I met the Queen at one of her Garden Parties two summers ago. I was lucky enough to accompany my partner, who had received the gold-edged invitation because of his work with a major agricultural firm. I'd always wanted to see Buckingham Palace from the other side of the gates, and have to admit to being terribly excited.
What to wear was a serious dilemma. For James, it was far easier. He popped into a hire shop and had his morning suit sorted in minutes. For me, issues concerning weather, comfort, and etiquette were all I thought about for weeks. I was instructed to wear a dress and hat. I've never used a hat pin before, and now found myself going in search of them. I was absolutely sure I was not going to let my hat take off in the wind or slip off my head and mess up my hair. Shoes were my biggest headache. I love my high heels but realised I'd be standing and walking on fine lawns for a number of hours. I didn't want to sink into the grass, but I also wanted to look elegant.
I suddenly realised with a smile that all these fashion challenges were what our Queen has to deal with on a daily basis. I now have the most utmost respect for the lady - as a champion of what to wear and how.
The big day dawned and I admit I was incredibly nervous. James seemed totally nonchalant about the whole thing and was treating it as just another work 'do'. He was ready in 20 minutes. I'd been up at dawn and down to the hairdressers with my hat.
It was a beautiful day and that helped me relax a little, not having to worry about the weather. Security took for ever, but I suppose that was to be expected. My first glimpse and reaction of the inside of the palace was amazement. Ornate ceilings with lots of gilt décor, and immaculately dressed staff at every corner. I have to admit, we felt very special.
We walked out into the gardens at about 3.30pm There were already thousands of people there, and a band playing some familiar show tunes. We headed straight for the marquees for a cup of tea. The little sandwiches and pastries were amazing. On any other day I would have wolfed down half a dozen, but I didn't want to risk spilling anything on my dress. I'd gone for pale grey silk in the end.
About half an hour later the band suddenly started playing God Save the Queen. We looked round and there was Her Majesty at the top of the steps with Prince Philip. My first thought was how tiny she is. Then of course I noticed what she was wearing. She looked lovely in a lemon coat dress and hat.
We happened to be near the band and as we all stood in a snake-style line, the royal couple headed our way. James had kept secret from me that he had been selected to meet the Queen in line. A member of staff ushered him forward, with me, and introduced us to Her Majesty. I was numb with fear, but managed a little bobbed curtsey. She asked James about his work and then asked me what time we had to start out that morning.
My first thought was what beautiful skin our Queen has. She is in her 80s, but still has sparkly blue eyes and this peachy, pure complexion. She asked me where we'd travelled from and if we'd come by car. Of course once the moment was over, I turned to James, who just said quite simply that if he had told me in advance I would have been even more terrified. He was right!
It was an absolutely amazing day. Everyone there had done something for their community in some way, either through business or charity. Meeting the Queen in such a lovely environment is something none of the guests will ever forget. She is a true professional, and there really is some kind of magic about her.
I think the British public think of her as 'our Queen' rather than of us as 'her subjects'. This Jubilee, like the last, will be an opportunity for the British people to celebrate something together that is happy, and to celebrate being British, which we don't often get the chance to do. Our Queen is the reason we can do that, and I for one, am delighted about it.