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by Anita Bowerman
October 24, 2022
A friend of mine, Mandy, sent me a text out of the blue saying, ‘if I was thinking of coming to London to see the Queen lying in State, I was welcome to stay with her’. I was painting in the Valley Gardens and up until that moment, I hadn’t thought about journeying from Leeds to London. I rang her back and she said that no one would go with her, so I decided on the spur of the moment to meet her in London at Kings Cross catching the 6.30am train the next day - Friday.
Upon arrival, I met my friend and then got a phone call from my husband saying ‘don’t join the queue as they have just announced they have shut it, don’t go to Southwark where its starts’. Not to be deterred, we both decided to just go and have a look at Southwark.
The time was 10.30am. Once we arrived at Southwark Park, along many other people, the park wasn’t shut, thank goodness. We then joined an airport style queue i.e., walking up and down between barriers. It took 6 hours to get to the end of this queue in the park before starting the actual queue which stretched for miles in front of us. Mandy and I made instant queue friends with like-minded people and shared lots of laughs over the 6 hours and subsequent hours. I was steadfast in my determination to stay until I saw the Queen Lying in State, I hadn’t got a clue how many hours it would take. Others were not so sure, some saying they were going to see the flowers in Green Park once out of Southwark Park, others saying their train went at midnight. There was a sign at the exit of the park saying that it would be 14 hours further to Westminster Palace – our destination. Anyway, as we all emerged from Southwark Park, the sight of the most iconic buildings along the Riverbank in gleaming, bright sunshine cheered everyone up and no one then decided to leave the queue and instead we all had a welcome cappuccino or Pimm’s to help us on the journey. Apparently, David Beckham had joined the queue at 2 am that morning.
We walked on the South Bank and passed the Gherkin and the Shard, and through Shad Thames, old warehouses, now flats, where Oliver was filmed. Past Shad Thames, we emerged to see the Tower Bridge. We were lucky enough to see the bridge being raised as a ship went through. On past the sight of the Tate Modern, the Wheel and St Pauls Cathedral. It was now getting dark and colder.
Since we had made friends with people in the queue, we were allowed to nip from the queue for food or refreshments and toilets.
Tales were told and we steadily walked the 5 miles from Southwark Park to Westminster Bridge, crossing Lambeth Bridge and into Westminster Park just next to the House of Parliament. The time was 11 o’clock at night.
Volunteers lined the route and in Westminster Park to give cups of tea and sweets to keep us going. I even met Sophie Bickerdike of Go Yoga from Harrogate in the Queue!!
It was another 2 hours of queuing airport style once inside the park until finally got to the security tent. Policemen and women were at the desks and took everything out of our bags. I had all my make up confiscated! It was 1am!
Just round the corner, along with the friends we had spent the 14 hours with, Mandy and I stepped into the Westminster Hall. I couldn’t believe we were there! There was an almost angelic atmosphere surrounding the Queen’s coffin, you could hear a pin drop. We were lucky enough to see the Changing of the Coldstream Guards, their red uniforms almost amplified in this regal surrounding. It was all over in 4 minutes.
However, I now have memories which will last a lifetime and I am so glad I joined The Queue, making new friends in the process and feeling inspired to create artwork.
I put a Tweet out on Twitter with some photographs of my experience and was contacted by Joanita from Radio York for an interview about my Queue experience. I spoke for 10 minutes on the day of the funeral to her.
I watched The Funeral on Monday and subsequently created the paper cut of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 in a coffin with the Royal Standard but as a nod to her beloved Corgis, I put them on the flag.
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