By Edd Terrey, Head of Children, Young People and Community Services, Midland Mencap
“It’s not every day that you get to have lunch with Her Majesty the Queen.
But on Wednesday 26 June, 2019, that’s exactly what I did!
So, how did a lad from a council estate end up sitting three foot away from our Monarch, sharing a five-course meal with a Sir, two professors, an Air Marshal, the Queen’s Communications Secretary and the Duke and Duchess of Wessex’ Private Secretary at Buckingham Palace?
No, I didn’t win a prize!
It was all down to Midland Mencap’s innovative inclusive family cycling project parkride.
Apparently, the Queen’s team sift through hundreds of nominations from different Government Departments, bodies and NGOs that put forward a selection of people and projects that they think the Queen would be interested in. Then a small selection are chosen for this very rare private luncheon. And yes, you’ve guessed it – parkride and I were chosen after being nominated by Sport England who had helped fund parkride.
Back in February I received an email saying that the Queen had requested me to attend a private luncheon. Of course, my initial reaction was “which of my friends was winding me up” but after a bit of research I realised it was all very real. I then thought “great, attending a Royal garden party would be pretty special” but then I was informed that it was a ‘private luncheon’ with only 6 guests. Well, then the nerves really set in – what would I say, what if I said the wrong thing, do I bow, is its Maam as in palm or Mam as in jam? My wife’s reaction (after she got over the fact it wasn’t a plus one) was that I definitely needed a new suit.
A very formal invite to ‘Mr. Edd Terrey. Esq.’ soon arrived in the post in a very nice looking envelope and then it all became very real. I was going to have lunch with the queen!
The day arrived and as I got off the tube, and began my short walk to the Palace it dawned on me, what did I do, knock on the door when I arrived? Five minutes after showing my invite to a policeman, I was walking across the main courtyard at Buckingham Palace with hundreds of tourists watching and probably all thinking who the hell is that guy.
I found myself in a small waiting room exchanging pleasantries with another guest, a Professor of Education from Oxford University. A couple of minutes later a smartly dressed butler arrived to take us to another room. We walked across another courtyard, up the famous red-carpeted stairs usually adorned by visiting presidents and heads of state, but today, it was me!
I could almost physically feel the sense of history as we walked the beautiful corridor decked with priceless paintings and sculptures. We entered a room where I was introduced to the Queen’s Communications Secretary and The Duke & Duchess of Wessex’ Private Secretary. I was offered a drink (I stuck with the soft drinks) and then we discussed all sorts of things as we waited for the other guests to arrive.
The conversation was interpreted by the Queen’s Private Secretary who asked if we line up to welcome her Majesty. I was very taken aback to be honest – I was expecting a detailed outline of what we can and can’t say, how to stand, how to address her, but nothing. As I processed this I turned to my left and there she was, Her Majesty the Queen followed by Price Andrew. She worked her way down the short line and then it was my turn – Hello your majesty!
I then spent 15 minutes with Prince Andrew discussing parkride before we were called to lunch. Well, I won’t go into all the details here but it was very nice and I learnt a lot about the life of a Communications Secretary and how he managed the visit of the President of the U.S!
I couldn’t believe that three feet opposite me was the Queen. After a lovely five course meal the Queen suggested we all go for coffee (great idea!) but then something happened that I certainly wasn’t expecting. I was told that the Queen would now like to talk to me!
I then found myself standing inches from the Queen as we were both served coffee; she then turned to me and said, “so tell me about your project”.
For the next fifteen minutes I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to tell The Queen about parkride and our vision to support children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and their families to take part in cycling in their local park. The conversation then moved onto how Midland Mencap are celebrating our 70th birthday in 2019 and then onto so many other areas…….
Then she gave the sign, swapping her bag from arm to arm meant she was ready to go (turns out she had a meeting with Theresa May) and then after saying thank you and goodbye she was gone. The five other guests then all took a collective pinch and spent the next 20 minutes discussing what a surreal few hours we had just spent together.
As we left we were given a memento of the occasion – a seating plan and menu. Then I was back on the train home to take my daughter to Brownies, sat with commuters who would never had guessed where I had just been!”