Posted in History

Death has its Sting

The atmosphere felt oppressive as James and his young bride Marianne made their way to Paris. People walked the streets viewing one another with suspicion after Napoleon had established his hereditary Empire by installing members of his family into high positions across Europe. War had become such a part of daily life, people made the best of it they could; life was hard for the poor.  In Paris the bourgeoisie continued to live their privileged lives at a reduced scale.

James knocked at the door of Aunt Marie Francoise Scherer’s home. Marie opened the door and invited them in, she greeted Marianne affectionately.

“I am so glad to see you my dear, life has been hard since your Uncle Bartholomy Louis Joseph died in 1804. We had to move back to Paris and leave our lovely Chateaux in Commenchon, Chauny.” Aunt Marie turned to Marianne,

marianne-timeline-to-1820-001“It was a good idea of your father to let you come and stay here with Henriette and I while James is away on the ships of the line.”

“Yes, “said James “The British Fleet showed its superiority in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 but the ships need to be maintained. We have also regained control of the Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch, so ships require a lot of work keep them in condition to do the long route to the East. It is quite likely I will be sent to maintain a merchantman so will be away for some time.”

“We really could not stay isolated in the countryside,” Aunt Marie continued, “Henriette will not find a good match out there in the country, she is at a marriageable age and I need to find her a husband”.

“It is difficult,” said James “as marriageable men are mostly at war, but you still need to get on with your lives.  Life in Britain is also difficult as there is no strong leadership in government after William Pitt, the Prime Minister died. How I wish this was all over and we could live in peace.”

“You are looking very weary my dear” said Aunt Marie to Marianne, “Henriette, do show you cousin up to the rooms where they will be staying.”

“Yes, I am actually starting to feel pretty dizzy and nauseous,” said Marianne to Henriette as they went upstairs, “I am really looking forward to a comfortable place to lay my head. James has been very kind to me, but being married is quite an adjustment, and it was a long journey to get here.”

“You must tell me what it is like to be married”, said Henriette blushing.  “Mother is busy

Source Unknown

negotiating a match with one of my father’s friends and colleague, Claude Juste Alexandre Louis Legrand.”

“Oh” said Marianne, “He must be quite a bit older than you if he is your father’s friend”

“He is 33 years older than me” Henriette said, “but he wanted someone who knows the full implications of men at war, but he also wants the comfort of a home when he comes back from battle.” Claude Juste Legrand was a hardened general who had risen to lieutenant colonel during the Revolution and fought in many battles.

Marie Francoise was glad for the extra pair of hands and she and the two girls sat and chatted over the forthcoming marriage making plans as they sat sewing. It was now pretty obvious that Marianne was with child and the girls excitedly looked forward to the coming events.

“Marianne, do you know what to expect when you have a baby?” Aunt Marie asked as the time drew near for the confinement.

“I have been with my mother when she gave birth to my brothers,” Marianne said, “but I am still afraid, my mother was very weak after the birth of Charles?”

The midwife, Aunt Marie and Henriette were on hand to welcome little Sarah Fish into the world, Marianne bore the pain bravely and was delighted with her little daughter. James Smith had managed to take time off between ships to check on Marianne and see his little daughter and to attend the wedding.

It was a joyous family occasion as Claude Juste Legrand and Henriette took their marriage vows. They were feted in various Paris homes as the General recounted his war stories about the 1809 campaign under Marshall Andre Massena where they had fought tenaciously against the Austrians in the notable battle of Aspern-Essling. The battle ended when both sets of troops were too exhausted to fight anymore and the French retreated.

All too soon Napoleon called up his troops and soon Claude Legrand was on his way to Russia and James was back to his ship, he was going to the East this time on a merchantman. The women reconciled themselves to keeping the home fires burning and a resemblance of some sort of social life while their men were away.

The family in Paris were kept busy looking after little Sarah and keeping up with their Parisian circle. Henriette waited anxiously for news from the Russian front, Claude was with Marshal Oudinot’s II Corps. She watched out daily for a message or a letter as she had heard the Russian’s had retreated to Moscow leaving a scorched-earth policy behind, burning towns and villages as they retreated so the French could not live off the land. It was a bitterly cold and freezing winter and the news was not good – many soldiers had died of starvation.

