Excitement had been building for days; sat in front of the television set, watching the early morning news, I was mesmerized, watching in ore at the people camped out along the wedding procession route. Under tarpaulin, make shift tents, sat in deck chairs, decorated in red, white and blue, they were all waving their union flags, sporting patriotic clothes, draped in flags; a sea of colour, up and down The Mall. Through the streets of London, in front of Buckingham Palace, every available spot was taken as dawn broke over the capital. The cameras were there, Interviewing the dedicated, early arrivals and anyone with a connection to the days proceedings! This was the day The Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer and I like most of the country was waiting with anticipation, happy that our future King had found his bride; this wouldn’t be an experience I would ever forget; a Royalist then as I most certainly am now!
Today was a Bank Holiday, the whole country was able to take part in the Royal Wedding; I was thrilled at the prospect of watching the biggest national event since the Silver Jubilee in 1977. Not everyone was as happy as I, there were those who had no interest in the day and would rather be elsewhere, my Father was one such person.
Dad came down the stairs, he was in a grumpy mood, annoyed at the impending Marriage. As a ten year old boy, I had little concept of the reasons for his irritation, believing it was just a ‘Dad thing.’ I remember my Father talking about wasting tax payers money and the rumblings of republicanism under his breath, as he retorted his customary socialist rant. Dad was left wing in every sense of the word, a point of view that has never changed over the years. As Mother and I sat down in front of the box, Dad paced the room, still moaning about the costs involved in such a frivolous occasion. I however was more than happy, glued to the set.
‘I’m going out!’ said Dad, ‘I’m taking Kevin out for a game of football in the park, where I don’t have to watch this rubbish,’ he continued. I remember thinking to myself, how the park would be full of Fathers, kicking football’s around with their sons, equally miffed about the events running across every TV network. Football was never my thing anyway and I was just happy they were going out, leaving Mother and I at home, enjoying the day. Shortly afterwards, they were gone, with a slam of the front door, cursing the day ahead.
The carriage arrived at the entrance to Westminster Abbey, Princess Diana, gracefully stepped out, helped by her Father, the Earl Spencer. As she walked forwards, alighting the carriage, the train on her dress recoiled behind her. Like a meandering river, it stretched for what seemed like miles, light dancing off the shimmering white silk in the bright glow of the day; she looked radiant, her all too familiar smile beamed under her veil; sparkling tiara on top of her head, twinkling as she advanced up the aisle. I sat there open mouthed, taken aback by the majesty of Monarchy, the pomp and circumstance, the emotion stirring music and a vision of history in the making. This was the day I truly felt a bond with our Royal Family and realised just how important they were in all our daily lives. I felt proud to be British, content at my place in the World.
When Dad got in from the park, I continued to watch the reruns, highlights and repeats on my little black and white portable TV, lying on my bed upstairs. Again and again, I relived the wonderment of the day, cementing my growing adoration of an institution a thousand years old. Princess Diana was a powerful figure throughout my life, someone I was lucky enough to meet much later. Her Wedding was an important milestone for me, because I discovered who I really was, what made me tick and most importantly my connection to the Country I was born in, my home, wherever I am living, here or abroad. The Royal Wedding of 1981 gave all of us a brief escape from the austerity measures at the time. With unemployment high and discontent growing, this was a day to escape and enjoy an occasion that encompassed us all; this was a day that defined an era, this was a celebration that would galvanise a nation.
The television set took ten minutes to warm up, once it was turned on. In the meantime, it was time for a hot, strong cup of tea; lose leaf PG Tips, sold in small boxes with collectable cards inside; I had been accumulating the cards for a few years, drinking a mug whenever I could. I sat with my back against the settee, knees brought up to my chin, occasionally taking a sip from the mug at my feet. Mother came into the lounge, with a plate of Rich Tea and Custard Creams, to dunk while watching the evening news.
Dad was stood by the lounge door; he wasn’t happy. “That bloody woman,” I heard him mutter under his breath. This was the day Margaret Thatcher won the General Election, on the 4th May 1979. Dad had been up most of last night watching the election results roll in and was feeling kind of cranky. When Dad was in one of those moods, I knew to leave well alone. I was aware that he didn’t like Mrs Thatcher, but had no idea why; I just laid there fixated on the television set. I realised early on Mrs T was going to be special; as she got out of her car and started waving at the waiting crowds, you could see the leadership qualities in her eyes. Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s first woman Prime minister and I grew up with her on my television, nearly everyday. She was there throughout my childhood and teenage years; she was a big part of my life.
Dad had always been an activist, who made me understand the importance of civic duty and voting year after year. He was a candidate in local elections and canvassed tirelessly, delivering literature, come rain or shine. We lived in a predominantly Conservative area, where my fathers views were not appreciated; always a source of contention at home. Like Dad, I inherited his love of politics, though we didn’t always see eye to eye. From an early age, I would sit up until the early hours of the morning, relishing the excitement on Election night; even attending ‘the count’ with my father at the Town Hall, in Fareham where we lived.
It was April 2nd 1982, once again I was glued to the TV set, this time for a very different reason. Margaret Thatcher and her Government had declared war on Argentina, for invading the Falkland Islands. I was perched on the rug in front of the fire, unable to speak; I thought the World was coming to an end. The only war I had ever heard about was the Second World War and I mistakenly believed we were heading for another gargantuan conflict; I couldn’t believe what was happening. I could hear Mum and Dads voices in the background, but my mind was else where. Everything appeared fuzzy; I felt aloof, in a place of my own. I could see the Prime ministers face on the television, but I couldn’t understand a Word, blocking out everything she said. The occasional shout and cheer just about audible over my own dismay and worry, as I tried to comprehend just what was going on in my own head. Slouched to one side, cross legged, head bowed low, still and motionless; I periodically looked up for divine inspiration. This was it, we were all going to die and I was more scared than I ever had been before.
Of course we are all still alive; there were countless challenging times ahead and Mrs Thatcher stayed in power for another eight years. Many more evenings would be spent sat in front of the Television, listening to the other woman in my life; apart from my Mother and The Queen that is. As a child I was surrounded by independent, outspoken women and I admired Mrs Thatcher for her robust fighting spirit. I didn’t always understand her politics, especially as a young boy, but invariably looked up to her; beguiling, dazzling in a World on the brink. Margaret Thatcher was a leader like no other; her enduring quality a link to my childhood. Whenever I recall events from this time, she is the catalyst that jogs my mind; the formidable and strong, invincible, never wrong; the woman, who lived, in the Television set.
47 year old Author, Columnist and Blogger.