Now, neither of us are royalists. Indeed, neither of us are loyalists. We’re not even particularly British, in that I definitely am not, and I’ve long forgiven He Who Only… for it. We entered upon this visit for two reasons, and two reasons only - (1) because I like to have a nose around people’s houses, and (2) because He Who Only… breaks after only about 20 minutes of me screaming “I WANT TO GO TO THE PALACE!” in his ear in the middle of the night.
Having dropped quite a large wad of cash (or, more accurately, having swiped the old plastic past a lady inexplicably dressed in the manner of an air hostess, all hair raked back and piles of make up), we then had two hours to kill, as old Buck Pal (as we started to call it) was maggoty with tourists, and we didn’t fancy standing against the wall for two hours, loitering with intent.
We took in the sights of St James’s Park, neatly side stepped a rain storm in the tea rooms and were generally quite touristy, while still holding the right to tutt at tourists when they walked too slowly for our liking, or when some Spanish children ran past us chasing geese.
I took photographs of far away landmarks:
We then returned to the walls surrounding Buck Pall to loiter, but this time with real intent. Our ticket was for the 4.30pm tour around the Pall, and it was already 4.15pm, so we thought there would only be the minimal of loitering. I had, because I am so inclined, dressed myself that morning in a skirt and small shoes, all the better to scandalise the elderly tourists with the abomination that is my foot tattoo, and the variety of bruises I always seem to sport around my thighs and calves for no reason whatsoever. It was, I am afraid to tell you, quite the cold day, colder than I had expected, and I was all of a chill, so I was looking forward to entering Queen Elizabeth The Second’s intimate chambers, all the better to have a sniff about and see what I could steal.
However. We stood against the outside wall for about 25 minutes, with an elderly Irish man and his wife standing *thisclose* to me the whole time. The elderly gentleman was pressing something hard into my lower back and I swear to you all I checked each and every time it happened - about 4 times a minute over the 25 minute period - to make sure it was only his umbrella.
When we got past the wall section and into the official queue for the palace, we were herded into a small holding pit, the kind of which is used to frighten sheep just before they're either dipped in... well, in dip, or taken to their deaths. There we stood for a further fifteen minutes. Palace officials would every now and again yell that we were to take all of the change out of our pockets, that all baggage would be scanned, that mobile phones were to be turned off, and that liquids were not to be brought into the palace. They yelled all of this, over and over again, entirely in English, and therefore the majority of the people queuing up didn't understand a tiny word. This is why the queues lasted so long - confusion among the ranks.
We had decided that morning that there were three things we would do while we were in the Queen's Inner Sanctums. One of them was that I would say the word "penis" and He Who Only... would say the word "boobies". The second one was that, as mentioned above, we would steal something. Anything. The third one I'm not going to tell you about. Suffice it to say that we didn't manage to do any of them, because when we finally got through all of the security measures we were too exhausted.
The palace tour itself is one of those where they strap you into headphones and let you wander off at your own pace but in their strictly defined direction. You end up being swept along with the crowd, and meandering at the rate of an unsteady 2 year old around the place. It takes about 40 minutes, all told, although you could lengthen that to about an hour and a half, if you listen to all of the extra options. However, since there are no toilet facilities until right at the end, when you've actually left the building and aren't allowed back out again, I think most people take it at a fairly steady pace. This, I suspect, is not a design fault but a design feature.
The only frustrating thing is that you're not allowed to take any photographs. I had to settle for taking photos of all of the Queen's Tat in the Royal Shop of Tat set up in her garden for the three months of the year the palace is open.
I think you'll agree that it's a lot of tat.
I really enjoyed the tour of the palace, and I would urge you, if you've got the time and the money and a strong bladder, do please bring your granny or an elderly relative along. I'm sure He Who Only... will have something to add in the comments re his opinion on the outing.