Aunt Marie came through to the drawing room, her face white and drawn, she had a newspaper in her hand.

“What is it Mother?” said Henriette.

“The bloodiest battle of the Napoleonic wars took place at Borodino, seventy miles west of Moscow on September the 7th. The French army made contact with the Russian Cossacks, there were heavy losses of officers and 70 000 casualties.  Napoleon marched to Moscow, only to find it evacuated and on fire – no decisive victory there.  The Russians continued to retreat – they would not fight.  Napoleon’s troops are exhausted, suffering from hypothermia, starving and there is no fodder for the horses. “

Henriette put her head in her hands and cried, she had only had a few weeks with Claude before he went off to battle.

Picture from Wikipedia

“Oh no! Is there any news of Claude?”

“I’m afraid not,” said Marie going to her daughter and putting her arms around her. “You know how it was with your father, we never knew, it is only when you get a messenger at the door you really need to worry.”

It was not a week or two later when there was a knock at the door of the Scherer home in Paris. “Mademoiselle, I am sorry to bring bad tidings, but General Legrand has been badly wounded, but he is alive, please can you prepare a room for him.” Henriette wept, she pulled herself together and said,

“Certainly, please bring him home and I shall take care of him.  What happened?”

The messenger replied,   “By the time we arrived at the Berezina River in November only 27,000 able soldiers were still standing. The Russian soldiers continued to harass us with short encounters.  Clause Juste Legrand arrived at the river with the French II corps to take the bridge, but the Russians had destroyed it. Napoleon realising our vulnerability, with great difficulty and minimum equipment got our troops to distract the Russians whilst we built a bridge.  Musket balls tore through Claude’s flesh and he fell into the freezing water and we had to drag him ashore and make our escape.  Napoleon has fled back to Paris to raise more troops and secure his position”.

Henriette, Aunt Marie and Marianne took turns nursing Claude. He was battle weary and in dreadful pain from the injuries he had sustained and the frostbite to his extremities, he slowly recovered under the women’s tender care. The General was amused by little Sarah and eventually was able to get up and about again.  Claude was promoted to senator on 5th April 1813, Pair de France on June 1814 and Chevalier de Saint-Louis on June 27 1814. These days in Paris were the best Henriette was to know as Claude’s health slowly deteriorated.

Claude came through one morning with the newspaper, “Napoleon has abdicated and been sent to Elba. Louis XVIII has returned to Paris. Although the Peace of Paris has been signed, Britain is still at war with the American colonies and it seems there will never be peace in the world and Wellington is approaching Paris.” Claude sighed; he was still in pain and was thoroughly sick of war and the uncertainty of daily living.  It was a stressful time for the family and the inhabitants of Paris.

Marianne found herself pregnant once again, this time she had had little time to take care of herself as she was busy looking after Sarah and helping to nurse Claude. She did not know where James was, it was months since she had last seen him. Claude took to his bed, his wounds were festering again. Henriette and Aunt Marie felt the strain of tending to the needs of the dying Claude who expired his last breathe on 8th January 1815. The peace in Paris did not last long, Napoleon returned in March 1815.  Louis XVIII fled Paris and Napoleon started his Hundred Days expansion into Europe.

As Marianne’s confinement drew near she became edgy and anxious.

“Where are you James? I really need you now,” she cried as the birth pangs started.  “I feel so alone here, I want my mother,” she sobbed and struggled as the midwife stood over her. This confinement was not as easy as when Sarah was born, and she was stressed out.  The midwife’s face was grave as she delivered the tiny Rebecca.

“You will have to be careful with this one, she is underweight and not a good colour” The midwife said as she laid the child in Marianne’s arms. Aunt Marie and Henriette dressed in black were also sombre as Aunt Marie announced,

“Wellington and the Allied armies’ are gathering to march on Paris. How I wish this war over and we had a man around, what will become of us?”

On the 18th June 1815 the decisive Battle of Waterloo was fought and Napoleon was exiled to St Helena.  The Treaty of Ghent had been signed signalling the end of the American war.

James returned to the house in

Courtesy of the Post Office

Paris to find a sad and grieving family, Marianne was ill and was not able to feed the ailing Rebecca. James greeted Sarah who hardly recognised him and held his new baby daughter as she slowly faded and died in his arms.

