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Mission Europe: London with the Royal Treatment

All I had heard of London was rainy weather, gray skies, bland food and serious faces.  I am not one to judge without knowing and am glad I didn’t arrive in London with a biased mind.  For my culinary mission I booked 2 culinary classes: a tea appreciation course and a french macaroon course.  With several free days I planned to do a few touristy activities such as visit Big Ben, watch the changing of the Guard and have a plate of fish and chips!  I set out one morning armed with my London underground pass, camera and watch, with nothing but plans to be a tourist for the rest of the day.

I arrived at Buckingham palace just in time.  The changing of the guard ceremony began and I wished I was taller, feeling lost among the incredibly immense crowd.  To my delight as other spectators with little cultural appreciation became bored and departed I gained a better vantage point.  The ceremony was an elaborate celebration of British culture and fanfare, which I photographed extensively.  When the ceremony was over I strolled through the park and stumbled across the Royal Guard museum that displayed a sign announcing a free Royal Guard Brass Band concert within the hour.  I decided to stick around.

While waiting for the concert and admiring the tiny museum square, I encountered some Mexican tourists attempting to talk to an elderly Royal Guard in Spanish.  His face reflected his lack of familiarity with the language, so I stepped in.  After explaining, in Spanish, that he was too young to have fought in the second world war, I was cordially invited to sit next to the Royal Guard in the chapel for the concert.  He introduced himself as Miles and after learning my name, promptly decided to refer to me only as Pocahontas.  Together we enjoyed the concert and the beautiful musical arrangements provided by the band.

Miles inquired as to my post-concert destination; I mentioned getting lunch (i.e. fish and chips) and then visiting Parliament and Big Ben.  Appalled that I would consider walking or perhaps just desiring some companionship, Miles offered me a ride in a traditional black cab to his favorite haunt for Fish and Chips.  What was meant to be a quick lunch break turned into an afternoon learning odd bits of information about the Royal Guard and becoming acquainted with my new friend.  I left that afternoon feeling quite flattered Miles chose to spend the afternoon with me and more so because he extended an invitation to accompany him to the London Art Show the following afternoon.

I managed to visit Big Ben and the House of Parliament before the sun dropped beneath the Thames River, but nothing that day proved quite as special as my new friend William Miles, the Royal Guard Pensioner from Chelsea Royal Hospital.  His childish spirit and sunny countenance that he carried with a certain regal air tinged with mischief brightened my day in a very unexpected manner.  In his honor I am asking that anyone who reads this take 3 minutes of their time to watch the video on the Soldiers’ Charity page in which he is a cast member.

I could not have had a better day in London, if I had planned it…

Thank you  Miles!

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