant presence through seventy years of reign, when bunting and street parties decorated the land for her glorious Platinum jubilee. After two years and counting of a global pandemic, 2022 has not seen the end of it. But it’s also a year to get back out there and live. Though life, as we know, is never without its triumphs and disasters. In early July, the Foo Fighters concert my wonderful family had surprised me with was cancelled. Tragedy struck with the shock death of their drummer, Taylor Hawkins.

We kept our Airbnb reservation in London as planned, not wanting to miss a chance to spend time together. And as it turned out, I ended up going to a Guns ‘n’ Roses gig with my sons, but that’s another story for another time. On Saturday, we took a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. Random, but it’s something we’d always wanted to do.

Almost 1,000 years of that history is retained within the walls and ancient flagstones of Westminster Hall. Plaques inscribed with dates of trials of the likes of Guy Fawkes and Thomas Moore (executed by King Henry VIII) mark the very spot where they took place.

And where, centuries later, the Queen’s father, King George VI, lay in state after his death in 1952.

The tour took us through the House of Commons and House of Lords and back outside, a stunning view of Elizabeth Tower, home to Big Ben. In the summer sun, it gleamed as clean as I’ve ever seen it and no scaffolding. After what felt like a long time away, this iconic London sighting imbued a measure of hope for recovery for my country.

We returned home on Sunday. On Monday, our government collapsed. Boris was fired. But more importantly to me, The Foo Fighters had announced a tribute concert for Taylor Hawkins. And there I was in London again with my family on September 2nd, watching Dave Grohl play at Wembley to a crowd of 80,000 fans and counting.

On September 5th, we got our new Prime Minister. Two days later, she had her first audience with the Queen in Balmoral. On September 8th, our beloved Queen died.

Our nation entered a period of mourning. I, along with millions, watched as processions and vigils and honour guards marched to our collective, final goodbye to our Dear Lady. There she rested, Lying in State, in Westminster Hall, just as her father and mother had done before her. And for four days and nights, thousands upon thousands filed past, paying their respects.

Thank you for your service, Ma’am.

Our country remains in political and economic crisis, and since starting this article, we have yet another new Prime Minister. But God Bless the Queen, I say. And God Save the King.

My mother remembers watching the Queen’s coronation in 1953. My grandfather purchased the family’s first television set to watch it, inviting all the neighbours. Mum was sixteen. But for everyone younger than 70, we’ve never witnessed such a momentous and historical time such as this.

All those decades ago when I did my school project, the very idea of Mum and I watching the Queen’s state funeral together in 2022 was so far from our thoughts to be impossible to contemplate. It gave me pause when Charles was proclaimed King Charles III on my birthday. He had a long wait.

Today, Mum struggles with cognitive impairment, but she remembers that scrap book of my school-girl write-ups of a young Prince of Wales. She still has it, she’s sure, somewhere in her loft. Apparently, I got a gold star.

Sherri’s non-fiction, flash fiction and poetry are published in magazines, anthologies and online at her blog. As a young mum of three, she emigrated from the UK to California and stayed for twenty years. Today she lives in England’s West Country with her family and two black cats. She is working hard to bring her debut memoir to publication.

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