Anyone who picked up a newspaper this evening, or read the news online, will have seen the coverage of Prince William, Kate and Prince Harry walking through the incredible poppy installation filling the moat of the Tower of London. To mark the 100th anniversary of Britain joining the First World War, up until Armistice Day, 888,246 ceramic poppies will be ‘planted’ in the moat of the iconic London landmark. One for every British or colonial soldier who lost his life in the Great War. It is the same moat where more than 1600 men enlisted in August of 1914. (The photo below by no means does it justice because it was taken at 11pm at night! Please go and see it during the day – it is beautiful and breath-taking.)
By complete coincidence, the Queen’s Guard contacted me earlier this week to ask me to the Tower. Fans of the blog may remember him as one of my most quirky dates. A rather cheeky army officer, serving in the Coldstream Guard, The Queen’s Guard commands a platoon of guardsman who work at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. I met him on Tinder last summer, and have stayed in touch ever since … (More details on his last year to come very soon, as part of the 30 Dates, One Year On Series!)
Knowing I’d just moved to London he sent me a text telling me he was working at the Tower of London this week, and asking whether I wanted to go and watch the Ceremony of the Keys. The Ceremony is conducted every single night, and has been for the past 700 years! Taking place at exactly 10pm every night, it was only once carried out seven minutes late, and that was when a bomb was dropped nearby during the Second World War! The Ceremony is open to the public, however you have to sign up to get tickets several months in advance. As a friend of the Queen’s Guard – the commanding officer of tonight’s Ceremony – I was privileged enough to jump the queue.
One of the things I keep saying. as I write about more and more of the 30 Dates Boys in the ‘Where Are They Now?’ feature, is just how lucky I was to meet such a great bunch of interesting guys last summer. 30 Blind Dates in three months could have been really awful! But it wasn’t, and the reason for that was because of all the incredible guys I met along the way. As I touched on earlier, when I wrote about the Jet Setter – I met a professional yacht racer, a Hollywood actor, a helicopter pilot, a Coldstream Guard … such an interesting cross-section of really lovely guys, that I couldn’t not have a great summer! And they all highlighted just how many great, interesting, eligible singletons there are out there.
The other thing which 30 Dates taught me was just how many incredible things there are to do and see in London – it’s simply a matter of opening yourself up to possibilities. The great thing about my current rather unorthodox lifestyle, as a freelance writer, is that I’m in a position to take up more and more of these opportunities, and to really fall head over heels in love with the city I’ve just moved to. And so, like an excited child, this evening I headed to the Tower of London for 9.15pm.
The Tower was heaving with tourists. Unbeknown to both myself, and the Queen’s Guard when we’d planned it, there were special drinks on to commemorate those who died in the War, and the 100 year anniversary. And so as I arrived at the Tower, several celebrities, including Sir Trevor McDonald and Ross Kemp were spilling out of the gates. A light display began on the side of the Tower, depicting the War and celebrating the lives of those who were lost in the First World War.
The Last Post played out across the crowd – a fitting tribute to the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who died to secure the world we all live in. Something I find interesting is how these days when I think of servicemen sacrificing their lives for a world we take for granted, those soldiers now have faces I know – in part because of 30 Dates. (And rather amusingly, mainly thanks to Tinder!) I’ve met more Army Officers in the last year (yes, on dates …) than I have met in my other 29 years! And amusing as that fact is, it does come with a very sobering thought that each one of those 888,246 ceramic poppies is laid for men like The Queen’s Guard, The Skype Date, Mr SC, Guy Fawkes, The Legal Eagle and Bear Grylls.
Apparently the service was a special event to mark what the Junior Warder who took us on our tour described as the ‘celebrations of the 100 years’. Yesterday, the anniversary of the start of the War was a day of commemoration, now the celebrations could begin – a nice way to describe the tributes and the poppies.
Once the light show had finished, we began our trip into the Tower to witness the age old ceremony. We watched on as a the Chief Warder walked down the dimly lit Water Lane, holding a lantern and jangling Queen Elizabeth’s keys to the Tower. We giggled as a guardsman accosted him with his bayonet, and demanded to know ‘who comes there?‘, and then we followed the keys through the Bloody Tower Archway, and into the fortress. At the foot of the Broadwalk Steps, stood the Queen’s Guard – the commanding officer – and the Tower Guard.
I grinned on as The Queen’s Guard gave orders to his guardsman, and we stood in silence as the Last Post was played once more.
The whole ceremony takes little more than ten minutes, but is such a unique experience, and something I would definitely recommend signing up to go and watch. It was such an interesting end to an evening, and I think would make a really cool and different end to a date! I love stuff like that, where I feel like a big kid on a school trip. One of the things I’m always bemoaning myself about is not spending enough time looking around and taking in the world around me. So now I live in London, I need to start properly appreciating the history!
I had such a fun evening – it was really great to see The Queen’s Guard again, especially in his full uniform (including the Bearskin!) and I just love the fact that no two days in my London life are ever the same!
I felt so privileged to be at the Tower on such a historic day (whilst the anniversary was yesterday, today marks the start of the celebrations), and am very lucky to have had such a unique experience of the Tower of London, care of a lovely friend who I have made all thanks to this 30 Dates Challenge!
Here’s to many more random evenings, enjoying all the variety that London has to offer!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx