I did it. I joined the Boss Queue. On Thursday I completed The Queue to see the lying in state of the late Queen. From social media reactions to the posts it seems people would like more info. So here’s a quick brain dump that I hope some of you may find of use/interest.
For reference – I joined The Queue at 12:15pm at Shad Thames on Thursday and entered the Hall at 19:48pm.
GETTING THERE: I used the YouTube Queue Tracker and What Three Words to get the exact end of the Q and get there as quickly as possible.
PACKING: check latest DCMS guidance but you can’t take in flowers or tributes and only a small bag. No liquids (including makeup and hand sanitizer) or food. I took a prawn sandwich, filled water bottle and pack of custard creams for the wait. Fully charged mobile phone and anker phone charger. Loo paper for portaloos. Two books (Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker, Life After Dark – Dave Haslem – neither of which did I read at all but if you think you may get reading do take a head torch if you will be queuing when dark).
STARTING QUEUEING: within a few minutes of the start of the Long Wait you will find your near neighbours start making polite introductions. As far as I could make out this was a universal experience in the Q.
These become your firm Queue Friends and will have your back for everything from keeping an eye out for you when you go to the loo to protecting you from an unexpected ‘hello’ from Nigel Farage.
Your Queue Friends will also re-affirm the truism that Every Single Human has an amazing life story and is full of kindness and fun.
THE WRISTBANDS: yes, after you Start Queueing you realise this is but the Q to join The Queue and only at the point you are given a coloured/numbered wristband do you officially have a place in The Queue. For me this happened at the end of a holding pen by Tower Bridge but may happen at other points depending on how long the Q is.
LOOS: the one thing everyone obsesses over before joining The Queue. They are dotted all along the Q and you don’t need to worry. Best to hold on till you have your wristband – because then Q re-entry is easy. But you find that everyone in The Q has a very finely attuned sense of who is where by them so even then it should be easy to re-join at your spot.
PRO TIP: the National Theatre and Globe both have really nice loos open for Queuers. I understand other places in the cultural bit are also open – but these two are also close to their entrances.
QUEUE PROGRESS: in many ways the Q is like a very slow but absolutely fascinating walking historical tour of London. People take photos all the way along – including the street signs put up about The Queue itself.
My Queue Friends and I created a Whatsapp group to share photos and one lady I taught to take selfies which she then sent to her relatives all over the world. Sometimes the Queue goes so fast you can barely keep up the pace. TBH we had a lot of laughs. Like A LOT. Spoke about our lives and what brought us to The Queue.
FOOD & DRINK: most people bring enough to keep them going. I had half a pack of custard creams left at the end. But there are loads of coffee shops and food vans along the way – especially along the Southbank. There’s a final coffee shop actually in the park at the palace of Westminster – I really liked the coffee in the coffee shop right next to the river just before you cross Lambeth Bridge.
FINISHING STRAIT: at Westminster Bridge they warn you it will take 3-4 hours from there and you wonder how. It’s the bit in the park next to the palace of Westminster. There are TWO huge zig zag pens here – which take around 2hours – even though they are constantly moving. After that it’s a thorough security check and phones off and you finally enter the hall.
THE MOMENT: yes, it is beautifully solemn and moving. From looking at the Q you might think that most people are in small family or friend groups but my experience was that most people were alone but forged strong bonds with neighbours in the Q. By the time the Hall usher asks who you are with – we all claimed our Queue Friends as our tribe and entered in the same line. Everyone has their brief stop by the coffin, alone with their thoughts for the first time that day. I was struck by the magnificence of the guards, heads bowed, the shiniest of buttons and the plumiest of feathers.
AFTERMATH: The Queue Friends all hugged outside and took photos of Big Ben to show the time. We thanked each other for sharing this day and wished each safe travels.
HOME SUPPORT: I could not have done this without David taking care of the kids and generally encouraging me. I also started some Whatsapp group chats with my mates and they were hilarious. They were all watching out for me on the livestream. One of them video called me to show her kids Queue Life.
So in summary: like most of us, I spend a lot of time doomscrolling social media and despairing at the state of everything. In The Queue I found supportive companionship with random strangers and was reminded of the basic human kindness in all of us. It was fun and life affirming and I felt I had participated in a piece of history.
I feel all those VIPs that have a fast track in to the Hall are really missing the point of it all – as well as a lot of fun. It was a jolly day.