“We can’t intrude any longer on your hospitality and Marianne wants to go home to see her mother and introduce little Sarah to her parents” James said to the grieving Marie and Henriette.

So it was a sad parting as the cousins embraced and bid Aunt Marie a final farewell, they had all aged, youth was left behind as they set off once more for England’s shore. The family had lost so much through these wars, first General Scherer and the lovely chateaux; Claude had died leaving them with the house in Paris but not much else. James and Marianne had lost a daughter; it was now a time for new beginnings.

Posted in History

White on White


“White on white lace on satin”, I hummed along with Danny Williams dreaming of my wedding day as I put the finishing touches to the nightdress I was making for my trousseaux. The song came to an end and the broadcast was interrupted. “We have a message from the Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith” the announcer said. I stopped what I was doing to listen. The speech ended.

“We may be a small country, but we are a determined people who have been called upon to play a rôle of world-wide significance.

We Rhodesians have rejected the doctrinaire philosophy of appeasement and surrender. The decision which we have taken today is a refusal by Rhodesians to sell their birthright. And, even if we were to surrender, does anyone believe that Rhodesia would be the last target of the Communists in the Afro-Asian block?

We have struck a blow for the preservation of justice, civilization, and Christianity; and in the spirit of this belief we have this day assumed our sovereign independence. God bless you all.”

The date was 11th November 1965 and my wedding was just over a month away in January. Unbelief and uncertainty about the future numbed my mind, what would happen now?

My father a top government official came home that evening and said,

Deryn with bridesmaids Pam Thompson and Beulah Smith

“I am going to have to work on a lot of projects to stabilise the communications systems so the country can carry on its business, as the rest of the world has turned its back on us and we are in for a difficult time.”

“What about the wedding?” my mother and I chorused.

“You will just have to carry on without me, I am sorry, I will help if I can, but I am going to be very busy right now,” he replied.

My mother had to carry the burden of the wedding arrangements, all of which kept changing as people found they could not offer the services or products they had promised, due to sanctions. My father was often away on business trips to undisclosed destinations, sometimes only coming home to sleep.

The wedding day arrived and instead of being driven from my parents’ home in the countryside to the church in a white Jaguar as originally planned, we all had to go into town to the bridesmaid’s house to get dressed and her father drove us to the church in his Morris. A few guests cancelled as they did not have enough petrol, as this commodity was now rationed with coupons, but most made it to the church and the reception. This was held in the Highlands Presbyterian Church hall, the foundation classroom for the new Borrowdale School I had attended as a child. Family and friends had pulled out all stops to make sure

Deryn with her father, Robert Cherer Smith

we had everything we needed so we forgot about the problems and my father was able to walk me down the aisle.  ‘I’ve been dreaming of this day and how proud I’d be, when she came walking down the aisle and held out her hand to me,’ my dream wedding had materialised at last and we enjoyed the day.


We rode off into the sunset for our honeymoon on a 150cc Honda motorbike, heading for a cottage in the Inyanga Mountains. At times when the road was too steep I would have to get off the pillion and walk up the hill as the engine could not cope, but at least we had enough petrol to get us the 300 miles to our destination.

On our return to Salisbury we were confronted with the news that our marriage may not be valid as the British government was not recognising any marriages conducted by ‘illegal’ officials. We did not allow this to worry us and learned to live with the sanctions and shortages. People stood together and there was a real sense of community in solving problems resulting from sanctions. We had two beautiful children, again we had difficulty trying to register them as British citizens as Rhodesia was not recognised and they had to be registered as Rhodesians. We often joked with them that they were illegal. They are now grown up and immigrated to counties around the world and are now citizens of their adopted countries.

Who would believe that politicians’ decisions could have such an impact on your family life and your dream wedding?

© Deryn van der Tang 2015

Posted in Travel



I was visiting my son’s new in-laws getting to know the family who lived in the small town of Rantesalmi in Karelia, Eastern Finland in May 2008. Sirkka (Phillip’s mother-in-law had previously visited me in South Africa to learn our culture, now it was my turn to experience theirs.

