I was nine or ten, going to school in Laindon, despite the fact that I lived in Pitsea, and the big day had arrived. I can’t remember exactly which one of them it was, it might have been Princess Margaret or possibly Anne, I’m fairly sure it wasn’t The Queen. To be honest though it’s so long ago that I can’t remember. I know, I know, what a way to start a story.
Anyway, we’d been drilled all week, little paper Union Jack flags on cheap sticks had been handed out and we’d been shown how to line up and wave them. This was important stuff we were told. We would be representing our school. It was deemed so important that we were giving up a whole morning of school time for it.
At the appointed hour we were marched down to the A127, one of the two main roads that connected our particular arse-end of the world with London. There we stood, the whole school, flags at the ready, breathing in carbon monoxide like it was the latest thing, teachers craning their necks, looking for the car, that ever mysterious car.
Then it was time. “They’re coming, get ready children,” multiple teachers shouted. We started waving our flags, really concentrating on making that cheap paper flag look proud, representing Millhouse Junior School, representing Laindon, even though I was born in Billericay and lived in deepest, darkest Pitsea.
Then it was all over. Seconds, not minutes even. I thought I’d catch a glimpse of a hand doing that arse-about-tit wave that the Royals do. But no, the line of black cars, not a gold carriage in sight, just sped past. After which we marched back to school to write about our experience.