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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Cheers greet Windsor walkabout
By Lucy Wilkins
BBC News in Windsor

The flags were for sale as soon as you stepped off the Windsor train, the bunting was strung up and the royal watchers were out in force.
Crowds in Windsor with the Queen
After hours waiting, for many it was just a glimpse of the pink hat

For today was a prime queen-spotting occasion - her 80th birthday.

Crowds had gathered from early morning for a glimpse of her, many with bouquets and birthday cards.

They were being watched not only by camera crews and photographers but also police marksmen stationed high on the castle's turrets, binoculars trained on the expectant people.

Many of the well-wishers had found elevated perches - window ledges, bus stops, bollards - from which to see the monarch.

As the crowd grew, a Beefeater band marched down the High Street and school children excitedly waved their union jacks.

For Lucy Gyngell, aged six and three-quarters, her day out from Eton Porney School was a chance to "wave our flags and say long live the Queen".

Lucy Gyngell
Lucy Gyngell thought the Queen had a boring job "replying to letters"

"I saw her on telly once. She spends all her day replying to letters - it's so boring," Lucy said, but thought she was "really good" nonetheless.

Another fan, Sue Hudson, 60, from Docklands, London, also thought she was a "good Queen".

"I think we're lucky to have her and I want to thank her," she said as she tied a large union jack to the crowd barriers.

She said she had tried to think of 80 words to describe the Queen, starting with loyal, hard-working and decent.

"It's quite remarkable that someone with pretty much everything has not been corrupted by it," Sue said.

She clearly remembers when her father bought a television especially to see the Coronation in 1953.

"My mother made little red, white and blue dresses and the whole street came in to watch our TV.

"We still had rationing, we were still recovering from the war, but I remember there were so many pretty things in the shops for the Coronation."

Americans Esther Poteshman, 76, and Arlene Shirman, 75, just happened to be visiting Windsor on a theatre tour at the time of the birthday.

Esther Poteshman and Arlene Shirman
American visitors appreciated the British spectacle

"I think I'll wave my flag when she walks past - after all she is a monarch of a big country," said Mrs Poteshman.

"But to be honest we pay more attention to Tony Blair than the Queen. He's the one with the decision-making power, whereas she has to defer to Parliament."

But they were mildly impressed with Britishness of the royal occasion, saying: "It's a great tourist attraction, it keeps your economy up."

As midday drew near, a ripple of excitement went through the crowd as a officials in military uniform began to gather outside the castle gate, signalling that Her Majesty was about to appear.

From the High Street, it was impossible to hear the rendition of Happy Birthday by the Irish Guards, but those in the crowd sang it again as she neared and one man yelled out "hip, hip, hooray" three times.

There was clapping and plenty of cameras pointed in her direction, but she did seem to walk quite quickly, leaving those in her wake waiting for more.

With crowds at least 10-deep it was near impossible to see anything more than a splash of colour from her hat.

In fact, the band seemed to get more enthusiastic applause than the Queen.

As one man back at Windsor station said: "I got some great pictures of a hat. It was a nice hat though. And the band was great."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the Queen on her birthday walkabout



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