NEWS

Our Day at Buckingham Palace

Getting an MBE was always going to be a strange business. I had already met the Queen and had a brief chat with her a few months after the Games at a reception at the Palace, and that had been the most surreal experience of my life (moreso than receiving an Olympic Gold medal, that's actually quite easy to imagine for an athlete, when you dare to). But getting a medal from her, in front of all sorts of people and with all the ceremony and buzz? That would stretch surreal a bit!

The do starts with you and your guests (you can bring three, we both brought our parents and fiances/wives(!) ) arriving through the front gate of the Palace. All the tourists are watching you on the other side of the railings. Then you go into the Palace, and the Queen's footmen are all inside wearing massive, super polished boots and silver armour, carrying gleaming swords and not moving a muscle.

You are sent upstairs, whilst your guests are shown to their seats. There, you are given instructions about what to expect, what to do and (quite importantly) what not to do! They are all very friendly and jovial, they must have done it many times, it kind of seems like the briefing you see the raft guides giving the nervous/excited punters before they take to the raft! We received our MBEs on the same day as the boxer, Luke Campbell, the show jumper Ben Maher and the Paralympic (and former Olympic) cyclist, Craig MacClean. There were lots of other people there too, many being recognised for long service in the voluntary sector or public service, and a lot of people from the services.

Once the ceremony starts, the recipients are called fifteen at a time, I was in the last batch. You are led through to the hall, past huge paintings, ornate furniture and on nice carpets. You join a queue and eventually it is your turn to go out. As the person before you receives their honour, you stand side-on to one of the Queen's guards. When your surname is read out, you walk forward, turn ninety degrees left, bow your head and approach the Queen who stands on a little step. She asked me about Tim and if we had retired after the Games. Whilst she is talking, she pins the medal to your left lapel, which had previously had a special hook attached to it so she doesn't have to fiddle about too much. After a few sentences, the Queen offers you her white gloved hand to shake, which is your signal to wrap it up, then to walk backwards away from her a few paces, bow your head again, turn ninety degree right and head off into the wings.

I sat in the hall whilst the last honours were given, and then the national anthem plays, and the Queen leaves to go and have a cup of tea and a cucumber butty (crusts off!). As the anthem played, I was sent back to our moment on the podium and I just filled up with patriotism, but also pride that I was involved with a part of the history of our country, and that I was joining a list of some amazing people. I did not expect to feel like that, but I am glad I did.

And that was it, it all past in a blur! As with so many of the amazing things that have happened to us recently, it is almost impossible to get your head to accept it all. For me, it sort of hit home when I saw the Queen on TV at some engagement the next day and thought to myself, "I was having a chat with her this time yesterday."!

After the ceremony, we did lots of photos, a few interviews and talked to some other recipients. We were amongst the last to leave and walking out under the front archway, I wondered to myself if I'd ever be back. It was most probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing. The day at Buckingham Palace with my 'brother in the boat' (someone else's phrase not mine, but apt in many ways), my wife-to-be, my mum and my dad, well, that's one to tell the grandchildren!

Etienne

(Posted on the 2nd Jul 2013)
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