A Very Special Day
November 3rd was one of the most special days of my life, when I was presented with my BEM. This award could not have happened without the efforts behind the scenes of those people who were kind enough to put my name forward. All recipients are nominated by members of their community, in secret. I may never know who organised the letters of support, who wrote them, or what they said, so this is my opportunity to say a huge thank you to them all.
I first received notification by email in May 2020 that I was being awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queens’ Birthday Honours. My immediate reaction was that it was a scam and I very nearly deleted it. Just as well I didn’t because you only get a short time to accept! You can imagine my reaction when I found it was genuine. I have since met others who also thought they were being scammed – we have become a suspicious nation! The hardest part was the instruction not to tell anyone, including my family, until the official announcement. Normally this would be June but, because of Covid and the wish to include nominees who had made a difference during the pandemic, we had to wait until October. Imagine sitting on such a secret for so long. Along with the delight of my family, I have received so many messages of congratulations and I am very grateful for those good wishes.
The BEM was created by George V in recognition of community service and is presented by the Lord Lieutenant of the county. There will also be an invitation to a Royal Garden Party. However, Covid put all presentations on hold and goodness only knows when a Garden Party may happen – they must have an enormous backlog. Something to look forward to. i waited to be notified of a presentation date, so imagine my panic when I had a phone call asking why I hadn’t replied to the invitation to the ceremony. I hadn’t received one (it was lost in the post), this was Friday afternoon and the event was to be the following Wednesday! I was allowed to invite 3 guests but with little time to organise time off work so it looked as if my two sons might not be there. My wonderful hairdresser, managed to organise a slot for me. Thank you to those people who moved theirs to allow me to have my first haircut since early 2020. I have been chopping at it myself so it was certainly not looking its best. Then there was the hasty shopping expedition for something suitable to wear. No hats were required which helped. A lovely lady in a shop in Holt went through the rails, pulled of a dress she felt was right and it was perfect. Dave is still reeling from how quickly I was sorted – not his normal clothes shopping experience.
The final stroke of good fortune was that both sons were able to get the day off work, though the elder one could only manage the afternoon at such short notice. My younger son lives in Wales, he broke the long journey at his brother’s near Cambridge and they then travelled together to meet Dave and me in Norwich. Sadly, there was no time for a special lunch together, and we made do with coffee stop before making our way to The Norfolk Club in Upper King Street for 3.30. However, despite the flying visit, it was so lovely to have them both there and very nice to be escorted by three smartly dressed men.
Ten people were there to be presented with the BEM by Lady Dannatt, the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, who acts as representative of the Queen. The Norfolk Club is one of the Norwich gems you may have walked past and not noticed; it is a lovely Georgian building. We were ushered into a room hung with interesting old oil paintings; a small classical ensemble played music in the background. Each citation was read out in alphabetical order by the Deputy Lieutenant before we stepped forward to receive the medal from Lady Dannatt. I was last, being near the end of the alphabet The ladies’ version of the medal has the ribbon in the form of a bow while the men’s version is the long ribbon traditionally seen on medals. My name is inscribed around the edge. It is accompanied by a certificate and various pieces of information, including the ever-practical instructions on insurance. After the ceremony we moved into the library for champagne and nibbles, with a chance to talk to the other recipients and take photos.
All too soon it was time to leave, especially as both sons had to work the next day; my younger son facing the trek back to Wales that evening in not very nice weather. We said our goodbyes and Dave and I set off for home. I did get dinner bought for me; Dave collected fish and chips on our way through Hingham. He knows how to spoil a girl! We got a very brief late night text from Wales – ‘Home. Bed’ – clearly one very tired son.
Once again, thank you so much to everyone. There are plenty of deserving people out there volunteering in our community, so why not think of showing appreciation by nominating someone.