The day started with a breakfast of oats porridge with berries, rye bread and cheese/ham bl4trfinland2-001with cucumber and tomato and a cup of coffee after which we set off for the summer cottage. This cottage is built on the edge of Lake Haarpaselkä in a lovely forest setting with birch trees and various pine or fir trees growing right down to the side of the lake. Upstairs the wooden cabin had space for two single beds and two sets of double beds under the eaves.  Downstairs the living room was equipped with sleeper couch, a sink, a gas and wood stove.  The entrance hall led into the anteroom of the sauna where buckets of water from the lake were stored.  There was no running water at that time, but the cottage has since been renovated and now has a kitchen with running water.  Through the anteroom was the sauna which consisted of wooden seating racks and a wood fired stove, with stones on top and a water cylinder to the side. (This is used for hot water purposes in the household as well).  The sauna has also been replaced with the upgrade to the cabin and is now in a separate building about thirty meters away.  There was a front porch running along the length of the house with steps leading into the garden.
The outhouse some 10 meters away from the main cabin consisted of a bio-toilet and storerooms.  There was no running water in the toilet either and it had a container at the back filled with ‘forest floor’ material and a scoop, so after using the toilet you just put a scoop of the biodegradable material on the top and eventually it turns into compost.

blg4trfinland1-001The other structure near to the cabin was a wigwam-like building which was the outdoor cooking area used in bad weather. It had a fireplace in the middle of the floor with a chimney that went up through the middle of the structure to let out the smoke.  There was seating around the perimeter of the fire and a table at the side for working on. There was an open hearth (braai) area near the lake for better weather. This too has been replaced with a more modern but similar structure.

After settling in and looking around we had coffee/tea on the front porch served with delicious Karjalanpiirakka, a rye pastry filled with baked rice porridge, which is a traditional Karelian snack.  Such a beautiful environment enticed to do some exploring and sketching.

We ate a cold lunch of smoked bream and salad as well as a baked potato, onion, cheese bl4trfinland5-001and asparagus dish which was cooked in foil over the coals in the wigwam.  Later we went into the wigwam whilst the coals were still hot to cook pancakes on the open fire. The pan is on the end of a long handle and the pancakes are made individually by each person.  We then ate them with homemade raspberry jam.  Delicious!


After the meal we rested and I did some drawing and painting in Sirkka and Osmo’s visitor’s book. Later, Osmo cut some vaasti (leafy birch twigs) for the sauna.  He then had his sauna after which we ate rye bread, salads, cheese/ham and a cup of tea before Osmo went home.  After he had gone home it was Sirkka’s and my turn to sauna.  The water had been carried up from the lake and the fires lit.  First we had to strip in the anteroom and take a plastic sheet to sit on.  We entered the sauna room and sat on the top wooden rack.  The procedure was to wet ourselves all over with cold water. Sirkka just went and jumped in the lake, I wasn’t that brave so used water in a basin that was there for that purpose.  Sirkka then threw water on the hot stones which sent a wave of steam through the room.  She held the vaasti over the stones and again threw water over them.  This had the effect of wilting the leaves and sending a up a lovely aroma of green tree into the closed room.  We then sat and slapped ourselves all over with the vaasti (not hard) which was quite nice001 as it was reasonably soft and stimulated the circulation.  After a few more scoops of water onto the rocks the room was VERY hot and Sirkka said it was now time to jump into the lake.  I went down to the lake, but it was very cold, so I only went in ankle deep. I have since got braver and enjoy swimming in the cold water!  We went back to the sauna where we steamed some more.  She went back to the lake a few more times, but said I should get washed and dressed as I was not yet used to this!

bl4tr-finland6-001After enjoying the sauna and getting dressed we then lit the outside braai fire and had a glass of wine (it was Sirkka’s birthday) and toasted sausages over the fire.  We sat and watched the sun setting over the lake with its rays turning the lake to gold – it was magnificent.  God sent a special birthday gift, a rainbow appeared and was reflected in the lake, this was really a remarkable occurrence and we commented on the fact that it was God’s promise to us.  The sun set around 11.00pm (but the sky was still light as it does not move far off the horizon at this time of the year.  We went to bed and I was woken at 4.30 am with the sun shining brightly in my window, ready for another day of learning Finnish culture.

