‘Horse Arses and Policemen’s Helmets’ — The View from Westminster Abbey

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REUTERS/Toby Melville

When I checked in at Westminster Abbey this morning on Facebook, my friends commented that I was “so lucky.” Here’s why I wasn’t.

1. Machine guns kill romance. Having written a story on royal wedding security threats, I was already on edge. Standing in front of a row of men with automatic weapons didn’t calm my nerves. Nor did the spectators who chose to pass the hours before guests arrived by playing “count the rooftop snipers.” They spied five.

2. Bad views. Standing outside had its charm: I could really feel the energy of the crowd (particularly when Victoria Beckham—she who wore the hideous hat—arrived). But given all the oversized ogres in front of me, I didn’t actually see that much. As Joyce Williams, 68, told me afterward: “I was actually bitterly disappointed. I thought all the clothes were wonderful, but all we saw were horse arses and policemen’s helmets.” Plus there wasn’t an outdoor jumbo-tron playing the actual ceremony. After the procession we all turned and stared up at the open-air press center where commentators had large-ish TVs on. Thankfully I could crane my neck in such a way that I caught glimpses of the nuptials whenever Boy George, a guest commentator, spread his legs.

(More on TIME.com: Read about Princess Diana’s legacy at Prince William’s wedding)

3. Royal discomfort. To nab a decent spot in front of Westminster Abbey’s Great North Door, I rocked up at 6:30am—more than four hours before Kate Middleton. I still found myself five rows back and standing cheek-to-cheek with strangers who were eating salt-and-vinegar chips. Having drunk a bit too much water, I needed a loo—but there wasn’t a port-a-potty in sight. Stay and hold tight, or seek relief and lose my spot? Figuratively I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Literally I was stuck between a woman who kept poking me with a pointy-tipped Kate and Wills pennant, and a man who hadn’t showered in days.

4. Indifferent royals. The trip from my apartment to Westminster Abbey involved a ten-minute walk. For Diane Donahue, 63, the journey involved a 150-mile train ride from Staffordshire. So how do the royals thank her for the devotion? By turning their backs and riding off in their carriages. “The Queen didn’t hang around, and she didn’t give a wave at all,” Diane says. “We were a little disappointed there. We slept rough for two nights on the sidewalk and it was very cold one night. They could have held back just a little bit and given the public a bit of a wave for cheering them on.” (One royal, however, did work the crowd. It was universally agreed that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, made the biggest effort with the public, giving them a huge smile and a hearty hello.)

(More on TIME.com: Will Prince Harry ever get married?)

5. You can’t choose your neighbors. At home, I choose to live with rude people. At Westminster Abbey they were shoved on me. One man wanted the whole world to know that Elton John shouldn’t have been invited because apparently he doesn’t write his own music. Another woman thought we all wanted to hear details about lesser-known royals (I seriously don’t care that the Lady Gabriella Windsor is 39th in line to the throne). And then there are the rude people who try to outfox you.”I need to move in front of you guys to photograph the parade route for my local newspaper,” one lady said. Is that why you aren’t carrying a camera? She wielded her handbag as a weapon. I fought back with my umbrella.

6. I couldn’t do my job. Standing outside Westminster Abbey—and watching the good and the great and the King of Swaziland pass—was meant to be the culmination of months of work spent on royal wedding detail. I would now deploy my knowledge of the The Middleton Martini and the royal wedding donut as the man-on-the-street for our live blog of the festivities. But with everyone else outside the Abbey tweeting and uploading pictures of Pippa Middleton to Facebook, the 3G network collapsed—along with my ability to contribute. I had failed to honor my secular trinity—TIME, time.com, and TIME NewsFeed—and I couldn’t even use my Twitter account to complain about it.

I don’t mean to sound like an ungrateful prat: I know that one day I can repeat all this at an office cocktail party. As for now, I already look back fondly on the woman who dumped strawberry yogurt on my shoe.

(More on TIME.com: See TIME’s special coverage of the royal wedding)

(More on TIME.com: See the Top 10 royal wedding souvenirs)

1 comments
KhoiNguyen
KhoiNguyen

I sounds a bit ridiculous to me that 15.4 billion in revenue is a disappointment.