Friday 30 March 2018

Maundy Thursday

The reason for the specific title for this blog post will become apparent in a moment.

We travelled up from home on Tuesday and, with just one short stop, we arrived at Droitwich by 1 o'clock. The boat was in fine fettle and we soon unpacked and warmed up the inside. As the outdoor temperature was somewhat better than during our last visit to the boat, this did not take very long.

Wednesday we packed our bags (actually most had stayed in the car overnight) and drove across to Windsor where we were booked for two nights in the Holiday Inn, just off the M5 close to Slough. After a sandwich in the bar we went in search of a newspaper, which proved rather more difficult than anticipated as there were no shops in the immediate area. We called at Maplins -  sadly under threat of imminent closure so a good discount sale was in progress but the main thing could we think of was to stock up on AA and AAA batteries in quantity! In the end the only place we could find our newspaper was at the mega Tesco close to Slough station.

So why, you must be asking, did we want to spend two night in Slough? Well, the reason was that it is only a few minutes from Windsor (but much less expensive). The surprise letter that arrived early this year invited Christine to be a Recipient of Maundy Money at the special ceremonial service which this year was held in St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. She had been nominated as one of the four to be awarded to people in Cornwall. Although there are no official citations, and the invitation letter made no reference to the reasons, it is probable that it was in recognition of the work that she has done in the diocese on behalf of disabled people, more especially in recent years in promoting better responses to people with dementia and their carers. Mike's role was to be a Companion, as the official title goes.

So, in the afternoon we drove in to Windsor to attend the evening service, rather in the more of casing the joint in advance of the next day! It was a simple, said service with only a small number of people but afterwards we could look to see where our seats were to be.

The total number of Recipients is based on the Sovereign's age, hence 92 men and 92 women, from every diocese in England. As we found the next day, 184 recipients and the same number of Companions filled the chapel.

 Later we had an evening meal at the hotel which was perfectly adequate if not especially different. What was distinctive, however, was the staff who were all very welcoming, pleasant and helpful.

On Thursday we rose in good time and after a good breakfast (again the hotel did well) we nervously donned our glad rags and set off by car - we were to park in the Sports Club in the grounds alongside the Long Walk. We stuck our identifying sign to the windscreen and left with time in case the rush hour imposed delays (our concern about that was heightened by experiencing considerable traffic on a slightly different route the evening before) But as it happened we headed across the river and through town with very little traffic and so we took the opportunity for a brief diversion to call on daughter Joanna (who we knew was probably working from home this day). We chatted for a short while (she had been listening to an item on the radio based on conference she and her team had organised in Northern Ireland) but long enough to take a photo which she later posted on social media!

A short time later we were handing our invitations and personal identification papers to the police and security staff at the entrance to the car park. By the time we were through there was a real sense of relief - we were in the right place at the right time and entitled to be there! We were ushered to waiting executive coaches that transported us up the long drive to the chapel. At this stage the weather was kind to us as we joined others gathering outside the entrance making a quick trip to the temporary loos installed for the occasion!)

Although we thought we were early - ahead of the schedule we had been given - when we entered the chapel we saw that at least 90% of the Recipients and Companions were already in their seats. There was a real buzzing atmosphere as people who had never met before introduced themselves to those alongside.

The event is a classic traditional royal ceremonial with plenty of colour from Yeoman Warders (aka Beefeaters!) and Military Knights of Windsor and assorted clergy in their finest robes. The distribution takes places in two tranches in the middle of the service. The Queen is followed by a procession in which the purses containing the Maundy Money are transferred from the large trays carried by the Yeoman Warders and passed hand to hand through three people finally to the Lord High Almoner (currently the Bishop of Worcester). During this time, and throughout the service the choir and organist provide music - the standard here is amongst the best of cathedrals - for most of the recipients it is a matter of a bow or bob and time to say, "Thank you very much your majesty" (in accordance with the instructions from the Lord High Almoner before the start of the service). Just one or two are favoured with a brief comment and conversation from the Queen but (perhaps to her relief) Christine was not one such!

The service was over in just about an hour - alas as we emerged from the chapel a heavy shower arrived and there was no opportunity for more photos before scuttling onto one of the waiting coaches (we had intended to walk the short distance).We made our way into the Royal State Apartments for a reception in the Great Hall and adjoining rooms and time to mingle with the other Recipients and some of the officials and clergy that had been involved. Although the surrounding are some of the most impressive (amazingly re-constructed after the horrendous fire in 1992) there was a delightfully informal feel - no doubt helped by the fact that by now all those who had been so such on tenterhooks an hour earlier were mightily relieved that they had done nothing wrong!

Eventually, just after 2 o'clock, we made our way back downstairs (reclaiming the mobile phones that had been confiscated on arrival!) and found coaches to transport us back to the car park. We could now go back to being anonymous citizens again.

We have just a few photos from when we arrived at the chapel - after that all cameras were totally banned, but this did add to the sense of the occasion - so for the most part we have to depend on the images that are unforgettably in our memories. Perhaps we may be offered a chance to acquire a picture from the Royal Household photographers that were capturing much of the event but it is likely to be a small chance that any individual is in focus at the right time!

Time then to head back to the hotel and relax - and to open the purses and inspect the coins. To collectors these would no doubt the prized items but actually they are legal tender and just like everyday coins - just specially minted, the sort of thing that is impressive only once you know what they are and why they are a rarity. On the other hand they are silver coins and it some time since 4 pence coins have been in general circulation (before our time and pre-decimal) whilst threepenny bits (remember the original multi-sided coins?) The number of coins and the details are all derived from centuries of tradition which can seem either impressive or archaic according to taste.

Looking back at the organisation of the event, it was certainly most impressive but most especially there was a lot of care and detail that took into account the needs of the people most likely to be invited and that in the main they will not be familiar with such events. Yes, on the one hand, it is a very controlled process, almost industrial in nature, but it does also make sure that everyone can negotiate successfully what could otherwise be a minefield of protocol and unfamiliar convention, allowing everyone to enjoy the occasion, one that is full of pageantry, tradition and meaning.

In the evening we joined with daughter and family for a meal at Meimo, one of their favourite eating places in the centre of Windsor that serves Moroccan food. We can thoroughly recommend it - the food was great and the service very positive. Our hosts opted for sharing plates which meant for even greater hilarity. By the time we were back at our hotel we we pretty much completely exhausted!

This morning we were in not so much of a rush and so had another excellent breakfast before checking out and driving back to Droitwich Marina. Andrew is joining us for a few days and so we arranged for Mike to take the car to where we have booked to leave the boat during our next spell at home in a couple of week's time. He picked up Mike from Hill far,m Marina near to Wootten Wawen - a newly opened mid-size marina. Although it officially opened for boats last Novemeber when the entrance was finally opened through onto the canal, by then the winter stoppages meant that there was little traffic and it is only now that business is beginning to build up. Mike met both of the owners whilst he was waiting for Andrew and each was very happy to chat about their project of which they are evidently proud.

For simplicity we opted for fish 'n chips from town. Christine had left her iPad charging lead in the hotel and needed to find a replacement. Alas, Morrisons did not stock such an item and it was too late for anywhere else. That will now have to wait until the morning.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful and memorable day! And thoroughly deserved, Christine.