This amazing experience is gradually passing into history, but for those who were inside or outside the Abbey, it was one of the great highlights of our lives. It is in the middle of the night here in London, and I have been tossing in my sleep trying to decide why it all seems so perfect. The bride and groom were wonderfully in love–perfect! The ceremony was spectacular–perfect! The clothes and hats and jewels were colorful and exquisite–perfect. No one could get their eyes off the fabulous cars–perfect! Westminster Abbey was never more spectacular with all the trees, flowers, and bouquets–perfect. But there was something else and that was a sense that everyone had put aside gloomy economy, wars and rumor of wars, crime, disease, national hatreds for one moment where there was a unified national conscience all focused on this happy event. I had a feeling that this experience would be unique so I made every effort to rearrange my schedule to be here. Mrs. Moore and I are returning in two weeks, sailing on the Queen Mary2, so another trip two weeks before our sailing was really fitting in a crazy schedule. When I left my London house to find the spot where I was going to ”sleep rough,” our company’s technical person Marcin came to help me with all my equipment: sleeping bag, liner, pillows, blanket, camera and cases, briefcase, coats, big red/black lumber jack’s jacket, telephone, and rain cover. We hopped in a taxi and told the driver that we were sleeping rough for the Royal Wedding. The taxi driver turned around and looked at me–seeing an older gentleman–and said: YOU ARE HAVING A TIN BATH! I have been in England much of my life, and I have never heard that expression. I questioned the driver. He said it was a cockney expression which meant YOU HAVE TO BE JOKING! It may have been a joke, but it was a real one. There I was, ready for the long haul.
Many of the streets were closed by now, so half way to Westminster Abbey, we hopped out of the cab and carried all the equipment around the back near Matthew Parker Street and around in front facing Westminster Abbey. Right in the middle of the street, directly in front of the Abbey West Door, a lovely lady my age was setting up her camp. She was so pleasant, and I knew I wanted to be around her for the next three days. That was the best decision I could have made. She said she had picked the spot long in advance when she came up to London and was assigned by her family to be sure it was saved for them. Her name was Geraldine MacLaine. She was wonderful. She invited me to join them, so I had a friend right from the get-go. There we were: three MacLaine ladies, her grandson Ben, and Thomas Moore. Just after I laid out my things, the other people began to realize that THIS WAS THE PLACE. Being from Salt Lake City, I knew that expression very well.
Mrs. Maclaine had three camp chairs, and she wasn’t using one of them for a few hours so she offered it to me. I knew I couldn’t sit on the street and hop up and down all day and night, so a camp chair was missing in my packing. I called our manager Cristina who said she had one herself and would get it to me. The first day was very warm with the sun shining brilliantly, and I could hardly believe our luck. New friends joined us along our part of the street, and I have to say they were all types. I was fascinated. I had never slept “rough” before, so this was really an eye-opener. Cristina came with another camp chair. Her son Alex and her daughter arrived to bring fruit, sandwiches, cakes, and all the items a boy scout would dream of while he is on a scout outing. Even hot spaghetti which she had made at home because she knew I loved it. Then I realized that THESE EVENTS were events which I wanted to record: people coming and going, friends coming to see me, people who work for the London Connection searching the crowds trying to find me. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I would hear HEY, BOSS, I FOUND YOU. I looked around and there were members of the team bringing me fruit, chocolates, sandwiches.
Soon after we were in place, a small group of 5 people from Staffordshire camped behind us. I became very attached to them. The older lady said her husband had been a miner and she raised his/her/and their family. I really liked her. The second lady saved the day! She was a zipper maker from Stafford and fixed my sleeping bag when the zipper popped. In the evening, she tucked me in my sleeping bag and zipped me up–I was warm all night, but we never got any sleep because we all were in our bags but couldn’t stop talking. I loved these people. I heard about the war years, about their family’s travels throughout the Commonwealth, about rationing, all about one Prime Minister after another. We became one big happy family with everyone caring for each other.
My son Thomas called me on the phone from the States from time to time to see that I was surviving, and I think he was scratching his head that his aging father would and could do something like this. Well, I put an end to his fears about my aging! I decided I was vigorous as any of my children, and this was something I wanted to do. He called to tell me that I had to blog from time to time because people were wanting to hear about my experience “on the street.” So, Marcin rescued me, guarding my pitch while I rushed home to put my posts on my blog. My son was correct when he called to tell me that nearly 2 million readers had come to my blog to see what the street was like.
Then night came. The minute the sun disappeared, it got very cold. The first night, we all nearly froze. We slipped down in our bags to hold in as much heat as we could which was a real disappointment because we couldn’t chat the night away. But by morning, we were all on our mobiles asking our friends and employees to bring blankets, comforters, and more coats. It was hilarious. By 10:00 AM our campsite looked like a veritable tramp town in any metropolitan city. There was one real difference: we were thrilled to be there, and we were very happy.
