Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Duke of Edinburgh Diamond Anniversary

Duke of Edinburgh Diamond Celebration at Buckingham Palace

Yesterday (Monday 16th May 2016) was a very important and special day for over a thousand young people, including myself, as they celebrated their Duke of Edinburgh achievements at the Diamond Celebration which took place in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. With over 50 celebrities showing up to hand out awards, and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, HRH The Earl of Wessex and HRH The Countess of Wessex also meeting and greeting individuals throughout the day. It was clear this was going to be a really big, special and important event.

Arriving at the gates with my personal guest, my dad, we headed through security, past the Palace itself and into the gardens of Buckingham Palace. There are no words for how surreal it felt entering the gates and looking up at the beautiful structure of the Palace and seeing the gardens get closer. I couldn’t help grinning like a fool as I looked at my dad and exclaimed “Dad we are inside the gates of Buckingham Palace!” We were also blessed with brilliant sunshine throughout the day which definitely helped contribute to the high spirits and great atmosphere.

The Gardens ft. Spot the Secret Agent

Walking around the gardens I had no idea what to expect, seeing everyone dressed up in suits, or dresses. The event was most definitely formal and special, and everyone looked amazing! So as me and my dad did a lap round the gardens we had no idea of the sheer size of the place, with a large pond filled with wildlife in the centre of the gardens, it’s hard not to be jealous. One thing I noticed was how clean and pristine the gardens were, sure this is to be expected when it belongs to the Royal Family, but still everything was perfect. The lawns mown with symmetrical stripes, the flower beds flourishing and the trees healthy and beautiful. Apparently according to my dad even the “Lavatories” were clean and super posh, with framed mirrors and a scent that wasn't of typical toilet smell. The sights throughout the Gardens made me really wish I could have photographed them. As we continued walking around me and my dad decided to play “Who’s the secret agent” pointing out random individuals within the ground who we believed would be a Secret Agent, giggling as we pointed out the most random people.

Having a Cuppa in Buckingham Palace Gardens - one for the Bucket List surely!

As we saw the stand for Tea and Shortbread, me and dad while not hungry decided we definitely needed to have a cup of Tea in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Let’s face it, it’s awesome! So as my dad ordered his tea the lady serving us looked at me and said “Ma’am can I get you anything” to which I said I would love a cup of tea, and handing us a drink she smiled at my dad and said “Sorry its ladies first”. So polite and formal! I felt slightly special. While drinking a cup of tea in the Palace Gardens me and my dad took in more of the sights, the hundreds of people, the beautiful sunshine and Buckingham Palace itself. After having more of a wonder around we noticed that there was a large group of individuals forming outside the Palace on the steps. So being nosey, we had a walk over to see who it was. While I knew from Twitter and Facebook that the likes of Steve Backshall and Colonel Hadfield were going to be at the event, I had no idea how many celebrities were showing up. Like an over excited child, I whispered to my dad as we pointed out the various stars including Anton Du Beke, Anna Friel, The Phelps Twins, Larry Lamb, Phillip Schofield and Ainsley Harriet to name a few. This day was going to be amazing!

Time to make my Nan very jealous... and the fan girl in me explode!

Personally for me, I have always wanted to meet Anton Du Beke since a child I have had a crush on him and I ALWAYS without fail route for him every year on Strictly Come Dancing. So imagine my excitement at the age of 20, and 10 years of wanting to meet this man, as my dad leads me over to Anton Du Beke himself and introduces me as one of his biggest fans! With a huge hug and a smile Anton told me I had the best hair he had ever seen (bright pink hair if you were wondering) and we went on to discuss cycling as I shared my Gold DofE experience of cycling John O’Groats to Lands’ End and he shared his experiences of cycling in France. He laughed as he told me how he hated cycling in France due to all this hills and I responded saying “Try cycling in Dartmoor where every hill you’re coming down you’re looking at the next one you have to get up!” We laughed a bit more and he told me how well deserved my Gold Award was and how proud of me he was. Guys! ANTON FREAKING DU BEKE told me was PROUD OF ME!! MEEEE!!! This man who is my idol and childhood crush was proud of me! With another huge hug and kiss on the cheek I said Goodbye to Anton and went on to see who else I could meet before the presentations. I may have wiped away a tear of excitement too.

Now to make my mom very jealous... and be completely starstruck (see what i did there?)

 Amazingly, I got the experience of meeting Colonel Hadfield who is a huge idol in my family; my mom absolutely loves this guy and here I was standing in front of him, and as I shook his hand I was in awe. This man had been to space!! He had looked down on our planet and shared some of the most beautiful images with us, he even performed Space Oddity in SPACE! This guy was absolutely amazing and such a brilliant role model and here he was giving 5 minutes of his time to talk to me about my DofE experience and to discuss my work in America! Absolutely amazing. He asked my dad about what type of work he did and they shared a few comments, then focusing on me he asked all about my experience on my Gold DofE and we ended up discussing where he grew up as a child and the seasons in Ohio (where I worked Summer 2015 and where I will work this summer) Shaking my dad’s hand he told him “Please tell your Mrs I am sorry I can’t meet her,” and gave me a hand shake saying “You really deserve this award, well done and enjoy your day.” I walked away with an even bigger grin on my face, still slightly bummed out I couldn’t take a photo though. But even so, I had just met Anton and Col. Hadfield. AMAZING!

