At 8pm this evening the Lindo Wing was on my mind. Would I continue watching the news coverage at home, and ‘Taylor and Burton’ to be aired shortly at 9pm, or take a trip down to Paddington to view history in the making?
I needed food anyway. I decided I’d walk out and see where my mood took me. Throwing some sandals on and slinging a bag across my shoulder, I walked out into the sweltering London heat and found myself ambling increasingly quickly along Little Venice canal.
20 minutes later found me a few metres away from the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington acutely aware of the fact that at moments like this – and there have been a few in the last couple of years – London really does seem like the only place to be.
I looked up at a surly policeman: ‘May I walk down this road please? I’d love to see what’s going on’, I said smiling. He didn’t smile back but nodded in the direction behind him and said, ‘You can walk along there, Love – see how far you get’.
I did – past a steadily growing crowd and an enormous bank of photographers -the likes of which I hadn’t seen since the expectant parents’ wedding celebrations at Buckingham Palace. I struck up a conversation with a Japanese girl. ‘She’s been in labour 16 hours now’, she stated. ‘Really?’ I replied. ‘Yes, the same as Diana was with William’. I asked her if I could go in front of her momentarily to take a photo and she kindly acquiesced.
Moments later I found myself in the press pit with a plum position directly opposite the Lindo wing, and availing of the photographer from Rex Features’ step ladder. ‘As long as you don’t knock my can of Coke off the top of that, you can take a photo’, he said gruffly. I chatted to him and told him my cousin used to work for Rex. ‘Oh yeah? When was that? I’ve been there nine years now’.
At this stage, firmly ensconced with a myriad of photographers from Mexico and Japan to Australia and China, I found myself in conversation with one from the Agence France-Presse (AFP). He’d been there since 8am and was taking instructions from his colleague several rungs up a ladder just to my right. ‘I’m an intern actually’ he said sort of sheepishly. ‘I just finished film studies at Falmouth a week ago’. ‘Wow, you were lucky to get this gig then!’ I said. ‘How did you do?’ I asked. ‘A 2:1’, he replied whilst Pierre shouted at him: ‘Ethan, keep that loaded, I might need the battery in a moment’.
Apple Macs were everywhere and the organised jostling of a paparazzi press pack that took no prisoners were in typically jaded matter-of-fact form. ‘What’s everyone waiting for now?’ a few people asked them. The photographers shrugged their shoulders whilst they mounted their ladders ever higher. Something was afoot, and as usual they knew it before anybody else but they weren’t telling.
A roar went up from the crowd to my left. Cheers rang out and clapping. ‘Oh!!!! It’s a boy! It’s a boy!’ the woman next to me cried. ‘Kensington Palace have just announced it!’ It was too exciting. Along with everybody else, I held my hopelessly inadequate camera phone up just at the moment the Lindor Wing door opened and a smartly suited man descended the stairs carrying what looked like a leather bound folder. He handed it quickly to the waiting Royal car which then sped off carrying the very same announcement that would be placed on an easel outside Buckingham Palace gates not 20 minutes later.
A town crier came out and rang the bells. No one could understand a word he was shouting – such was the jubilation. Then a couple walked past wearing Kate and William masks. ‘Over ‘ere Kate and Wills! Over ‘ere!’ shouted a mass of paps.
I looked at the photographer deeply ensconced on his laptop on my left. He looked familiar. Tapping him on the shoulder I said, ‘We know each other, don’t we?’ We worked out that we’d studied tailoring some years ago together and caught up with what we were doing now.
Just as I realised it couldn’t get any better, I heard a policewoman behind me: ‘Oi, are you Press?’ she shouted. I looked directly at her as I stepped down off my perch for the evening: ‘No, I’m heading; no problem’. I caught a fellow history witnesser’s eye: ‘Well, you had a good long stint up there’, he commented with a smile as I said goodbye to my new pap friends and headed home to watch it all over again on the 10 O’Clock news.