Thursday 25 July 2013

The Royal Baby - Awaiting The Heir to the Throne

It's the morning of Monday 22nd July 2013 in London, England and a historic event is about to ignite a spark in the slumbering world and the future of the British monarchy and Commonwealth. The morning news and tabloids are fired up with the unexpected headline that Kate Middleton, The Duchess of Cambridge has gone into labour....a baby is on its way.

But this is no ordinary birth that the world are ruffling their feathers over in colossal anticipation - its the birth of a baby that is destined to rule a nation and commonwealth. The future heir of England.
Will it be a boy or a girl?, the Prince or Princess of Cambridge? that is the question the world are asking and bets are already being taken for the babies name whatever the gender - George is favourite for a boy with Elizabeth being the top of the bookies odds if pink balloons are going to be waving (why have girls always got to have pink anyway?). All bets are on over the unborn child as royal historians and experts argue over whether the names will be traditional or the regal parents-to-be will opt out of conventional protocol and name their first child with a somewhat 'modern' name (I personally couldn't see it happening).

It's an exciting day for royal lovers and followers of the monarchy all over the world, that this long awaited historic event has finally dawned on us - on yet again the now hottest day of the year! (remember when Andy Murray finally won Wimbledon?, yeah it is hotter).

Still...the world is feeling light and fluffy, curious of the gender of the baby so much and are highly anticipating a girl, for if a girl is born as the first child, new protocol of inheritance of the crown will come into play. This would mean she will automatically be third in line to the British Throne, regardless whether a boy is born after her - only fate will decide but I think everyone is secretly expecting a little princess....purely to ruffle the feathers of British history. We'll see...

Buckingham Palace

I happen to be in Central London so I pop on over to The Mall to soak in the atmosphere at Buckingham Palace on this special day - word is that a note from the Lindo wing at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington where the Duchess is giving birth will be taken to the palace and displayed on an easel to mark the birth of the future heir, who will one day sit on the throne in the palace themselves. How exciting, for some its just like a magical fairytale come true.

Buckingham Palace is the setting for the fairytale, as its always been for all the fantasia occasions of royal weddings and celebrations that have made tourists and visitors squeal with delight. By mid afternoon, the curious crowds hailing from all four corners of the world linger at the gates staring through the ancient black iron cage that encloses the most famous palace in the world for any sign of the easel....not a wink.

There's no schedule, babies come when they want to.
It could be at any minute.  

I imagine some may be standing there all day or maybe the next day. I hear people have been camping out at the hospital.  

I get talking to two middle aged women who are pressed up against the black spears, they can only stay for a couple of hours so are hoping the baby is born before they have to go catch their train from Kings Cross (so that's alot of pressure for the baby). A mother and daughter also approach to peer through the gates, but nothing to see but the twitches and occasional stamping of the feet from the scarlet jacketed guards. They delve into a friendly conversation with me about how they like everyone else, see a stork carrying a baby girl - everyone is cushioned warmly in gleeful high spirits at the palace.

I feel confident it will be in the world within 24 hours though....for the pending media's sake.

The camps of the worlds press are anchored opposite the palace aligning Green Park as crowds clamber on the sun baked marooned Queen Victoria Statue under the intense afternoon London sun. Both their presence give an excitable buzz to the atmosphere....but yet a nervous anticipation for at any moment, they need to snatch this historic moment when it happens. No schedule remember. They are on their toes.
I go and inquisitively take a look at the people and news readers mingling around at the ribbon of white gazebos. I'm planning to go play Lacrosse later so I am carrying a stick with me as I'm approached by two women, one holding a camera, the other a plump fluffy microphone.
'We saw the Lacrosse stick and thought she's got to be American' they tell me. They're English.
I surprise them by saying they're mistaken by my athletic build and in fact I'm actually from London and in fact the baby will be the future king or queen of my own country, as it will theres. They ask if I'd like to say something to the camera about this notably historic day.....mmmmmm. I turn the identity pass of 'Jan' over which is hanging round her neck to be nosy (who's holding out the microphone) and taken back by what I read.....BBC! (British Broadcasting Corporation - the leading British television channel!)
I agree immediately, interviewed by the BBC! just my luck - it will go national! They ask me a couple of questions about how I felt about the 'warm up' of awaiting the royal arrival? - I try to come up with honest good answers and mindful not to totally humiliate myself on national television (turns out later it wasn't live, as one of my answers were aired on the evening news ha!) still pretty cool. They thank me graciously for my time - no, no thank you BBC! and I decide as I have some more time free, to go to the core of where the eyes of the world are watching like an hawk - the hospital itself where the news will be coming from.
Off to Edgware Road - why not? I was intrigued to soak up the momentary atmosphere and you never know when the little cherub was coming out, everything was hush, hush. Besides when will I be around again to be caught up in the whirlwind of the birth of the future heir to the British throne...errr never!! this was once in a lifetime. The game's afoot.