Posted in Creativity

Millenium Poem

I thought it might be appropriate at the beginning of this year to re-visit a poem I wrote on the eve of the turn of the century when I reflected on what had gone before and what was to come and the meaning of life. The Millenium was seen in by a wonderful family gathering at ‘Spier’ Wine Farm in the Western Cape, South Africa, when family from all over the world gathered together to celebrate this momentous event. Some family members have passed on since that day and some have been born and so the cycle of life continues.


The years have come, the years have gone
Love has blossomed, withered and died
Love re-born, the spirit new inside,
Youth and passion have burnt out
But the flame of faith burns on
Eternal hope, eternal love, part of the whole
Meaning of existence imprinted on my soul.

Life is a journey to be lived
Not for self, but to be a light
For travellers in the way at night
Youth and passion rule today
My spark of faith to light their flame
That through the years will guide their soul
To eternal love and hope made whole.

©Deryn van der Tang
31st December 1999
Revised 5th January 2017

Posted in History

The Child Bride

Sophie looked at Joseph, the lines on his face had deepened, and life in London was certainly getting worse. There had been the constant anxiety of the French invasion last year. This was so much harder for him as he was an émigré and people were suspicious of him. Although he hid it, he could not change his French soul and she worried about him. They had made their place in London Society and she was an exemplary hostess to the small circle of her father’s business associates, but they were a pretty snobbish lot and she felt for Joseph as he struggled to fit in.

Her father, Richard Noble, was working harder than ever, he had to expand his carpentry business as there was a boom in the ship building industry. Britain had increased her output of ’ships of the line’ and more wood and carpenters were needed to supply the shipyards. It was necessary to have an enormous fleet of ships to outdo the French in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Baltic and the English Channel as the threat of war was on all sides. It was not only for the war, but ships were needed to transport slaves and to send convicts to Australia, as well as prison hulks for captives.  People were employed making all the necessary items for war mongering, smelting, blacksmiths, rope makers, carpenters, weavers, tailors and all their associated trades. The mechanisation of a lot of these tasks was also causing unrest at home and women and children were exploited as cheap labour in the new sweat factories. The army had to be fed and clothed; they required arms and the ships had to be fast and well equipped to spend months at sea.facebook_1481569258078

Richard had had to borrow money from Hoare’s Bank to expand his business, but now the banks were in trouble as there was huge government debt to pay for the war and the lines of credit were being cut. Richard was concerned that the bank would go under and all his debt be called in.

Sophia had had her own sorrows to bear; she had lost two more children not long after they were born. She was pregnant again and so badly wanted to keep this child, so she rested a lot.  Marianne took over quite a bit of the household responsibilities to help Sophie through these difficult times. Marianne was growing up into a fine young lady; she helped to entertain her parent’s guests and lent a hand in the kitchen when necessary, although they employed the services of a cook and housekeeper.

Sophie played her part too in alleviating the distress of the poor.  She would send Marianne and the cook out to deliver food parcels to those elderly folk she knew that lived in her neighbourhood who were ill and could not feed themselves. The daily grind was a struggle for most people and London was no longer a safe place to live as people turned to crime to survive. The law was bl3cherer-rental-001pretty harsh, the prisons were overcrowded and a person could be transported to Botany Bay for just stealing a loaf of bread. Sophia counted her blessings and was thankful for such a loving husband as Joseph, although she felt she was the one having to hold things together most of the time as he did not have the confidence to voice his opinions and make his own way in London Society.

Funds were running low and even Sophie’s father Richard was battling financially as he had to borrow a lot of money to supply wood to the shipbuilders.  Amongst those he owed money to was a ship builder James Smith, who worked on both building and repairing the ships of the line.

James was a tall and sinewy young man of 28 years old and a hard worker.  His mother was of Norwegian descent and his father was a post office clerk.  He was born in 1782 just before the American War of Independence.  He had gone to a Boy’s Commercial School in London where he had learnt bookkeeping, navigation and shipbuilding skills before serving his apprenticeship on board the ‘’Minataur,” he knew his trade well and was more often than not at sea repairing ships.  The war was also taking its toll on him. After months at sea when the cold salty spray drenched him and he was tired and hungry, he would look at his rough chapped hands and long for the warmth of a home, a good meal and the tender hands of a woman to care for him. Most men of his age were already married, but this infernal war had kept him far away from any eligible young ladies as he had little time on shore to find himself a wife.

