13 October 1995

A great day out at

Her Majestys abode

THE rain was lashing down the windows of the train as we reached London and of course Id left my mac in the office the previous day!

However with the help of London Underground, I managed to arrive at the London Forum Hotel completely dry and in plenty of time to greet FWC members from as far afield as Devon and Yorkshire.

As usual, the Kensington Garden Café did us proud and we had a marvellous buffet lunch. I personally cannot wait for the London weekend in this great hotel. Have you booked your place yet? (Bookings close on Mon, Oct 17. Inquiries 0181-652 4927).

With plenty of time to spare, the coach driver took us around Knightsbridge and then along the Embankment before we reached the palace.

Id been told by someone that the reason we were issued with a coach pass was that the coaches actually drove into the palace grounds.

Not so, we were unceremoniously dropped off in Buckingham Gate and counted in through the pre-paid party gate like sheep! I managed to take just one photo outside before being told off by one of the many uniformed youngsters employed – presumably on a very temporary basis.

I explained that I was only taking a picture of my party and not actually anything to do with the building and was let off but was amused by one of our members commenting that shed never been with anyone being arrested before!

Through the security area we went, just like being at an airport, and then a walk under cover around the Quadrangle and through the Ambassadors Court in the south wing.

The state rooms open to the public are in the west wing overlooking the garden and the lake. Each of these rooms contain fine furniture, sculpture and paintings but I was fascinated most by the domed ceiling in the music room which has thistles and shamrocks all lavishly gilded and lit magnificently by some of the many enormous chandeliers.

An hour-and-a-half later we came out of the palace, some of us diving across the garden in the rain to the souvenir shop where we bumped into more FWC members who had organised their own visits which coincided with ours.

The shop had goods for sale in glass display cases and purchases were made by quoting the number in the catalogue to the young people on the tills – a bit like an upmarket Argos really. The bargain of the day were sets of postcards of the paintings or of the rooms we had seen.

Then it was back on the coach for most of us. In true FWC fashion some members made their own way back to their particular railway station and so there was some confusion as to how many were supposed to be on the coach to Victoria.

Luckily as we were driving along Grosvenor Place, those on board spotted two stragglers on the pavement who we managed to pick up. Hopefully everyone got home in one piece having had a great day out and could be like me, putting their feet up and having a cup of tea while browsing through the official guide to what we had seen.

Jean Howells