The morning was going to be busy.
I’d opted not to sleep on the Mall, mostly because I’m a lightweight, but also because I’d been scheduled for two interviews with the BBC at around 6 am. I wasn’t going to be able to get a spot on the Mall until those were over.
I quickly ate breakfast, got dressed, packed up everything I was going to need for the day, and headed back to the media zone to be interviewed on Radio 5 Live. I had originally been scheduled to be on BBC Breakfast shortly after that, but the day before they called me and rescheduled me for Saturday instead.
The media zone was even crazier than the night before, and there were streams of people heading through the parks to get their places on the Mall.
I had my interview, which I don’t think went as well as the previous ones, but still was fun none the less. Sadly, I was not able to grab a recording. Thankfully, since I’d been in the media zone, they were able to let me out right in front of all the action, so that I could grab a good spot before they really started to control entry into the main areas.
After my interview, the crowds were getting pretty intense, so I quickly had to find a spot. The only problem was that I had to use the loo, and the lines for the Portaloos were a mile long. Finding my spot was going to have to wait.
After waiting in line for an eternity, I took care of things and returned to the Mall to find my spot. My goal for the day was to see the most anticipated event: the kiss on the balcony after the wedding followed by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flyover.
I found possibly the best spot — on the Bridle path in Green Park right outside the gates to Buckingham Palace with a diagonal view of the Balcony where the kiss would take place. It was also a prime spot to view everything else that would be happening that day.
I settled in. By this point, it was 7 am, and the day was only beginning.
Not much happened at that point. The crowds were getting bigger, and my area was getting a little more crowded as the hours went on. We had a nice policeman who was in front of us and was happy to chat. The combination of trees dropping seeds and dust from the bridle-path gave me bad hayfever, and the officer was kind enough to provide ‘bless you’s.’ There were several Americans around me, but no one was particularly social.
The crowds got excited at the slightest movements around the Palace. People waved flags. There was lots of free stuff being passed out by crowd Spammers, some of which was trash, some of which was helpful (like a pocket schedule). I updated all that was going on on our live blog, occasionally popped out the laptop to check the TV feeds, and just tried to pass the time, which was going rather slowly. Dana was covering things from further down the Mall and also live blogging, but I’ll let her talk about her experiences in her trip recaps.
At risk of being completely boring by recounting every minute of my stand on the Mall, I’ll just run off some quick observations.
The weather was pitch perfect. There was as risk of rain, but it never appeared. As the day progressed, the sun came out. It was a little on the cool side most of the day, and I kept my jacket on.
I managed to stay in the same spot the entire time, which was good as there were very rude people about — mostly foreigners who weren’t British — who kept trying to angle into people’s hard won spots. I had brought a couple bananas to snack on during the long period of time. Sadly, they did not survive uncrushed. So, it was a very hungry wait for things to get going. This is when it would have been good to have Jackie there. We could have stood about in shifts, getting provisions and using the loo. But I was alone, so I had to make the best of it.
Later in the morning, music boomed from the loudspeakers positioned in front of the Palace. That was nice and surprising. We knew that the wedding itself would be broadcast for the crowds over the loudspeakers, so it was a nice sound check.
I kept updating the site and got hold of Jackie back in Chicago, who got up in the middle of the night to cover the things we couldn’t get out.
If you’d like to read the archive of our Royal Wedding live blog, you can check it out here. It’s a testament to her hard work!
As the day progressed, the biggest problem Dana and I both had was connectivity. Our Tep Wireless phones and dongles were working well. But as the crowds got bigger and bigger, the cell phone networks jammed to the point where our phones and internet connections just didn’t work. This was not good. Thankfully, Jackie was able to keep up with updates back at Anglotopia HQ.
Then around 9 am, things really started to kick off. Soldiers began moving into place, cars began moving, and the crowds started going wild. We’d get excited at the sight of things even as mundane as people carriers coming and going from Buckingham Palace.
