The day was amazing and one of the best of my life
When I was a child my dad used to read me Winnie-the-Pooh. There is a poem with the repeated line: “They’re changing the guard at Buckingham Palace Christoper Robin went down with Alice”. Never did I imagine that I would get an invitation to go to Buckingham Palace – and when I did – this is the line that popped into my head!
Being nominated for an award like an MBE (Member of the British Empire) is strange. You immediately think it is a mistake, that someone has got it wrong. Then when it starts to sink in that this is not a mistake, it is real, you then move to guilt: “but what about all of the other people who have been part of what I have been doing which lead to this award?” Essentially, you don’t feel worthy. However, in the moment of collecting my MBE award for my job (which was considered an outstanding contribution to improving mental heath and wellbeing among young people) I was filled with a huge sense of pride and gratitude to be in this honoured position.
The day of collecting my award was exciting. I drove down to Buckingham Palace with my three children in the car. My main anxiety would a road closure prevent us from getting there! My daughter was going to come with me into Buckingham Palace. My mum was meeting me outside so that my sons could go with her for a wander until the event was over. We then planned to meet with the rest of my family for afternoon tea to celebrate this occasion together.
Driving to Buckingham Palace, rather than past Buckingham Palace was such a surreal moment. Parking my car outside the great black gates on the pink road whilst the Police checked it over, again felt special and added to the importance of the occasion. Strangely I felt excited that my car was getting the experience of driving into the grounds of Buckingham Palace and would get to park in the Royal Quadrangle.
As my daughter and I walked across the gravel into the entrance we have seen on the news, in films and on The Crown, I had to keep pinching myself to check it was all real.
Waiting for the award, amongst other people who had all done remarkable things, my daughter and I took it all in: the grandeur, the smaller more normal details (like the fact that there was Andrex toilet roll in the toilets!) The Duke of Cambridge was presenting the awards in the Throne room. We waited our turn. My daughter went and stood next to a member of the royal household, whilst I stepped forward to collect my award. What Prince William said, what I said, I simply cannot remember. But I was struck by how tall and handsome he was, the kindness in his face and the genuine interest in the work I had completed which had led to this moment. It was a long-short 2-minutes of my life and one I will not forget. As my daughter and I left the room and walked down the main gallery with my medal on my jacket I felt that slightly sinking feeling when something you have been looking forward to ends. We collected the box and visited the Buckingham Palace toilets (for what might be the last time as guests in our lives) and headed out for photographs.
That afternoon I met with my family and we had an incredible afternoon tea at the Dorchester. It felt so wonderful to be around the people who have supported and loved me whilst I have been so preoccupied with my work. I cherished every moment and if I could do it all again I would.
That night as I fell asleep, I hoped this achievement, the recognition and the special day would remind my children, that anything is possible. Follow your heart. Do what you are passionate about, and in doing so if you are able to help others and make a difference all the better.