From Dancing Queen to Visiting the Queen

on Tuesday, 23 August 2016. Posted in Blog Tags CancerCare, fundraising, Volunteering

CancerCare Volunteer Wendy Graham writes of her love of Square Dancing and how her fundraising efforts landed her an invite to Buckingham Palace!

WendyGNeilAndrea 2One of my greatest discoveries in retirement is square dancing, which provides a social atmosphere, new friends and the opportunity to wear gorgeous outfits and frilly underskirts. I’m a child again!

When Cliff and I joined Lune Valley Ocean Wavers in 2014, learning so many moves seemed a daunting task, but with expert tuition by our caller, Trevor Day, and with guidance and patience from fellow dancers, we have gained in confidence and ability and progressed to Mainstream level. We look forward to our weekly dances, hoping one day to find time the time to attend others outside our area. Who would have thought that square dancing could become so addictive, but it does!

But apart from all this and more importantly, retirement allows me to devote more time to my charitable interests, in particular to raising funds for CancerCare and helping at fundraising events, in gratitude for the amazing therapies and psychological support they gave to Elaine, my late sister, and to our family during and following her long battle with cancer. Fundraising is both fun and fulfilling, knowing that it helps CancerCare continue its invaluable work so that others may benefit too, and even more wonderful is that CancerCare has been adopted by Lune Valley Ocean Wavers as their charity for 2015/16. Already we've held raffles, sold books, jams and home grown produce on dance nights (my marmalade goes down a treat) and enjoyed fundraising party games between dances at special events.

Imagine my surprise when in January I received a letter from the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire advising that I had been nominated to the Lord Chancellor to attend the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace “in recognition of my personal contribution to the good of the community in Lancashire”. The formal invitation arrived in March to attend the Palace on 19 May, the day after my birthday, so Cliff and I went a day early to celebrate both. Shopping for a new outfit and hat ‘fit for a Queen’ was next on the agenda and, with that done, Cliff and I left for London, very excited at the prospect of walking in Her Majesty’s footsteps. We arrived at Lancaster train station to be greeted by platform staff and escorted to reserved seating in a First Class carriage. Surely they must have the wrong person, but seemingly not. It was a birthday surprise from my family.

Our evening trip to the theatre and visit to Covent Garden were all very enjoyable, but my mind was always on what was to come, and I wasn’t disappointed. The day was hot and, feeling like a Queen myself, we left the hotel for Buckingham Palace to join the long queue of garden party guests, eventually passing security and entering the main gate at 3pm. We were in!!

WendyGBuckinghamPalace2Across the outer forecourt with guards on parade, under the archway into a large quadrangle, before walking up the red carpeted staps into the Palace (oh, the thrill of it!) to pass through the long hallway, onto the rear terrace and down the steps to Her Majesty’s huge lawn which was already milling with hundreds of ladies in posh hats and dresses, and men in their best bib and tuckers. With an hour to spare before Her Majesty’s arrival, we made a bee-line to the tea marquee where we enjoyed delicious sandwiches, cakes and ice cream.

WendyGBuckinghamPalace3Three avenues were eventually formed in the crowds for members of the Royal family to greet guests chosen in advance to hold conversation. Prince Charles and Camilla were in one, the Duchess of Kent in another, but we were on the front line of the Queen and Prince Philip's centre aisle where she passed by at arm’s length, looking amazing in her pale green and pink outfit. I was overwhelmed by her beauty, her smile, and her stamina. She was so relaxed, chatting at length with interest and enthusiasm to previously nominated guests, and whilst she and her guests enjoyed afternoon tea in the Royal marquee, we took the opportunity to stroll round the lake and enjoy the Palace gardens with their colourful rhododendrons and roses, whilst the band of Her Majesty’s guards entertained us.

Sadly, all too soon, we had to leave but the day is one we will never forget. Happy 90th birthday your Majesty. You are an amazing lady.

Wendy Graham