In quick succession, all the important people began to leave the Palace, including the Queen. The crowds went wild. I’ll never forget setting my own eyes on the Queen herself for the first time. She had gone for the yellow hat. Soon after the Queen departed, we saw the bride go by. The wedding was about to start.
The only part that sucked about standing out on the Mall is that we missed the video footage of everything. But that’s okay. Being there was way more awesome that watching it on TV in the hotel room!
When the wedding started, the loudspeakers boomed with music and the voice of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the ceremony started. The most amazing thing was that the crowd fell completely silent. You could hear a pin drop.
When the vows were done, the crowd went wild.
When God Save the Queen was performed, we all waved our flags. It was the most British I ever felt — a time I wished I truly was British.
When the ceremony ended, we all waited patiently for an even bigger payoff: the passing by of the Royal Carriages.
We knew they were coming, because the crowds cheered louder and louder and they approached. And then, there they were, the newly married couple in all their finery. In quick succession again, the processions came through, the soldiers marched out the Palace gates, the Horses departed, and then they began to let the crowds into the area they’d previously not been allowed.
We hadn’t expected this on our side, and we rushed to the Palace gates to get a good view of the balcony. We all waited in anticipating, cameras ready to snap a hundred pictures when the moment came.
The Royal Couple and the rest of their family popped out to say hello to the crowds. They kissed. The crowds went wild again.
And then a moment I will never forget that sent chills down my spine — the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight when World War II-era planes, a Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster Bomber flew directly overheard. The roar of those planes was the most amazing experience of the entire day. The BMF was followed by four fighter jets. And in a flash, the couple went back inside, and that was that.
There was already a sea of people in front of the palace, and then I looked to my right and was shocked at what I saw.
Behind a steady line of police was another few hundred thousand people cheering and marching right for where I was standing. When they came upon us it was like a horde of Orcs – pushing and shoving. It was a giant crush. I got out of there was soon as I could.
After the biggest event of the decade — then what are you supposed to do?
I headed back to the hotel, which took a while as all the crowds had the same idea. I went back to the hotel and opted for a wardrobe change and a bath. My clothes and body were covered in dirt from the bridle path. My whole body was aching from standing in one place for so long. I was starving.
But I think I was just about the happiest I’d been since my own wedding day and when my son was born. You can’t buy that kind of high.
Back to reality. I set about checking on Anglotopia, took a look at our traffic, prepared posts from the day, and relieved Jackie so she could go back to bed. Our preparations paid off — our servers did fine with no crashes. Our live blog had been a moderate success. Ad revenue was through the roof. It was certainly a good day to be running Anglotopia.
Soon after that I met up with Dana to decompress and get a meal at the local pub. The pub was pretty crowded, and of course, they had the Royal Wedding on the telly, which they were just now starting to replay. So eating a hearty British lunch, we chatted with locals and enjoyed watching the replay of the big day on the telly.
After all was said and done, I was cream crackered, but it was still only mid-afternoon. The whole day had revolved around the Royal Wedding, but now that it was over, I still had pretty much a full day in London! What to do?
I laid in bed and recuperated for a bit, and watched the Royal couple leave the Palace in their Aston Martin. Once I was suitably recharged, I decided to leave the room and find some souvenirs for my son William. I mapped Hamley’s on my phone and headed in that direction.
Hamley’s is a pretty amazing toy store — the oldest and biggest in London — and I had no trouble finding William suitable souvenirs. I bought him a die-cast Spitfire and London 2012 bus. I wandered around the Regent St/ Oxford Street area and found a nice place to eat dinner — an Angus Steak House. I know they’re expensive and for tourists, but I liked the atmosphere, and the food was pretty good.
After that, it was pretty late. I headed back to the hotel room and prepared for bed.
It was the end of the best day in London I’d ever experienced and probably would ever again. I floated away into sleep completely content and happy. The only thing that could have made it more perfect were if my wife and son had been there with me.
Tomorrow was going to be the non-Royal highlight of my trip. I was making a pilgrimage to Chartwell to visit Churchill’s home.