Lindo Wing, St Mary's Hospital, Paddington
I know that the hospital is on Praed Street off the Edgware road, very close to Paddington Train Station. As I turn off the Edgware road and start proceeding down Praed St towards the hospital, I'm surprised to not see any crowds or media camps on my journey until I stop outside the hospital and survey a map on the wall. The Lindo Wing is tucked away on the next street but I can cut through here......a few moments later, I didn't even need to check I was in the right place...this is what I see.

Its a media circus.

Every news channel and newspaper paparazzi are here shielding themselves with umbrellas from the intense sunlight beating down on them - some looking like they have been anchored here with their own spot for hours. I guess they knew it was going to be some time this month. I'm surprised I manage to be able to cross the road so I can take a look at the Lindo Wing doors, the very same doors Princess Diana emerged from cradling Prince William, the daddy-to-be-himself thirty one years ago. Police officers stand orderly at the foot of the wings stairs rocking back and forth on their heels as a taxi cruises by beeping it's horn with a piece of paper reading 'Congrats Wills and Kate' stuck on the inside window, prompting a hearty cheer from the crowds that are already gathered here.

The hospital hasn't been closed off though, even if today is the potential birth of the future heir - there are still people getting sick or visiting the hospital and I feel their frustration of having to meander their way on the pavement through the expecting crowd...what a day to be visiting St Mary's Hospital! I wriggle through them myself (still carrying my lacrosse stick you know) and manage to actually plant myself behind the photographers ladders getting a good look of the calm, still doors that the eyes of the world at that moment are intently watching - its quite fun! Kind of strange to think the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are act
ually in there....would be so cruel if this was a embarassing!

I can't help but laugh silently as the photographers start to scurry with their cameras as an older man with white hair emerges from the doors carrying an envelope and then totally ignoring them, crosses the road and out of sight. False alarm - Ha! Any flinch or any movement from the door sets them all on red alert, scrutinising who is coming out - nobody knows nothing so they're all like little tigers ready to pounce. Its pretty funny to watch. Must be a tough job, doing all that as I listen to the TV crews bantering with each other, fiddling with wires and returning from their coffee runs. I watch the manicured newsreaders repowdering their noses and begin talking to their audience on the latest news of the royal birth......which is nothing. 

I hope they're paying them over time.

Some of the newsreaders I recognise from the morning news so they must have been here a lonnnng time and even if the baby is born today, they may not even get a glimpse until at least tomorrow. They better order in their coffees.

Now of course, whenever there's a big royal event (I can't imagine this can get any bigger) there are the loyal royal fans unconditionally there with their front seat viewing.

Hang that a pink care bear I see? Ah that takes me back - its attached to a small striped tent pitched on the pavement adorned with union jacks, cuddly toys and two floating balloons, the blue reading 'Little Prince' and the pink 'Little Princess'. Very generous.

Two girls wearing orange t-shirts emblazoned 'Crew - Mother&Baby #royalbaby' on their backs walk through the crowd offering blue cupcakes to the quirky patriotic characters who have anchored themselves to the hospital benches and set up camp for the duration of the birth - with no sign of shifting.  


