Today is the Queen’s official 90th birthday, so I thought I’d mark the occasion by reliving my favourite royal memory in my first throwback post. Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into a saccharine description of gathering around the TV to listen to Her Majesty’s Christmas Day speech, but rather a very belated account of the time Chef Savla and I were invited to Buckingham Palace for a picnic followed by an evening concert around the Victoria Memorial.
Bear with me – I haven’t fallen off my chair, banged my head and started hallucinating. Do you remember the BBC ballot to win one of 5,000 tickets for the concert celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee? Well, we only went and won a pair for the show (and by we, I mean Chef Savla since he was “the chosen one”), which included lunch on the grounds of the palace. Despite the email, reality only started sinking in when our tickets arrived:
Monday, 4th June 2012 finally came around, bringing plenty of cloudy weather with it. Summer is synonymous with sunshine in many countries apart from Britain it seems, so the first item in the picnic hampers was naturally a fetching waterproof poncho. This conveniently doubled up as a blanket provided that the rain stayed at bay. Poncho/blanket laid out, we unpacked the rest of the contents donated by Waitrose.
Devised in collaboration with Heston Blumenthal and Royal Chef Mark Flanagan, the British-inspired menu showcased some beloved classics such as Coronation Chicken sandwiches, potted tea-smoked salmon, strawberry crumble and Duchy Originals cheese and biscuits, all washed down with a glass of Moet & Chandon champagne. As you can imagine, everything tasted incredibly good. However, SavlaFaire not having been conceived until earlier this year, I’m afraid there are no pics of the food, so you’ll have to make do with this stock image:
With our bellies full, we went for a stroll around the gardens, perfectly timed with the rare appearance of the sun. On the topic of perfection, the flowerbeds were immaculately arranged, the lawns manicured, and the whole experience surprisingly relaxing given the thousands of people.
Our brief saunter happened to coincide with the arrival of some of the Royal family, including the Earl and Countess of Wessex. I was close enough to get a nice shot of the latter, but the former didn’t fare quite so well:
7:30pm was fast approaching, so we slowly waved goodbye to the palace, doing our best impressions of HRH’s legendary royal wave, and took our seats around the memorial. It transpired that row F on block STH E had an impressive view; this was the icing on the cake, because winning seated tickets was the bigger coup, especially since the concert was no one-hour affair.
Robbie Williams kicked off the evening with a medley of his hits, including the opener Let Me Entertain You. He was followed by a slightly awkward Will.i.am and Jessie J duet, her powerful voice saving the day. Next up were JLS, who proved their vocal prowess. Another underwhelming duet – this time Gary Barlow and Cheryl Cole (as she was known back then) – preceded a run of varied performances: Cliff Richard, Lang Lang, Alfie Boe, Jools Holland and Ruby Turner.
We were then treated to flamboyant acrobatics from the age-defying Grace Jones, who sang whilst hula-hooping. As you do. Ed Sheeran didn’t disappoint, and held his own against such seasoned acts; no mean feat when you only have a mic, a guitar and a loop pedal for company. Annie Lennox, Tom Jones and The Commonwealth Band had their time to shine before the divas took to the stage: Shirley Bassey and Kylie Minogue.
Speaking of divas, Elton John was right on cue, with Stevie Wonder later taking the reins. The penultimate slot went to rooftop-singing Madness, during which quirky artwork was projected onto the palace façade. We thought this was pretty entertaining, alongside the Paul McCartney finale, but had seen nothing yet: the palace was “painted” in the Union Jack then off went the spectacular fireworks. For about 5 minutes, we were treated to a magnificent, colourful display: think NYE times 20.
I don’t look back through the Savla archives as often as I’d like, and this has reminded me of how amazing 2012 was. As well as the Jubilee Concert, we also nabbed tickets to the closing ceremony of the Olympics, plus to some of the events beforehand. I can’t decide which was the more memorable of the two and thankfully I don’t need to. Suffice it to say that they were both once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that make me proud to call myself a Londoner (via stints in Leicester, Manchester, Paris, Montreal and Leeds), and it only took almost 10 years to write that last sentence.