Audrey Chalk, a resident of Bailey House in Alresford, Hampshire, recalls her memories of the Queen’s coronation, where she was a volunteer for the St John Ambulance service.
“I was involved with the St John Ambulance from quite an early age. I had done a number of events and, as I was quite tall, I usually had to march out and be the marker for everyone else to follow. I jumped at the chance to be on duty in London for the Queen’s coronation.
"I remember having to get up very early to catch the Tube into town from Mitcham, where I lived at the time. There was a lot of waiting around but when we got there the troops were already lined up along The Mall.
"When we walked along everybody cheered and waved their flags. We then heard over the tannoy that Sir Edmund Hilary had climbed Mount Everest, so of course there was even more cheering! The atmosphere was terrific – I don’t think I’ve ever experienced the likes of it before or since.
"My brother was in the Royal Horse Guards at the time, so I saw him coming down on his horse, getting absolutely drenched by the rain. When he got home later that day, his legs were navy blue where the dye had been washed out of his uniform!
"Back in Mitcham we had a party in our little cul-de-sac, and someone managed to bring along a piano for a singalong. Rationing was still a part of life, but we managed to scrape together enough for a good time.
"I’ve always been interested in the Royal Family. Hampton Court was just down the road from where I lived in Mitcham, and I’ve been on a tour of Buckingham Palace more recently. I got to walk down a long corridor, the one featured in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony – so I can say I’ve followed in the footsteps of Her Majesty and James Bond!
"When I moved to Alresford in 1955, after getting married to my husband Pete, I took work at the local pub, which was one of the first gastro-pubs around in those days. Food and drink turned out to be my calling. I later became a dinner-lady at the local school and eventually had my own catering company. I got my grandchildren to help with the cooking and two of them are now chefs themselves, so I guess you could say I’ve left a legacy.
"I’ve made a real home in Alresford and I’m involved in the horticultural society, the church, the community centre – basically everything that’s going. I have hundreds of friends, I know everyone, and everyone knows me. In fact, at one point I worked part-time here at Bailey House, so it was a no-brainer when it was time to move last November. I knew some of the staff and the residents here already, so I realized very quickly it was what I wanted.
"I’m very happy here – I have my own space, there’s great food and I get on well with the other residents. I can do what I want to do and it really feels like home. There’s also a lovely garden, so we’re looking forward to celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee in June with a barbeque."