I wince slightly at a guy walking past carrying a painting which I assume he has painted himself - its of Kate Middleton portrayed in the form of DiVinci's Madonna holding a cherub....obviously the baby that's about to come into the world. Kinda weird....I'm sure Kate would find it too.

A lone dark skinned lady dressed in a white shirt and flowery skirt occupies one of the benches, sitting on a mattress draped with a union jack amongst the curious crowd, which has probably been her home for a few days. An older man eloquently dressed head to toe in Union Jacks stands next to her hand made sign she's propped up on the bench reading 'Congratulations Prince William and Catherine, Hip Hip Hooray' watching as she talks into the microphone and cameras pointing at her on her opinion of what she thinks the babies name will be.....

Her next door neighbours are a trio of supporters, a man and a women with her daughter. I've seen the kooky man before....yep he was at Margaret Thatchers funeral wearing the same outfit of a Union Jack hat, shirt and a flag as a sarong - I think he's probably the head representative of the 'Great Britain' club who attends every occasion remotely British to show his passionate support for the country. He shows it too, being a firm favourite for the press who wait in line to interview him....I listen in at him telling them that he had been sleeping outside the hospital for seven days and his friend Ria and her daughter had come down to join him - whether her daughter wanted to or not, she was spending the first part of her summer holidays here in support of the Duke and Duchess. Whatever makes you light up I suppose.

'This is my bench' he tells the journalist in his squeaky voice holding his blue cupcake, going on to warmly praise the kindness of the hospital staff who have been bringing him porridge every morning and water to wash with.
When asked about what he thought the babies name would be, he disregards it, protectively stating the welfare and healthiness of Kate was more important. He then looks headlong into the camera and repeats the same line for every news channel who have interviewed him - telling them to not switch channels as they will miss something important.
'Don't have a break, don't switch channels, this is where its all happening' he repeats, pointing his finger down the lens.
Nothing yet though, maybe he could have his own TV Channel one day 'Brit T.V' for all things qi essentially British - he'd be perfect.
I'm actually starting to get peckish myself and confident I'm not going to miss anything, duck off down the street to grab some food. On my travels, I notice The Evening Standard newspaper have already printed the news of the labour, dominating the headline as I pick up a couple of copies outside the tube station. Returning back to the passage way off Praed Street, I sit on a bench next to a couple with a little baby in the carrier placed on the ground. As I'm munching away, I can see out the corner of my eye that a women in orange is been followed by a camera and she's clutching a microphone. It's the chick from 'Sky News' who's been broadcasting since this morning and is approaching the couple with the baby sitting next to me. I can't help but look over as she begins to question the proud parents about their baby, bending down to take a closer look at it wriggling on the ground at their feet. Maybe I'm on camera? scoffing my face with food?! ha! An appearance on BBC and Sky News in one day? Blimey!
I plod along back outside to the wing where nothing has really changed from when I left, except that the police officers have now switched shifts and are letting people walk down the road. Numerous cars continue to drive by, slowing down as the crowd grow suspicious of who's inside, possibly a member of the royal family or the messenger for that all important document announcing the birth with all the essential details. 
'No baby yet?' I ask a friendly looking middle aged couple standing just on the other side of the road crossing.
'Nup' the lady replies...I know that accent..
They are Australian! and funny enough they had no idea the Duchess had gone into labour as they had been on a plane from Melbourne the whole time and just touched down in London. As luck would have it, they're hotel is situated right near the hospital and had stumbled across this media circus by accident looking for a coffee house! That's pretty funny. 
It made me glad that a young girl who was a journalist for 'The New York Times' chose to interview them, noting down their story and mistook me for the couples flattering. I don't think she was quite expecting their very far-fetched story but would be unique for her article that she was gathering material for. She merrily thanked them, turning away and narrowly missing being mowed down by a black cab! Would be ironic wouldn't it happening outside the hospital.
So....with the time ticking and the summer evening drawing in with no one of note going in or coming out for that matter, I left the hospital to go and play Lacrosse down the road. 
At 9:00pm, some three hours or so later - I'm walking past 'The Globe' pub on the corner of Marylebone Road and Baker Street. I happen to peer in through the door over the heads of the drinking public to catch the news the world has been waiting for on the large glowing TV screen


A little prince! what a big baby! tradition is destined to be untainted for now. I had in fact been outside the hospital at 4.24pm but they had obviously decided to not announce their sons birth until four hours later. I instantly thought that the easel must be at the palace....couldn't miss my chance to see it.

