I have been cordially invited to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.
Well, me and 8,000 of my closest friends who happen to also be lucky WI members. In honor of the WI’s 100th year, they’re throwing us a garden party at the palace, as they do. They last did this 50 years ago.
Because I can do nothing by halves, this will quite probably be my very first trip to London, as well. Nothing like jumping in at the deep end!
In searching online for images for this post (seeing as I don’t have any of my own yet!), I’ve just learned that these garden parties have “evolved into a way of rewarding and recognising public service. They are attended by people from all walks of life.” (source) They throw four a year: three at Buckingham and one at the palace in Scotland.
There’s a coach (charter bus) going, which the county WI is arranging, down and back the same day. My first instinct upon hearing about taking a coach down1 was echoed by someone else when they said “You’d arrive like a wet lettuce!” Quite. The gates open at 3pm, so a single day is do-able from Derbyshire, but it’s all the pick ups along the way. You can get from Glossop to London by train in less than three hours; a coach picking up all over Derbyshire could take many hours longer. The fear of snarls of traffic on the motorway (traffic jams are a frequent occurrence, especially around London) is high enough for me to think they’re insane to think about making it a one-day trip, especially when going by road.
Trains also frequently have problems, something quickly forgotten once anyone no longer relies on them. I’ve not yet decided on train versus driving, but either way, I shall definitely be going down the day before and staying overnight. Then, if there are any problems getting there, I shall have enough cushion! Doing some arithmetic – not the real numbers, because I can’t be bothered to look them up, but a quick back of the envelope calculation – I realize how incredibly blessed and lucky I am to get this opportunity: I’m absolutely not going to throw it away by trying to cut the time too tight and wind up having something go wrong and arrive too late!
The palace throws four regular garden parties each year, each time inviting approximately 10,000 people. With about 60 million people in the UK, and not adjusting either of those figures (though I’m sure they both change over time), over 60 years (age 15 to 75 or so), a person would have a 4% chance of being invited to a Royal Garden Party. It’s not quite the 1%…!
For this garden party, each WI is to ballot to send one member to the do. Since there are 8,000 tickets and about 6,600 WIs, there are some further tickets distributed through other means. My own invitation is in recognition of my work for the county federation of WIs. It’s been interesting to see the different meanings that balloting has for the different WIs. Most of the time, ballot is taken to mean draw, and that’s what’s happened in many instances: those interested have put their names in a hat and one’s been chosen. In one WI I know of, which is only a few years old, they chose their founder member, saying she deserves to go, since she got them all together.
In another WI, a member who was around for the last garden party piped up to tell the story of an unnamed WI from that time. They did a draw, and wound up drawing the name of a member who’d already decided she wouldn’t be staying on with the WI much longer.2 There were a lot of bad feelings, then, that this was the woman sent to represent that WI. The longtime member, who is well-versed in the rules, pointed out that a ballot is not a draw, but that ballot papers should be made up, and members should vote on who would go to represent the WI. Ballot papers were duly made.
So long as the members of that institute are happy with how it was chosen, it doesn’t matter how their method compares to others, of course – the same as all the other choices we make in how to run our institutes.
I’m thrilled that it’s happened that the three ladies I know who are going are all friends of mine – I must get them together so we can all talk about hats! 🙂
Anyway! I’m going to a Royal Garden Party! I’m excited! I’m just left with two questions — Whatever shall I wear? and Where do I find a hat?!