Friday 22 February 2013: the excitement was palpable. Crowds gathered outside Uley Community Stores well before noon. The security was evident, police watchful to keep the store forecourt clear for a parking space as the press converged with cameras and lenses abutting elbows and noses.
Such a cold day, but the crowd swelled and the children from Uley Primary School and Uley Under 5s Playgroup arrived, carrying hand-made flags and gifts for the Prince. Where would they stand? Somehow they were accommodated near the store with a clear view.
Inside the store, UCS committee members and volunteers were organising themselves into a greeting party surrounded by cameras and journalists. Have we ever had so many people in our little shop?!
Oh goodness, how were we supposed to address him? Curtsey-shake-bow? Or shake-curtsey-nod head?
As Prince Charles’ car pulled up and he alighted, we nervously opened the door and waited for Peter Randall to bring HRH in. He got distracted by Class 1: “Have you all escaped?”, he asked them. “What do you come in the shop to buy?” he quizzed them again. “Chocolate!”, shouted Ava. HRH chatted to Class 1 teacher, Miss Priest for a few minutes. The crowd continued to cheer.
Peter escorted the Prince into the shop. Any nerves were soon dispelled as the professional took over the situation and put us all at our ease. He shook hands, asked questions, listened intently and moved through the shop with his PR team like a well-oiled machine. Chris Bebbington discussed her husband’s life with sea slugs, Angela Haddrell showed him round the shop (he did ask about Duchy goods, but as Angela pointed out, one would have to go to Waitrose for those!), Cathy White presented him with a delicious lemon drizzle cake made by Mary Pape and then the door was opened again and he left to join the cheering crowd outside.
He tugged down the union jack flag unveiling our plaque for all to see, to a great cheer from the crowd. He chatted to village dignitaries such as Rev Diana Crooke, David Warren, school head teacher, Parish Council representatives, supporters from the Plunkett Foundation and GRCC.
He circulated round the crowd of onlookers, relaxed, chatting away to villagers, including the veterans, for quite some time.
And then he was gone. It was over so quickly but as the fervour resonated through the valley, locals bought our commemorative mugs and our Facebook page spiked.