Matt Holland and Andrea Hirsch of Lower Shaw Farm were amazed to learn that the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire has been keeping a file on them, and that the farm was also on the radar of military officials at the Defence Academy of the UK in Shrivenham.
But the Big Brother activity was all for the best of reasons as Matt and Andrea were invited to tea at Buckingham Palace and the Lower Shaw Farm Children’s Project was a nominated charity for a big fund-raising event.
With their eldest daughter Rosa, right, they attended the palace in mid-July to enjoy cucumber sandwiches and cakes decorated with the royal insignia in Her Majesty’s back garden. Whilst honoured to be invited to see the Queen, the highlight for Matt was the opportunity to network with the other guests, who all had fascinating stories to tell. But he was surprised at how little the crowds mingled with each other and might drop a note to the palace with some suggestions. “I felt there were thousands of people all there for their achievements and there was no procedure for them to meet one another.”
Apparently worlds away from the military establishment, Lower Shaw Farm had, nonetheless, caught the eye of Defence Academy staff. After a tour of the farm by uniformed officers, Matt and Andrea were delighted to learn that the Children’s Project had been chosen along with the Faringdon Family Centre and three military benevolent funds to recieve the proceeds of their annual open air concert on 19 July.
Three thousand people attended the concert by the Band of the Royal Marines which was followed by a spectacular night time parachute jump and firework display.
Another Swindon resident invited to visit the Queen was Margaret Randall, the practice nurse at Ashington House Surgery, who was astonished when one of her patients nominated her to go to a Royal Garden Party in late July.
Sheila Jarvis, of Grange Park, was so impressed by her work over the last eight years that she put her name forward to the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire.
She said, “Margaret is a wonderful nurse, always ready with a smile and a kind word. She always strokes your arm when you’re talking which is nice for older people, because they miss a friendly cuddle.”
Sheila accompanied Margaret to a champagne reception before they walked to the palace for tea. Once at the garden party, there was another surprise from Sheila who made a request for Margaret to be among those presented to the Queen. She was one of the few chosen from the 7,000 guests.
“The Yeomen came out first, carrying a big gold staff and they made a corridor in the crowds of people,” said Margaret. “The Queen’s ushers came and picked us out to stand in the middle of the corridor. My mouth was dry as sandpaper and my hands were dripping wet.”
The moment the Queen smiled at her, the nerves evaporated and they talked for five minutes. “She really put me at my ease. It was a wonderful experience and something I’ll never forget. The Queen asked me where I worked and when I said I was a practice nurse, she said that doctors’ handwriting is very difficult to read.”
Pictured above, Margaret with two Buckingham Palace ushers