It was so strange seeing all these stars walk around the events, have conversations with guests of the Diamond DofE and seeing them so natural. Anna Friel walked past me twice and smiled, and it was just the weirdest thing ever. I walked past Larry Lamb as he spoke with a group of individuals and Phillip Schofield. Seriously it might not seem that big of a deal, but seeing them so natural and relaxed without being horded by hundreds of fans just showed how brilliantly set up this event was going to be.

Presentation Time!!

Getting into our groups we were briefed on how the presentation would run through the afternoon. Suddenly we were asked to stand in silence and face towards the palace as the National Anthem was played by the bands to announce the arrival of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. As he made his way around the groups, we were introduced to our guest speaker, for my group (Purple 13) we had Nick Hewer known for his time on The Apprentice. As we stood in our order to receive our award (I was happy Lauren who did my Gold DofE with me was also with me in my group) he walked down the lines asking us about our Gold Expeditions or how far we got with DofE. Getting to me and Lauren we shared our experiences of cycling the length of the country. Nick asked us if we camped to which we said we did camp in tents, he then asked if we fixed our own punctures, Lauren was happy to tell him she didn’t have one puncture for the whole trip; while I said I did get punctures and we would just pull up on the side of the road and fix the punctures ourselves. To which he laughed and said it would probably be because of my bright hair. I don’t know either, but hey its Nick Hewer talking to us!

His Royal Highness Laughs

One by one we were handed our Gold Certificates by Nick Hewer who congratulated us with a big handshake and a smile. Posing for photographs we each had 15 seconds to get our photo right due to how many individuals the photographers needed to get through and photograph. After the young people were given our certificates the Licensed Organisations (schools and providers who give the young adults the opportunity to do Duke of Edinburgh) were given plaques and also the opportunity to be photographed with Nick Hewer. Then a lady arrived to our group to announce his royal highness was on his way to our group. Honestly I became slightly nervous, I was about to meet the man who created the Duke of Edinburgh Award, I was about to meet the Queens Husband. Absolutely amazing. He arrived into our group and greeted the LO’s before turning to talk to us. He was gentle and smiled at all of us as he asked if we all walked for our expedition to which I spoke up and said that me and Lauren had cycled. I didn’t think anything would come from this, but his Royal Highness walked over to us and proceeded to ask us about our journey, I could not believe it! Asking us where we cycled I told him we cycled the length of the UK from John O’Groats to Lands End, he went on to ask us how far that was and how long we did that for. So I replied saying it was 14 days and 1067 miles, to which he laughed. The Duke himself laughed and said “I think you did a bit too much,” before asking if we were able to walk after, laughing me and Lauren said we were, and I told him we played Frisbee on the beach the day after the trip. The Duke laughed again, congratulated us then congratulated the group as a whole before saying Goodbye and making his way to the next group.

Time to say Goodbye

Once our photos were taken, (on my photo Nick asked if my hair was magenta coloured, and I replied saying it was supposed to be purple, he laughed) and we received our awards, me and my dad wondered off to get a drink of water and have one last walk around the gardens before leaving. Smiling we discussed the day and just how brilliant it had been. Smiling at Phillip Schofield as we left the grounds, saying goodbye to the palace. Once outside the gates, we took out our phones to get a quick photo opportunity outside the gates together with my Gold Certificate and together. And then it was time to phone my Mom and gush about just how amazing the day had gone, that id met both Anton and Col. Hadfield and I made the Duke laugh. Fangirling a little as Anton walked past us to get into his taxi, I was buzzing when me and dad sat down in our own taxi to head back to the train station.

Memories to Cherish

What an amazing day and experience this had been, not only had I met two amazing personal heroes of mine. I’d got to meet Nick Hewer and most importantly. I got to speak to the Duke of Edinburgh himself and make him laugh. All taking place inside Buckingham Palace Gardens. One of the most special places in the UK. Definitely this is a special one off event I will be lucky to ever experience again. Memories to cherish and i got to spend them with my Dad. And the one huge thing I took away from this day, that while we were there to celebrate our awards, we were also there with people we looked up to as role models and idols. People that we gave our own time to love and watch on TV or in shows. But yet here they were, not for themselves but here for us. Here to celebrate our achievement and present us with our well-earned awards. A true honour in my personal opinion. 

"Never Give Up on Your Dreams"

As usual i will say write soon and most likely forget to Blog.
Forgive me.

Much Love, Always
Hayley Kati xx

Song of the Day - Counting Stars by OneRepublic 

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