The horse guards came by early, exercising the horses and getting them used to the crowds and location. Then the bands started to practice. By 9:00AM, it was a busy spot again. THEN OUR WORLD CHANGED. Since we were the group right in front in the very middle of the Abbey just under all the world’s cameras, the media found us. And we didn’t pull back. Geraldine kept a diary, and she says we were interviewed 12 times: CNN, BBC twice, Fox News twice, several newspapers, and many free-lance writers who would put there stories on the wire for newspapers around the world. That is how we ended up in newspapers in Sydney and in Toronto. We loved the press, and they loved us. I was wearing a very warm red/black lumberjack coat, and the CNN lady said it was perfect for her pictures. My friend Shalae Larsen emailed me and said it was quite a contrast with the Abbey in front of me. Oh well, it was very warm. When my housekeeper Alice and my manager Cristina came by, Rio News found them and interviewed them in Portuguese, and he was thrilled to get the inside story in his native language. It was fun to watch. Everyone had something going on.
During the first evening, suddenly the traffic stopped. We knew something was up. Sure enough, out of nowhere, a police escort quickly passed by us and into the Abbey. It was William and Catherine and their bridal party coming to the Abbey for a rehearsal. We had our first glimpse, and the excitement grew to a new level. About an hour and a half later, the wedding party left the Abbey, and we had our cameras ready for them. It was really fun.
The second night was warmer–THANK GOODNESS! We spent most of the night sitting in our chairs talking. I heard about the potteries leaving Staffordshire. I heard about our neighbor’s pet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel whose name was CAMILLA, can you believe? Suddenly, out of her little tent, she pulled out a pink sleeping bag with Camilla tucked inside sound asleep. I couldn’t believe my eyes because I have a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel at home that looked just like Camilla. I spent a few moments thinking of my dog Rosey–with full realization my dog would not be sleeping in any bag with all those cookies, cakes, sandwiches sitting all around. I am sure I was very happy I had not brought Rosey with me.
The third day was the BIG DAY. It started very early. The activity at the Abbey was amazing. We couldn’t figure it all out, but we knew that this was going to be anything but a regular wedding. The night before, huge trucks arrived with large oak trees coming from Windsor Castle for the ceremony. Now the Abbey was transformed into a forest of trees and flowers. On the 3rd morning, the fresh flowers came, and there were tons of them–all white! Our mouths dropped as we watched all this. It truly was a complete transformation right in front of our eyes.
Then the bands started to play and guests started to arrive. The diplomatic corps in their limousines arrived with flags flying from their vehicles. It was quite a spectacle–there had to be a hundred of them. Then the Royal guests arrived, and Queen Margaret of Denmark stole the show. She was dressed in pale blue with jewels on her coat; she was stunning, smiling, and waving. Then Prince Albert of Monaco and his fiance. The King and Queen of Norway and the King and Queen of Sweden were next. Then the Queen of Spain and her son arrived. The King and Queen of Belgium were warmly received by the crowds. Then the Queen’s family arrived. Edward, Andrew, and Princess Anne arrived with all their children. Finally the bridesmaids and Pippa. I was all set. I was determined to get every picture I could get in focus. But I also wanted to see it all, not just through a camera lens. I had it down perfect. When the Middleton’s arrived, I had my system down perfect. And then Charles and Camilla–looking wonderful and happy. Amazing, really!
Then Prince William and Prince Harry arrived, and the crowds went mad. I mean they went mad! Prince William turned to the crowd and waved and smiled from ear to ear. For the first time, I realized how tall he is–especially when standing next to Prince Harry who has a slightly lean-forward stance. You can only imagine the cheering and clapping, on and on. Amazing.
Then there was a rather noticeable hush when a huge wine-colored limousine came through the streets carrying the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Out of this silence, I heard my Staffordshire friend say SHE IS IN YELLOW. My mind flashed to my grandson Alec who bet it would be yellow, and he proved to be correct. Suddenly, the crowds went mad–waving, clapping. The Queen must have had a wonderful feeling as the large crowds greeted her with the most amazing warmth and cheer. I don’t think there was a dry eye in our pitch.
Then the moment we were all waiting for! Catherine Middleton who stepped out of her car with her father to the most amazing round after round after round of applause and cheer. I have been to a lot of national festivities here in England and in the States, and I have never seen anything like this. She waved to the crowds, and her smile was wonderful through my camera lens, magnified for the moment. Incredible dress and deportment! She is even more beautiful than her picture. Perfect!
We listened to the wedding happening inside the Abbey from speakers which had been placed around the Square, and it was the most serene and beautiful feeling. The music was wonderful. When the marriage I DO’S came over the speakers, the crowds went mad again. It was the most electrifying moment.
Then the carriages moved into place and the State Landau and those magnificent horses and grooms captured the crowd’s attention. Suddenly, there was the married couple coming down the street right in front of our eyes. Then the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh left in the Irish State Coach–almost all glass so they could be easily seen. Then the Australian coach carrying the Prince of Wales, Camilla, and the Middletons. On and on it went until the Abbey was again silent and empty.
Everyone rushed to the Mall to see the carriages pass down this historic street to the Palace for the balcony kiss. It was hard to realize it was all over. There we were with all our campsite to take home and die in our beds.
I would have done it again without any question. It was the most fabulous experience. It was an amazing experience to have a million people with one thought: Prince William and his bride–now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a peerage granted by the Queen. It is a fairy tale story which none of us will ever forget. We have read about fairy tales, but to experience one? Wow!
And I will never forget my new friends, the MacLaines, who opened their lives and hearts to include me. What can I say but THANKS, dear people!
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918