Today is the day and probably for the first time the nerves are beginning to set in. It is Wednesday, November 21st. Sr Adina Balan CJ from Romania and I are staying in a small hotel just down the road from the Acton community house. By 08.30am, courtesy of Magdalen and the Acton community who have looked after us so well, Bernie, Jacinta, Adina and myself were heading for Buckingham Palace. It was all still a little surreal but becoming a reality by the moment. Jen and Ana Stakaj, who is over from Albania for a training programme on behalf of RENATE, were there to greet us when we came out of the palace. They were filming the great day and cheering us on. What happened in between was truly amazing.
The pictures express a little of the occasion which was a wonderful affair for all of us. The palace is beautiful with wonderful pictures around the walls. We were practised beforehand by one of the chancellors, whilst the guests waited to a background of lovely music which continued to serenade them throughout the morning. Bernie, Jacinta and Adina had great seats raised on a platform at the side of the great hall. Prince Charles, backed by his chancellors and four men held the eyes of all as he distributed the medals to each of those to be awarded.
He was very prepared and gave a significant time to each one. It was a tingle factor time as you awaited your turn. Then the moment came and with others we wended our way through the corridors of Buckingham Palace and then to the great hall to be greeted by Prince Charles, as your name and reason for the award were announced loudly. Thankfully I did not fall as I made my curtsy to the Prince and then took the three steps towards him to be awarded the medal, which he slipped into a medal holder, already attached to my jacket. Prince Charles was lovely and opened up a moving conversation on the phenomena of Human Trafficking.
With the medal in place and after this significant chat, it was time to take three steps back, make another curtsy and then move on and out into the corridors of Buckingham palace where we wended our way back into the rear of the main hall. What an experience. It all ended with the national anthem, and the platform party, including the Prince making their way out of the hall, the last ones to leave being the footmen who banged a loud stick on the floor to the time of the music and their marching. What fun!! It was great to link up with each other after this, and share the experience whilst waiting for the photographs to be taken. After this, courtesy of Bernie and the Province, we made our way to Cotes where we had a delicious meal and lots of fun.
Sally Axworthy, the British Ambassador at The Vatican, was there at the gate of Buckingham Palace for greetings and photographs. All very lovely.
The day ended perfectly with a great party organised by the Acton community. Our CJ friends were there from the London house plus other friends, Philip my nephew and Christine Green and Ceri, Philippa’s niece and husband. This ended a more than perfect day. Thanks to everyone who shared this special time.
Sr Imelda Poole, IBVM, MBE.