SOME THINGS ARE SIMPLY MEANT TO BE! Last year, my experience sleeping rough in front of the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey for the Royal Wedding was one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had. At 3:00 pm, three days before the wedding, I put my sleeping back down on the pavement and set up my chair and camera stand. Within an hour, the entire street was nearly full. Everyone was waiting for the first person to make the move, and I knew that spot is where I wanted to watch the great wedding, so I made that move knowing it was a long wait. The group that sat near me became like a family during the three days of camping rough. We laughed all night and all day, and we talked about our families and we were almost all grandparents. My team from our London office came to see me two or three times a day, bringing food and just checking to see that I was still alive. Well, I was very much alive and having the time of my life. The little group I sat with clicked immediately. There was just that bond that sometimes happens when people are sharing an amazing experience. I got the feeling that the whole world wanted to join our little group, but we had no more room; and believe me, we weren’t giving up our coveted spot. Even the Press was envious. When the wedding day came, and we were all waving our flags and singing GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, I had a lump in my throat, realizing that I would probably never see my new friends again. I am one of those funny people who believe that life does come around more than once–that’s just a way of dealing with the wonderful things that happen in my life. Well, the excitement was over, and I packed my things, hugged my friends with tears in my eyes, and started to walk home. I had mixed feelings: fabulous wedding memories while leaving my comrades who slept rough with me for all those many hours.
This year, Stephanie and I decided that we were coming to the Diamond Jubilee and sleep rough–twice in twelve months, can you believe. We knew we wouldn’t need to mark our spot three days in advance because it was pouring rain, and certainly people would make their move closer to the evening before the great Pageant. Stephanie and I left home at 1:00 am in the pouring rain with our chairs, umbrellas, snacks, and tons of camera equipment. Our driver found one of the bridges that was still open and got us to the South Bank near Royal Festival Hall, in front of Strada restaurant where we had decided we would have the very best unobstructed view. When we arrived, there were only three groups who had been sleeping in their water proof tents all night. We chose the spot because we knew we could sit under Golden Jubilee Bridge and Hungerford Bridge if the rain kept up. By 9:00 am, the crowds began to gather with their umbrellas and rain slicks. By 11:00 am, the crowds were 6 people deep. By noon, the crowds were 20 people deep, and we were on the front railing sitting comfortably in our chairs. It stopped raining about 10:00 am, but it remained a rather gray day, but we experienced no rain during the great River Pageant.
About 1:00, I heard a voice which I recognized. I didn’t really pay much attention until the voice got more and more familiar to me. I turned my head and saw the orange blanket on one of the ladies; I recognized that blanket right off. Then I turned my head a bit more and THERE WAS DIANNE DONOHUE. Without hesitation, I grabbed her and gave her the biggest hug ever. I looked over and there were the ladies two grandchildren; they had actually grown up quite a bit. Then I recognized THE RED DOOR perfume. My heart was beating, and I could not hold back my tears. That orange/red blanket said ROYAL WEDDING LAST YEAR to my memory. And the pieces of the puzzle started to come together.
THESE WERE THE PEOPLE I HAD SPENT THE THREE DAYS OF SLEEPING ROUGH at the Royal Wedding twelve months ago. I left the Royal Wedding event with no phone numbers and no email addresses. I had had absolutely no contact with my friends during the entire year. AND, here we were again–all by coincidence. The Pageant covered 17 miles of the river from Battersea Bridge to Tower Bridge. There were 34 miles of standing room along both sides of the river AND THE PEOPLE I KNEW FROM THE ROYAL WEDDING ENDED UP EXACTLY IN THE SAME SPOT STEPHANIE AND I WERE A YEAR LATER WITH NO COMMUNICATION BETWEEN US DURING THE YEAR MAKING PLANS. Tell me, what are the chances of that ever happening? It was like a great reunion, and this time we exchanged addresses and email contacts.
It was such a special moment AS YOU CAN IMAGE, but we had to refocus because the great Royal Pageant was soon to be coming down the river. I kept looking over to see if this was really happening–both the Pageant as well as the encounter with my old “sleeping-rough-Royal-Wedding” friends. My heart was beating so fast, and my camera was snapping so many images, and my eyes were dripping tears until I felt that life could be no better.
Meet my friends:
This is Dianne Donohue, taken this year. Note her picture above from last year.
And this is the most smiling grandmother you will ever meet. Don’t you want to hug her and talk to her all day. She waved her flag and talked about her world in England, and I listened for hours with the warmest heart. I loved these people, and I always will. It is just wonderful people sharing life together. Really wonderful.
Have you ever stood next to a group of old fashioned Brits and sung LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY, GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, and RULE BRITANNIA? Well, I did, and I will NEVER forget it. Imagine, 34 miles of Thames River front, and old friends met by coincidence one year later. There is a message in this–somewhere for sure! These kinds of national events where the great British pageantry dominates the scene stirs the heart and creates settings where people come together. It certainly happened to Stephanie and me. THE DIAMOND JUBILEE was a fabulous experience I will never forget.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918