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The BBC's Jennie Bond
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 real 56k

Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Royal diehards soak up birthday spirit
Jennifer Hawkins and Terry Hutt camped outside Buckingham Palace
Another night under canvas awaits die-hard fans
By BBC News Online's Dominic Bailey

Tarpaulins, brollies and sleeping bags were hurriedly erected to keep flags and banners dry as the skies opened outside Buckingham Palace.

But rain-soaked well-wishers on the Victoria memorial showed the resilience and spirit they believe is embodied by the woman they are waiting to wish Happy Birthday to - the Queen Mother.

Martin Buckley, Elaine Gaffney (right) Alvine Pearce
Alvine flies the flag for the Queen Mum
Tourists hurrying back to dry hotels after watching the Changing of the Guard vowed to return in their thousands for the official celebrations on Friday.

For the die-hard fans, the party starts with another night under canvas to ensure the best view of the nation's favourite grandmother.

Mad for it

Alvine Pearce, who has left her husband running their snooker club business in Gloucester, admits most people think she's mad for camping out on Thursday.


You don't appreciate what you have

Royal fan Cheryl Bernstein
But says she would not miss the Queen Mother's 100th birthday for the world.

"She is a real Royal, she always has a smile and never lets anyone down," she said.

She first stumbled across the celebrating crowds outside Clarence House in 1979 and has been back ever since.

Her friend Elaine Gaffney, laden with flasks, blankets, hooters and banners, is waiting to sing Happy Birthday to a woman she respects.

"She always sticks to her principles," she said. "I know she has had the best of everything but the woman has guts and you can see it all over her."

The matriarch

The ladies, decked out with Union Flags, were not alone in their dedication and admiration.

Cheryl Bernstein, 39 has flown from Minnesota, USA, to celebrate the Queen Mother's birthday since 1984.
Janet Carter and Cheryl Bernstein
Cheryl Bernstein (right) joins Janet Carter after flying from the US

She met up with familiar faces sheltering from the rain waiting for another Royal occasion.

"We love her and admire her," she said.

"She is the matriarch. Over here you don't appreciate what you have."

Fellow Royal occasion veteran and retired carpenter Terry Hutt, 65, from Waltham Abbey, Essex, picked his spot for the celebrations on Wednesday night.

"She was my Queen when I was a little boy and I met her when I was five during the Blitz on North London," he said.

"I have been coming here seven years, it's to catch up on lost time.

"I always wanted to meet her and when I do she says "thank you for coming," she is just a nice person."

Generations celebrate

Sharing a step for the night but generations apart, Barbara Kewell, 80, from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, joined the family of Zoe Maidment, three, who first celebrated the Queen Mother's birthday 97th birthday as a baby.

Barbara Kewell, 80
Following the Queen Mother as a role model
Mrs Kewell said she had been coming to see the Queen Mother's birthday since 1983.

"I am 20 years younger than the Queen Mum, but I feel like I've really grown up with her," she said.

"It's very reassuring. Things in her life seem to parallel mine."

But Royal memorabilia collector Greg Paxton, 44, from Middlesex, was the only one of the fans to dare to mention the real reason why this year is so special.

"She is a nice lady who has reached 100," he said.

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See also:

17 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Queen Mother film planned
17 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Womble honour for Queen Mother
15 Jul 00 | Scotland
Picture tribute to Queen Mother
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