Regular blog-readers will know that I was awarded an OBE at the new year; they will also know of the dilemmas faced and conquered. (Since then I have come across Alan Bennett's discussion of his own dilemmas in "Arise Sir..." that you can find in Untold Stories: Bennett made a different decision, and at a rather higher level, from me <ie "No Thanks"> -- but the issues he talks about are much the same, and he's no less ambivalent.)
But this blog is about the story of what happened today, when I went to be presented with the medal itself. It's the inside story of my trip to the palace.
The instructions said we were to arrive between 10 and 10.15. Despite Beard's over-vaunted Republican tendencies, she was very concerned not to be late. So I got a stupidly early train and met the daughter at Kings Cross at 8.45 and reached the palace just after 9.00 -- feeling a bit embarrassed about our promptitude. We needn't have worried. There were already a good few people in their glad rags waiting by the appropriate gate (as you can see on the right), so we disappeared round the corner to bring "the hat" out of the plastic bag <yes, I had chickened out of wearing it in the Victoria Line> and afix it to the head.
When we got back from this little enterprise, there were a lot more people assembled, and the son and our S Sudanese friend Samuel had arrived. (The husband, in case you are wondering, is in Greece.)
Despite the claims that there would be no entrance till 10.00, in fact the gates opened by 9.45. and we did the security checks, traipsed across the big courtyard, and got to the main entrance with its lovely toytown soldiers, where we left our cameras and phones in the cloakroom (the palace is not stupid and knows that any smartphone could mean a bootleg video). After the loo break ( a truly wonderful ladies loo with <repro?> Edwardian wooden seats and pull up handles), the recipients were separated from their guests: recipients to the right, guests straight on to their watching seats.