When his ship the ‘Argonaut’ docked at Portsmouth he was determined to make the most of his shore leave.  Richard Noble owed him money and he was headed to Woodbridge to go and collect his dues. He was negotiating with Richard about what money he was owed when he said half-jokingly,

“I am looking for a wife”.

Richard ever the businessman thought for a bit and said,

“Aah, I have a granddaughter; maybe if you find her acceptable, we can come to some arrangement with the payment!”


James stood and knocked on the door of the house in Kensington, the housekeeper opened the door.

“I am looking for Mr and Mrs Cherer”, he said “I have a letter for them from Mr Noble.”

“Come in I will take you to the parlour”, the housekeeper ushered him in.

bl3marianewedding-certAfter greeting Joseph and Sophia and introducing himself, James felt a bit awkward handing Joseph the letter from Richard requesting they consider this proposal. He looked coyly around the room to see if the daughter was there.  He looked at his feet and fidgeted.

“Please sit down and we will send for a cup of tea for you while we discuss this letter” said Joseph.

Joseph and Sophia discussed the letter in private, both thought Marianne was too young, but sometimes desperate times required desperate measures and Marianne was an extra mouth to feed and clothe, they would have to marry her off sooner or later they reasoned. Joseph wanted her to marry well to a good provider as he had little to offer as a dowry. They were dependent on Richard’s good will to keep them in London, so it was decided to entertain James and introduce him to Marianne who was now 14 years old.

Her bright blue eyes sparkled and she held her head well. James watched Marianne as she helped her mother and the cook; he saw she was a competent young lady.  After dinner as was the custom she played the piano. To his hungry eyes she was delightful as her dark hair shone in the soft candlelight and the smooth skin of her face glowed softly.  He looked at her lips pursed in concentration as she played her piece on the piano; the notes became soundless as he desired her more than anything right now, she was young, so very young and vulnerable. When she had finished playing James sat next to her on the sofa.  Sophia busied herself in the corner of the Drawing Room with some embroidery giving the young people some time to get to know each other.

bl3entry-in-parish-register-001James visited the Cherer’s every day and courted Marianne; she was flattered by his attention and found him to be courteous and a gentleman. Her parents had told her it was her duty to be married as they still had the burden of providing for her three brothers that needed to be educated, money was very tight right now and James would be a good provider for her. At the end of the week James spoke to Joseph and asked for Marianne’s’ hand in marriage.  Joseph was heartbroken as he loved his daughter, she was his French soul, his Marianne, his voice of ‘liberty and reason’, but he knew that Sophia’s father held the upper hand – he owed everything he owned in this country to Richard – now he was being asked to offer up his only daughter as a sacrifice on the altar of obligation.  He assented to the marriage with heavy heart.

The eighteenth of July 1810 dawned bright and sunny. Sophia dressed Marianne in her best silk dress and packed all her other clothes into a leather case, she tried her best to explain to Marianne what to expect. Marianne felt anxious and excited at the same time; butterflies in her stomach made her feel light headed as she entered the church. Sophia and Joseph escorted Marianne into the old Anglo-Saxon church of St Giles in Camberwell, Southwark, with its stone walls and crammed box pews. They took their place in the Lady Chapel in the south transept. James was waiting there with the License he had purchased and as they took their vows he promised he would take good care of his child bride. The marriage was witnessed by Sophia, giving her consent as Marianne was under age.  Joseph could not sign, his heart was broken.

churchAfter the wedding tea at her parents’ house, James and Marianne set off for Portsmouth as James was due to sail on the ‘Argonaut’, and so Marianne was thrust roughly into adulthood as she waved her parents goodbye. Joseph turned away with tears in his eyes as they disappeared from view. ‘Poor child, tonight she will be a woman’, he sobbed to himself. Sophia held him close. They comforted one another, she too felt for the child’s pain, life was harsh these days.

Posted in Travel

Right Royal Adventures


David an avid follower of Her Majesty, subscribes to the Daily Mail, gets the latest Royal gossip, news and checks the Court Calendar.  He can tell you anything you might want to know about Balmoral, Sandringham,
Windsor and Buckingham Palace.
Every year he books tickets in January to attend the Ride into Ascot in June.

