I went to Buckingham Palace the other week for my father's OBE investiture.
He had decided to do everything in a full, glorious, middle-England, Hyacinth Bouquet, "did I tell you I've got an OBE" kind of way. Which he's well within his rights to do. For once the tables were turned, I was all beaming, proud parent and he was chuffed child, I drew short of dabbing at the corners of his mouth with a damp hanky, leaving that to my mother who is genetically predisposed to such things.
He stayed at the RAF Club - effectively a swanky members only hotel facing over Green Park on Piccadilly - and hired a limo to take us all to the Palace. I stared at him when he mentioned the limo, my mind filled with visions of long, white American cars with too many doors, leopardskin seats and a drinks bar, smelling of adolescent vomit and Essex girl perfume. Fortunately my father is a man of some taste (proving that appearances can be easily deceptive - the waistcoat predilection surely leads most to believe that taste is something that happens to other people) and he'd hired a nice, posh, stretch Mercedes driven by a genuine East End gangster "just call me Terry".
Inside the palace, it was just like a palace. Lots of military flunkeys with shiny silver breast plates and big swords. Everything was red carpets, sky high ceilings, gold and mirrors. There was lots of formality and important people dressed in imposing uniforms and displaying perfect etiquette (although I wouldn't know perfect etiquette if someone spat it in my face).
The whole thing was a big West End style show too, the Queen came on stage flanked by Gurkhas looking exactly like Buttons from Ipswich panto and preceded by some beefeaters, apparently the oldest royal bodyguards in the world, and my, did they look it ((c) Norman Wisdom 1973). Then there was lots of official name calling and bowing and curtsying and the Queen made a lot of talking to the plebs style conversation with 100 people in 40 minutes.
Unfortunately the Queen let the whole show down by looking exactly like my Great Auntie Rosie from Tasmania, and I kept imagining her offering me Lincoln biscuits whilst talking about how great the Conservative party is and telling Uncle Tommy to smoke his pipe outside.
Although we all know that celebrity is the new royalty, the most famous person there (other than Queen/Auntie Rosie) was Rudolph Giuliani, which is cool in a "rebuild a city under the most horrendous circumstance" kind of way, but not as exciting as say Cameron Diaz or Brian from Big Brother.
The OBE itself is a small medal which appears to have no magical powers and doesn't even provide discounts at popular museums and tourist attractions like your basic Blue Peter badge, although it does apparently entitle me to get married in St Pauls Cathedral. My father seemed pleased with it anyway.
The Queen was on speed through the ceremony and finished a good half an hour early, she just buggered off after it was done and left us to make our own way out of the building with nary a complimentary sandwich nor cup of milky tea to fortify us against the cold. Once outside we enjoyed the fact that a good few hundred tourists were staring at us and presumably imagining us to be extremely important, and then had Terry drive us around town for 45 minutes. He wasn't the best tour guide, but did point out where he'd mugged various people, and how lovely the Kray's were.