Back at Buckingham Palace   



Oh boy. It's carnage

Funny enough I wasn't expecting this and I don't think the police were either. Imagine the hottest night of the year in London, surrounded by hundreds of people pushing and shoving as they gravitate towards one spot, a sea of arms in the air holding up flashing cameras and mobile phones - its like a suffocating sauna....but the easels there. I'm determined to get a glimpse of it or better still a photo to prove it.  The circular shape of the London Eye on the horizon flashes with patriotic red, white and blue lights in tribute as hoards of people are sitting up on Queen Victoria's statue overlooking the surging tide of people under the swollen red moon suspended In the dark night sky - all because of this little baby being born - its crazy! I stand on tip toes rocking side to side to try and catch any glimpse of the easel as I edge nearer in the direction where all the cameras are pointing. After a few moments, I see the white shirt of a police officer walking further away from where I am, followed by loud bitter boos from the crowd indicting that the easel is being moved.
I manage to edge my way towards its new direction but man I am slightly suffering, as people willing to escape the crowd are squeezing their way out as the rest are surging forward on their way up to the gates. The clamour and whistles of the crowd surrounding me I'm surprised to hear are mainly from young Americans as well as families balancing their children on their shoulders getting them to take a photo from a higher view. I can't really move backwards now so I stick to patiently work my way up towards the gates which are becoming closer as the police have now decided to start instructing people to leave who have had enough time viewing the easel. Thank God. A few moment later, I catch a snatch of the tip of the easels gold frame before someone's arm now blocks my view. 
After about ten minutes of discomfort, sweating and standing on tip toes (I now empathise with tinned sardines) I can see the easel!

How cool! I'm hoping the police officers do not take it away or move it again before I get a chance to get a closer look - I'm so close now. Just a bit more patience and a few more steps of uninhibitedness of getting up close and personal with strangers and I'll be pressed against the gates with a front row view. A group of American girls begin talking to me and start checking their phones for latest online information - the birth was announced just 45 minutes ago and there is no name still for the little prince.
As a few more heads slide away from my view, I finally squeeze through to the front and there it is!

The framed document is signed by the doctors and medical practitioners confirming the birth of a son to Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge at 4.24pm on 22nd July 2013. Sweet!  moment in British history right there.
After admiring it for a couple of minutes urging waving hands to keep tame so I can take a photograph, I feel fine enough to extract myself from the excitable crowd and have some air to breathe! I let the American girls slide in as I try to find a route out (I still have my lacrosse stick) and only make it about half a metre backwards when I find myself permanently stuck, wedged between more people coming towards me. Ahhh!!!
Its ridiculously claustrophobic and I feel I'm being crushed as the crowds frustrated angst is growing, everyone now sweating profusely from the lack of ventilation. Its pretty sticky and uncomfortable but a guy holding his daughter on his shoulders lets me slip by him only for me to meet another brick wall of human bodies. I contemplated how long I might be stuck here under the bright full moon which is misting over above our heads, until an English women tells me an exit channel has been formed by a row of police officers to usher people out to my right - Thanks god! I have no choice but to squeeze myself through against the crowds damp clothing (apologies to anybody who's toes I may have trodden on) and relieved to be pulled through by a police officer to freedom!! ahh the ability to breathe out in the open! thought I'd never feel it again!
And the party continues way past the Queens bedtime for the unnamed new born Prince....I'm betting Prince Alexander...

                          Ginger Spice makes an appearance to join in with the celebrations....

The next day surprise, surprise, there's a nice orderly queue to see the easel at the palace, I saw it in the scrum!
And a couple of days later.....The boy who will be King is finally named...

'Alexander' Argh so close with the name! but getting the second name wasn't a bad attempt!


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