David has a heart of gold, using these tickets to give elderly folk from Bedford the opportunity to see the Queen. I was thrilled when he invited me to attend the event this year as well.

bl3queens-ticketWe set off early on Thursday 18th June 2015, an appropriate day, as it would have been my Mother’s 100th birthday had she lived another 7 months. It was also the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

On arrival we stopped at the Windsor Farm shop for a cup of coffee and comfort break. The security officer at the gate into Windsor Estate remembered David from his visit on Tuesday. We drove along Dukes Road watching the Queens Derbyshire cattle grazing in the open fields on either side of the road.

We found the designated fenced off area and bagged our picnic spot opposite a specific oak tree where David said we would get a good view of the Queen getting into her carriage about six meters away.

Security officers walked up and down talking to the small crowd of about a hundred people. While we were waiting David interrogated the police officers regarding their equipment and the sniffer dogs.   They told him they spoke to the crowds, wore bullet proof vests and wore equipment on their webbing belts. They showed us a pepper spray, whistle and heavy fold up truncheon which we were allowed to hold. I think they also wear a small camera these days that can transmit pictures whilst they are chatting to the crowds. David asked a policeman whether there was a special unit to guard the Queen. He said they could apply to be on the Queens Guard duty and security but it had no more monetary value than regular policing.

bl3footment-2Once the scarlet decked footmen arrived in their vehicle David chatted to them. He asked the tall one what job he did and was told he walked the corgis. He stood right behind the Queen on the coach. We chatted to another group of footmen, one was a girl, another a young man from Switzerland. The third one recognised David from previous years so they chatted about his duties, he said it was just like any regular job he did not have very much spare time. They have special livery for Windsor and other colours for Balmoral and Sandringham. Their uniforms are quite old and refurbished. Their black hats are quite heavy; some of them have had a number of owners whose names could be seen on the inside lining.  David was not shy to ask the security officer about risk, he was told it was not the crowd, but rather the open areas. A helicopter circled overhead searching the surrounding areas with infra-red heat to detect anyone hiding in the bushes. Several private carriages with people dressed to the hilt drove by before the Queens procession; apparently you can get a package deal which includes all the frills, champagne and carriage, if you can afford it at about £1000.00 per ticket!

bl3carraige-2The Queen’s cousin arrived dressed in mauve to supervise the order of the horses and carriages. Magnificent grey horses pulled the Queens’s carriage, the other two coaches were drawn by brown horses. Eventually the car containing the Royals arrived and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen wearing an aquamarine outfit, Edward and Eugenie alighted and climbed into their carriage. Princess Anne, Sophie and Beatrice followed in the other two carriages. Thebl3carraige-1 two front outriders faced the Queen’s carriage while she transferred from the motor, once she was in the carriage they turned around and the procession was off.   We had an excellent view from our vantage point.

bl3queen-getting-into-carraigebl3the-queens-grey-horsesOnce the procession had gone, we headed back down the road past the Lodge where Prince Edward lives. David drove up to a gate that leads into the Estate; it suddenly opened. David said he had never been there before so decided to explore and we drove through. The road wound up to the Bronze Horse where we stopped to take photos. From this vantage point we looked at Windsor Castle which stood in all its glory at the end of a very long ride. We returned to the Windsor Farm Store for a cup of tea on the way back and had a meander around the Store where we could have bought meat and produce from the Estate before heading home.

18th June 2015

Deryn van der Tang©

Posted in Creativity


This poem was written the year after I left school, I was obviously torn between two boyfriends at the time, but cannot remember who they were. They must have engendered sufficient passion for me to have worked it out in poetry! (Not particularly good poetry at that!)


Wild are the mountains
Wild is the sea
but my soul remains calm
as calm as the heaven of blue
But lo!
The thunder and lightning splits the sky
like my soul now in torment
Divided, between two loves.

How beautiful, how cruel
My tormented soul is torn in conflict.
Who will aid this shipwrecked soul
A hand to help ashore?
No help – but calm
collect the driftwood
Re-build this life,
For what?

To be shattered again by the waves of love.

With the mast set
we’ll sail ahead to a better land afar.
Be content with the love you have
or you will sail into an iceberg.

D E Smith 1963