If you’ve read my blog page Buckingham Palace, then you’ll know exactly how much getting a “gong” off the Queen really fills me with profound joy. I have visited (inside) the Palace maybe a dozen or more times, once for the Garden Party outlined in that previous blog, and the rest for these 24 years of summer openings. Only in my wildest dreams could I have ever imaged this great honour!
The letter from the Cabinet Office was dated 9th May 2017. That was such a symbolic day for me, as it was the 30th anniversary since I was ordained a Catholic priest, and I had only just published a blog of my memoirs for that day here in WordPress. Early morning the following day, I visited my wonderful GP for the first time in almost 2 years. Twenty-plus years of chronic sinusitis and tonsillitis meant I used to visit her about every month or six weeks; not so since the tonsils came out in 2014. She greeted me “Hello Stranger!” We had a lovely chat and then I set out to go to the pharmacy across the road. I phoned home to tell John what the GP said, and he told me “You’ve got a letter: it looks very important! It says “Cabinet Office” on the outside”. My heart almost missed a beat – was this good news or bad? Might it be about someone I’ve nominated for a gong? Could it be “that” letter to me; a gong? Or was I going to be told off for being rather close to the knuckle, on Twitter, in my criticism of certain politicians at what I see as the #Brexitshambles and #NastyParty lies? I said “Open it carefully with a knife, don’t damage it”. In the end, it’s just a plane envelope with the above two words emblazoned on the front. I urged John to read it. He started “In strict confidence”… At that point my eyes welled-up and I actually leant against a lamp post as my legs turned to jelly. This is what he read to me:
“Her Majesty … graciously pleased”
Over the next few weeks, desperate to tell, but really keeping shtum as required, some days I would be jumping over the moon about the news, other days I would just get on with life and forget all about it: it just didn’t feel real. There were so many friends and colleagues at work I was desperate to tell, but obviously couldn’t. I even laughingly said to one of my doctoral students: “You don’t know how famous I am, do you?” I followed up the joke immediatly with: “I’m Googleable!”
The news is held in strict confidence until published in the London Gazette at 22.30 on the evening before The Queen’s official birthday, 17th June. My eldest sister Amy was due to come up for a couple of weeks on Monday 19th, so that John and I could have a few day’s holiday. Amy will look after our doggies for us. So I asked her to rearrange and come up on the Friday before she was due (the date the announcement goes live). She’s a very young and sprightly 13 years older than me, but she’s never been to Trooping. She watches it most years on the TV, so she was elated at the thought of coming up for that very special experience. Little does she realise what the bottle of Champaign in the fridge is going to be opened for, on that Friday night. I told her she can help me put up a huge display of flags outside the house, and loads of bunting, of course. She thinks I am going a bit OTT (for Trooping), as I usually only do that for major Royal jubilees.
On The Queen’s 64th anniversary of Coronation (2nd June), I was in Prague, actually. I made the video below, telling you all about the news, but obviously having to embargo its release until that magic moment at 22.30 hrs BST on 16th inst.
Was it YOU?!
So I still don’t know who nominated me – I wish I did. Was it one of my dear friends? Might it have been someone at work, at the University of Greenwich? Whoever it was, I thank you a million times over! To be honest, I never thought I would be awarded such an honour. I’ve nominated someone so I know exactly what the forms are like. There’s one section that must be filled in, towards the bottom of the page. It asks about charitable work the person does. What time for charity work have I got with a demanding job requiring unswerving excellence! So I joke to friends that the only charitable thing I’ve got time to do is to speak nicely about so many of you!
As I sit here in my hotel room in Prague, watching Freddie Mercury impersonators on Russian TV, and writing this blog, I take pleasure in uploading the vlog I made yesterday, on the actual anniversary day of The Queen’s 64th anniversary. Here it is …
Since making the video on 2nd June, I now know who nominated me, and here’s a word of gracious appreciation to Dr Karen Cleaver (my line manager) and Dr Linda Burke (Pro-Vice Chancellor): a “thank you” video is linked here to them both, from Trooping The Colour ceremony 2017.
Maybe I shouldn’t show this, but Karen and Linda’s nomination kindly said:
Click the link to see the University of Greenwich announcement on the OBE Award announcement.
Next steps and important dates:
Friday 16th June, at 22.30hrs BST, when the news of the Appointment officially goes live at www.gazette.co.uk I can tell you all and release this page. Then on Saturday 17th June, The Queen’s Official Birthday – Trooping The Colour – I’ll go to the ceremony, with Amy. As the letter from the Cabinet Office states, sometime before December 2017 – with just five week’s notice – John and I will attend the Investiture, at Buckingham Palace. Then sometime after that, I take receipt of the very large parchment certificate, my Royal Warrant of Appointment to:
of the Most Excellent Order
of the British Empire
“for services to nursing and sexual health education”