I began working with Blind Veterans a little while ago. I was originally taken on to support a particular member who had enjoying art before his sight was affected and wanted to pick this back up. I've actually ended up working with several different members and have set up the 'Culture Club' which is a group of members interested in arts, crafts and culture; who meet every so often to either do an activity or visit somewhere.
This year, it is Blind Veteran's 100th Birthday! There have already been many celebrations all over the country and with our different centres in Brighton, Sheffield and Wales. But it's all come down to the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace!
A little while ago, I was sent a letter asking if I'd like to apply to attend the party and whether I'd like to take a guest and I, of course, applied for myself and my Mum. I'd completely forgotten about it when my mental health took a turn for the worse and then there was a posh cursive invitation through my door! There was no mention of a +1 but a few days letter, Mum received her invitation too! - I now have mine framed on my wall of achievements!
Mum did a lot of research before the party into previous occasions and what would be happening at our event but I didn't have a clue. So, when we arrived at Buckingham Palace a few minutes after the gates were due to open, I was shocked to find a massive queue of people waiting to get in! We later found out, there was a little over 5,000 people attending!
It was so surreal to walk in through the main gates and cross the forecourt of the Palace where the guards were stood with their fluffy hats! And it was absolutely beautiful as we rounded the side to come out onto the massive lawn area. I've always said that the sun makes things look prettier and so, I was so happy with how sunny it was! The set up, had another balcony with crowds of members and staff waiting for the Countess of Wessex to come down the steps and greet the particular people chosen to meet her.
There was millions of plastic garden chairs dotted all over the lawn in little huddles, there was a guarded royal tea tent and a marquee of food for everyone else with small table areas to stand and eat at.
After the amazing food, Mum and I walked around the lake and the grounds, which were beautiful! They were so... Unmanicured? Just, natural and I liked that in contrast to the rest of the event.
After our walk, we found some empty chairs near the lake and sat and listened to the brass band who played such a variety of songs from Take That to James Bond! And a pleasant little surprise/treat came in the form of waiters and waitresses walking through the crowd with mini tubs of ice cream for the boiling guests!
I think that a lot of people had the same idea to leave a little early so as to avoid a massive queue to get out. To leave, we were able to walk through the main central hallway of the Palace, through the courtyard and out onto the forecourt where all of the tourists were glued to the gates thinking we were important people! I managed to find Pennie, who I've worked with quite a lot so that was nice, and I met a volunteer and a member of staff from the Brighton centre so that I managed to mention to her that I'd like to visit it and she told me I was more than welcome!
It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience, which I was so happy to share with my Mum, and it's an absolute honour to be part of such an inspiring organisation.
For the fashion savvy out there, my dress is from Cameo Rose at New Look: http://www.newlook.com/shop/womens/dresses/cameo-rose-white-floral-print-cut-out-back-dress_351310819
And my fascinator was a last-minute purchase from M&S: http://www.marksandspencer.com/bow-feather-fascinator/p/p22363059
Even the Guide Dogs dressed the part!
To read my post about my time in London: http://imnotdisordered.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/im-not-disordered-does-london.html
To watch my vlog from the entire trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWPA6X4JR6E