In 1977 I joined the Royal Household staff as a Kitchen Assistant... Dogsbody to you and me, but to a 19 year old girl, temporarily working on a pig farm until something better came along, this was intriquing enough to apply for. I will admit when I saw the advert in The Sun (not the most up market paper Britain has ever had) I thought it was a joke and wrote a letter applying for the position, not certain whether I had wasted a postage stamp.
I headed off for a long weekend to Paris with the family, not expecting to hear anything else about the job and wondering what to do careerwise, and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the French capital. Nb I actually enjoyed it better when I revisited it in 2000, which shows that sometimes first impressions are not always correct.
When we got home on the Monday afternoon, there on the mat was a thick envelope, with the royal crest on it, inviting me for an interview on Friday. Can I admit to making my Mum phone the 'office' to accept on my behalf.. ::hangs head in shame::
Bless her, Mum even came to London with me, as the interview was at Buckingham Palace, now I don't know whether this was to ensure I went or because she wanted to go, but I was interviewed for over 2 hours and during this time she enjoyed a cup of tea and some generous hospitality from the guys in the Royal Art Gallery adjoining the entrance to the kitchens.
We heard the following Monday that I had got the position (I am not certain who was more delighted, me, my Nan or my Mum... Dad was just glad I had a job at the end of the day), and I was to start the following Monday, reporting for duty by 2pm.
It was my first time working away from home, and I will admit to being a bunch of nerves, but they were very kind to me on arrival, sorting out uniform, dealing with all the paperwork, showing me to my room which overlooked the Mall (well ok if I leaned out far enough I could just about see it) and I was informed I was going to be travelling to Balmoral overnight on the sleeper the following day.
That first night was strange, not being used to the bed, the noise, the fire engines or police racing through the streets at all hours, and not having any official duties on the Tuesday except to unpack and meet the staff.
Below stairs (lowest rung of the ladder) there were some 200 staff, footmen, butlers, maids, chefs, porters, etc... all different levels, but all eating in the main staff dining room. The middle staff (secretaries, clerical staff etc) ate separately to the main staff, and then the upper staff (heads of department etc) ate separately to the middle staff.. who said classes were long dead hadn't met these people.
I was travelling up to Balmoral with four other people, so we were transported to the train station after dinner that evening, our luggage was taken separately and would be waiting at the other end.
The journey up in the sleeper was weird, another new experience, and after than I paid extra to have my own cabin if I wasn't sharing with anothe member of staff as the woman I shared with was intimidating and made me feel like I was invading her space just by being there; I was glad when it came to an end at Aberdeen.
While we waited for transport to Balmoral, we enjoyed a full Scottish Breakfast from a cafe just by the station, another first and it was lovely, just what we needed after a night's travel and I don't recall feeling hungry until much later that day.
Tomorrow.. First Impressions, and news about our Adoption of Salt n Pepper...