Occasionally life shines upon you and presents opportunities that are too good to resist, and this weekend was one of these days when I was given the opportunity to go aboard the Queens Row barge the Gloriana. Built for the Queens jubilee in 2012 its now operated by a charitable trust charged with promoting use of the River Thames in London.
This weekend it was being used by a charity who had secured its use and had raised tens of thousands of pounds by offering the opportunity to be rowed up the river as an auction prize,fromKingston to the Royal Palace at Hampton Court and back. The volunteer crew press ganged for the afternoon did a magnificent job powering the craft at a leisurely pace to Hampton Court.My connection was with the rowing crew who as a reward for several hours exertion were allowed to invite guests to enjoy the craft for an hour.
You can make your own mind up about the royalty and whether its a good or bad thing. Having visited the Royal Mews, and Palaces, several times and now the Royal Barge, from the point of view of a craftsmen its gives the opportunity to practice your craft at an incredible level which would not be viable in a commercial environment. The Quality of workmanship and attention to detail, and finish is astounding.
No panel is left unadorned, and its painted not a transfer. I had an uncle alas no longer with us who was a professional woodcarver, and he instilled in me an appreciation of carving, and on this boat it is of the highest order, which is then then gilded, polished, and pimped. I could sit, and did, just enjoying the workmanship and skill of those who built her we are told in only 16 weeks a remarkable achievement.
Years ago I worked on the Millennium dome. The Queen was due on New Years Eve, and certain facilities in one of the hospitality suites was earmarked for the Queens exclusive use. Word came down from on high, that once installed no one but no one was to use it on pain of death. Needless to say every builder on the site sneaked in to test it, doing their best to appear nonchalant, whilst furtively glancing left and right to make sure they weren’t spotted , whilst those around made a point of not seeing. As a result I am told it needed to be replaced several times before the opening night. Much to my amusement the same was true on the barge there was a discrete cubicle tucked in the corner of the cabin, but it seems no one can resist sitting on the Royal Throne.