I went to London for the first time in June 2010 in connection with a meeting at Pitney Bowes office at Harlow. The visit was just a one day affair and the meeting happened to be on Wednesday. Considering the coming weekend, my friend Rajeev invited me to stay with him and suggested me to extend my stay till the weekend. He had moved to London earlier at the beginning of the year on a long term assignment and was living at Woking. He offered that he will also plan a holiday on those two days and we will move around the city as even he was not yet able to see the city. In a way, he offered to be my city guide.
The offer was tempting and obviously I grabbed it. Once our meetings finished at Harlow, my other colleague who had joined the meeting from local office, accompanied me till Waterloo station. From there, he guided me to the train which goes towards Woking. Woking is at the southwestern edge of the Greater London Urban Area with frequent trains and a journey time of approximately 30 minutes from Waterloo station. I reached Woking in about 30 minutes and on the way train crossed Wimbledon though it did not stop there. Rajeev came to receive me at the station. His apartment was just few minutes’ walk away.
Next day we started around 10 and hit the road from Waterloo station. From there our trek in the city started and culminated at Buckingham Palace while moving around London Eye, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square. When we reached Buckingham Palace, there was not much action happening around though there were many tourists like us who were busy taking pictures of the palace as well as of any movement happening inside the palace gates. We were told that Queen Elizabeth was travelling at that time. We were also told that whenever she in town, sometime, if people are lucky, they get to see her there. Though I am not sure how true it is. Nonetheless, either way, we did not had any chance as she was traveling out of town.
Queen Elizabeth is the queen of 16 out of 53 member states of Commonwealth of nations which includes United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand amongst other countries. She is the world's oldest reigning monarch and the only Head of State who has met all the US Presidents in her official capacity during last about 60 years.
After I returned from my trip to London, I moved on to a new job and had to travel again to London in November for 6 weeks as the new company was headquartered at London. I had to be there for meeting the leadership as part of induction process. We reached London on 7th November and went to our office on 8th which was Monday. The office was located at Canada Square in Canary Wharf. That day we got to know that the Queen Elizabeth would be visiting our office to formally inaugurate the office building. All the employees were told to be there by a particular time. Since I had missed the opportunity in June, I wanted to ensure that I use it now.
The agenda of the Queen was that she would arrive and would have a building tour. She would go to the 14th floor where she would walk around and would interact with couple of colleagues. After spending about 40 minutes there, she would come down to Ground Floor and formally inaugurate the building. I planned to park myself at the Ground Floor because the place was big and with couple of open staircases, the possibility of getting a good view of the ceremony was very high.
However, I forgot to consider one thing in this whole planning and started about 15 minutes prior to her scheduled arrival in the building. By the time I reached the ground floor, it was jam packed and full with people and the only place i could get was the last row that was at least 30 feet away from the pathway from which the Queen would have gone to the elevators. From my position, it was very difficult to get the view leave aside the notion of getting a good picture. Well, it was too late by then and I had sort of missed the bus. Nothing could have been done at this point of time.
She arrived and people in front rows frantically started taking pictures. The atmosphere was electric and there was huge excitement all around. Realizing this, she halted for a while, waived at the people and moved towards the elevators on her way to the 14th floor. Once she moved away to the 14th floor, everybody knew that she will be back in about 45 minutes and started taking it easy. Especially the people in front 4-5 rows had got good amount of pictures and they moved away to relax. That was my moment and started inching towards front row literally. This process of inching forward continued till about next 30 minutes when I reached the front row at the corner point.
I was standing was exactly facing the gallery coming from elevators. Anyone coming out from the elevators had to pass in front of me within a distance of 3-4 feet away and I would have got about 30-40 seconds before anyone could step out of elevators and pass across me.
In a while from the time I hoisted myself at the vantage point, we got a message that she has started from 14th floor. Everybody ran towards the front rows and within seconds it was jam packed again. I think this time I did a right thing by remaining at my place for whole 45 minutes and not ceding an inch away. Everybody started watching the elevator light boxes which were indicating the floor position of the elevator. Everybody was ready with their mobile cameras like me. My only concern was the quality of my phone camera but still I always believed in the adage that something is always better than nothing.
The moment she stepped out of elevator, I waited with my camera with fingers on the button for her to get closer so that I can take the picture from the closest possible point. When she was about 5-7 feet away, I clicked my 1st picture. I think I got the best possible click. By the time, I took the next picture, she was just moving past me. However, I was able to get the good picture again. The whole ceremony lasted another 30 minutes with Queen inaugurating the place interacting with few more colleagues. The day also marked my brush with fame.
I must say in the end that the Mission was Accomplished successfully !!!