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A State Occasion

‘She must have coffee that evening, could I get it to her?’

Visitors had been flooding into London from all over the world in preparation for the funeral and all had to be found accommodation.

We were selling coffee as fast as we could by post and over the counter. The next day we would be closed to mark our respect for the great man. At about 5pm the phone rang. The caller had especially asked for me. Feeling tired and not too pleased to take the phone I answered. The customer's voice was familiar and she reminded me that we had been talking together in the shop a week or two previously. Would I do her a favour? She must have coffee that evening, could I get it to her? I thought it very doubtful but she asked if anyone passed Chelsea on their way home. The matter was urgent as she was entertaining special guests. Eventually it was decided that Mr. Hills should take the coffee to The Ritz on his way home and it would be collected by a friend of hers.

Mr. Hills did not seem to know the whereabouts of The Ritz but everyone else did and he was given detailed instructions.

On Monday morning the following week we asked Mr. Hills if he had successfully delivered the parcel. He had of course. He had gone to the main entrance and been directed to the porter's desk. He said the place was a whirl of activity. Eventually someone agreed to take delivery of the parcel and signed for it.

The following Wednesday we heard the sequel to the story. A young lady came into the shop to pay for the coffee. I asked if the coffee had been satisfactory. She said it was very good indeed. She had collected it herself from The Ritz. It had been put in the safe and she had had some difficulty in getting it as no one except the head porter could hand it over. It took a long while for him to be found before she could take it home.

I asked who the coffee was for. She answered "the Grenadier Officers who carried the coffin".

There was no one we would have been more proud to serve.


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