Monday, 4 June 2012

A Special Day on The Embankment.

I was on the Embankment waiting for the Royal Procession to go by. Not yesterday but 59 years ago for the Coronation. And it rained then as well. Didn't put us off though.
The family lived in Manchester back then and had travelled down to London a couple of days before and stayed with my grandmother in her big house in Pemberton Gardens near the Archway tube station. We got up really early on the big day and walked down to the Primary school on the main road. My aunt Margaret was headmistress there and the whole school were going to the Embankment and we just tagged along. Now I was only 9 back than and didn't really think coronation were such a big deal. I had in my pocket coins of the realm with 4 monarchs heads on them. Victoria, Ed the 7th and George 5 & 6 and boring history lessons at school had revealed that we had had Kings and Queens by the hundreds.
It was a dull day and it started to rain, not heavy but still damp and wet. As we waited, cheering the occasional street sweeper and wondering what was holding everything up there was an  announcement that a "British" Party had climbed Mt Everest a few days before. Back then no one had ever climbed right to the top so that was a big deal and we all cheered. Now thousands of people have climbed the mountain, I read somewhere recently that some bloke has just been up there for the tenth time. Get a life mate.
Anyway, back to Embankment. One incident I clearly remember was the man in the raincoat and trilby hat who came up to me. I was just deciding if I could relive the boredom by nipping between the Guardsmen who were lining the route and run across the road and wave to the crowds when he held up his clipboard and said, "What school are you from?" in a very official voice. This guy wasn't going to stand any messing about.
Now at that moment I knew several things that a second ago I hadn't realised. The Embankment, being so close to the Abbey was a favoured spot and those people there, mostly children, were there by invite only and only from London schools. Like my aunt's school. I had not even the least idea what the name of that school was. (I now know; St John's Primary School) Telling the man I was from Bishop Billsborrow Memorial School, Moss Side, Manchester would not be the right answer. I was an interloper at the Coronation. I would be dragged of, kicking and screaming to the Tower of London and thrown in a dudgeon and forgotten about in all the excitement of the day. My skeletal remains would only be discovered years later during a clear out sale. Small children told each other lurid tales about places like the Tower back then. I wonder if they still do.
After what seemed like a million years of dead silence but was probably only a couple of seconds he thrust the clip board at me and said, "You must know what school you go to." I looked at the list and pointed to one that already had a tick next to it and claimed that as my school. He was still a bit annoyed and told me I was in the wrong place. I said I had come to see my cousin who went to a different school. Satisfied he went on his questioning way.
I have often wondered what he would have actually done had he discovered the truth, would me and the rest of my brothers and sisters and mother and father really been dragged kicking and screaming off the Embankment and told never to return or would he have just wandered of shaking his head in disbelieve.
Eventually the coaches turned up, one coach had the hood turned down even though it was still raining and contained a large Lady waving to the crowds. She was Queen Tupou III of Tonga and got a extra special cheer for braving the English summer weather.
Then the Queen went by in her golden coach and we all waved and cheered and then ran like mad for the nearest tube station where we caught the tube for Hampstead West. Then an other mad dash through the streets of Hampstead, it had finally stopped raining and the sun was coming out, to my aunt's house where we and a thousand other people sat in the darken living room in front of a 10 inch TV set and watched the actual Crowning of HRH Queen Elizabeth the Second.
God Save the Queen.  

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