I know I have been quiet for the past week but that doesn’t mean that I have forgotten my blog. This Summer has been incredibly busy. We had a trip to London for research, there was my momentous birthday and then the wedding of my ‘honorary son.’ On top of this, I have been trying to work on my book with a view to completing the first draft by the end of the school holidays. I set myself a strict word target each day. Today will be no exception.
Writing this book has been an incredible experience and as much as I shall be relieved to finish writing it, then a part of me will be sad that the journey has ended, since it has taught me so much about how kind and generous some people can be.
For part of my research, I had to go to the Royal Archives in Windsor. The Royal archives are housed at the Round Tower in Windsor Castle. In July, Windsor Castle is packed with endless tourists waiting in queues upon queues. When we arrived at the Castle Entrance by Uber, my husband and daughter came with me to assist me as my anxiety was heightened. I struggle a lot with steps and walking up hills because of the metal in my spine. I also struggle going to new places as I have no idea what to expect.
I arrived at the Press Office where I had been told to check-in and show my documents. The first thing we saw was a steep stairway with about forty very narrow steps. There was no way that I could climb these.
“We need to go.” I told my husband. “I can’t climb these.” My husband is used to my wobbles and he agreed to go up and explain my situation.
“It’s ok.” He reassured, “They will understand.” Fortunately, the security clearance lady came down and checked my passport and documents. I could see the famous Round Tower looming in the background. It was on the top of a very steep hill. There was no way that I was going to be able to make it. I was terrified.
“What happens now?” I asked.
“Well, someone will come and collect you.” I was hoping that perhaps they would have some sort of golf buggy to collect me. Perhaps they might drive me up there if I asked nicely? Or perhaps they would let my husband come with me and help me?
Security was very tight on that day. The Queen was in residence unusually for July, as she was awaiting the results of the Conservative leadership campaign and the announcement of a new Prime Minister. Armed police were everywhere. Eventually a gentleman appeared. He was very slight of stature. There was no way he could get me up to that tower. And where was the buggy? What about a car?
“Do we have to walk?” I asked, “Is it a long way?” Anxiety turns me into a nervous wreck.
“It is quite a way.” He replied, “and it is all uphill. Plus, in the tower there are 101 stone steps.” I had visions of calling my editor and explaining the book was off. To top it all, he informed me that my husband was not allowed to accompany me. It was just me and the slight gentleman, a huge hill and 101 steps. There was no way I could do this. I was about to give up and leave but then the gentleman held out his arm to me and suggested,
”Would you allow me to try and help you?” He took my bag and my laptop case from my husband.
“Go on.” My husband encouraged, “You can always call me to come and get you.” And thus, very tentatively, I took this kind gentleman’s arm and we slowly made our way up the steep hill. As we walked up, the gentleman kept me talking to distract me from the climb. He just kept me going, slowly.
At the door to the Round Tower, we saw the steps. Concrete and incredibly steep. My back has a lot of titanium in it and for some reason concrete causes me pain. I think it is due to shock absorbency. We tried to use the stair lift, but it was not working fully. And so, my new companion once again offered his arm and helped me slowly up the stairs. Making polite conversation and guiding me.
“Not long now.”
Finally, we arrived at the top. My companion signed me in and I was taken to a room, where all my personal possessions were taken off me. I was permitted a notebook, pencils and my laptop. Nothing else. The study room was tiny. There were two other gentlemen studying documents in silence. There were two huge portraits of Queen Victoria’s children, looking down on me as I sat reading through the letters that I wished to see. From the window, I could look down on the steep hill I had just climbed. I so wished that I had been allowed my phone to record the most incredible experience of my life. It is something that I will never forget. Windsor Castle is steeped in history. You can not help but wonder at previous generations of Royalty who have been here.
I stayed there for over six hours. The time passed so quickly. I didn’t even think about the fact that I hadn’t eaten or drank anything at all. Just before four o’clock, I started to pack my work away and prepared to leave. I assumed that I would have to find my own way back. Then the archivist on duty stopped me,
“Oh, please wait a moment. I think the gentleman who brought you here, well – he would like to take you back. If you don’t mind.”
My companion accompanied me on the much easier walk back down. We passed St George’s Chapel and we discussed Royal anecdotes, the research I had discovered and what an amazing place Windsor Castle was. He saw me to the gates. The crowd were even bigger by now. It was only then that I asked his name.
“I would love to thank you in my acknowledgements, if you don’t mind.”
“But I did nothing.” he modestly replied. The gentleman who gave me the opportunity to discover a new aspect to my book. Without him, there would be no book.
In life we meet people and their kindness often goes unnoticed. They are humble. Without such kindness then we would never be able to realise our dreams. If you do read my book and see an acknowledgement to Colin. You will understand why it is there.