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I CAN CEO Virginia Beardshaw receives CBE from Her Majesty the Queen

“Days out don’t come much more special than one where you get an honour from the Queen – all the more special because she has been I CAN’s patron for the whole of her reign. And  collecting it from her at Windsor Castle made ‘being appointed CBE’, to use the official language, especially wonderful.

Determined to circumvent my husband’s last minute tendencies (his cry of “But I’ve never missed a plane” tells you all you need to know), I had booked us in for breakfast by the Thames at Windsor.  The smooth flowing river in spring sunshine was soothing. In an odd sort of anxiety dream beforehand my hat disintegrated on me, but come the moment I felt calm and ready for anything.

So on went that very hat and the fancy shoes, and up we went to the castle. The early daffodils round the keep delighted me, and morale was boosted by the hearty ‘congratulations’ given by everyone we met.

As a ‘recipient’ I turned left at the top of the stairs, leaving my husband Andrew and our two boys Tom and Laurence to wait in the Waterloo Chamber, entertained by a delightful string orchestra and portraits of all the victors at that memorable battle (lots of uniforms, lots of swords, lots of horses).

I found myself in a grand picture gallery along with some very imposing military men. And – horrors! – I had pinned my mother-in-law’s beautiful brooch exactly where the CBE was meant to go.  Determining that members of the armed forces in full dress uniform would be capable of dealing with this challenge, I asked the friendliest looking one to help.

“You’ve picked the wrong one, I’m an aviator and we are notoriously scruffy” said he, as he dealt deftly with the fiddly catch. It turned out that he was Commander of the Fleet Air Arm. Our aircraft carriers are in safe hands.

A quick rehearsal – yes, two curtsies were expected, and you do have to walk backwards – and we were lining up.  In no time at all I was facing Her Majesty the Queen… I thanked her for all she has done for the charity and for children with speech and language difficulties. She commented sympathetically that there were lots of problems. I replied stoutly that,  yes, but we were keeping going.  It was a proud moment for me, and for the work all of us at I CAN do in supporting children with speech, language and communication needs.

And then I managed the stepping backwards, remembered to curtsey for a second time, and it was over. I hadn’t noticed the Queen pinning on my CBE,  but there it was, its lovely rose coloured ribbon and blue enamel so pretty.

Round to the back of the Waterloo Chamber, I enjoyed the music, the sweeping curtsey of the MBE appointed ‘for services to Ballet’ and the Queen’s animation when speaking to the OBE received ‘for services to Horse Racing’.

Then, reunited with Andrew and the boys, there were photographs, a chance to tour round the State Rooms (best thing:  Napoleon’s silver gilt field dinner service captured at where else but Waterloo) and off to a memorable family lunch by another stretch of river.

We ended the day back in the Castle, at Evensong in St George’s Chapel.  The anthem was by Byrd, a special treat for me on this most special of special days out.”