We have been so lucky to have guest poster Charles sharing his preparations to attend Ascot this year. In this, his second last post before the races start, he shares the part of the preparations that did not go as smoothly as he hoped.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my partner and I attended Royal Ascot in the Royal Enclosure the first time in 2012. We enjoyed two days at the races, Tuesday and Wednesday, and realized from that first visit that we were hooked – we definitely wanted to visit again and again.
I was pleased with my earlier decision to purchase our morning attire (rather than hire/rent) as now we would have the appropriate attire if we did indeed visit in the coming years. And I’ve written previously about our decision to purchase beautiful, antique silk top hats – so nothing was keeping us from attending in future years.
But, wait, just how did we manage to obtain the badges to gain admittance to the Royal Enclosure since we are from Chicago and, before our first visit to Royal Ascot, didn’t know any members of the Royal Enclosure?
As mentioned in a previous post, one of the methods for gaining admittance, if you are a non-UK citizen of another country, is to submit a request through your country’s ambassador to the Court of St. James. It is a relatively simple process, but takes some time for all the steps to be completed. In late 2011 I dutifully followed the process (which was very clearly detailed on the Ascot website) and obtained our badge request forms for Royal Ascot 2012 through the United States Ambassador, who coincidentally happened to be from Chicago during this period. When we decided to again attend in 2013 I contacted the ambassador’s office and the process was very simplified given that we were now “on their list.” We attended three days in 2013 and, like the previous year, realized we wanted to attend at least occasionally for the foreseeable future.
The saga of 2016! In September 2015, after a fun outing with friends at a Chicago Cubs baseball game (and several beers!) my partner and I convinced these good friends, who would soon be celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary, that they should join us for Royal Ascot 2016 rather than the other (boring) trip they were planning.
Both of these friends, especially the wife of the couple, enjoy dressing up and she was very excited about the idea of wearing a grand hat and seeing the other women and men in their finest. I shared with them that, because they were US citizens, the process for obtaining badges to the Royal Enclosure would be simple and I would take care of everything.
In October 2015 I dutifully contacted the US ambassador’s office to confirm the process for obtaining badges to the Royal Enclosure remained as in previous years and my contact there responded that everything would follow the same process. My contact did mention in her response that nothing would take place until February 2016, when I would be contacted since my name is on their list. We were set and ready to go! Let’s do the other planning – hotel, flights, etc. – so that we will have a grand time in London and at Royal Ascot.
So, on either February 1st or 2nd, I was excited to receive an email from someone (not my usual contact) at the US ambassador’s office. As I read the email doom came over me – “we are sorry to inform you that the US ambassador’s office is no longer creating a list for Royal Ascot.” Wait! What? We’re not going to be able to attend this year – or in future years?!?! What am I going to do?
Talk about a moment when my planning wheels went into motion! After multiple pleas to my previous contact at the ambassador’s office (the email of doom actually came from a different section of the office) she said she would try to help me out. She personally contacted the head of the hospitality office at Ascot Racecourse and explained my situation. Within a day or so the woman who manages the hospitality office contacted me and I explained my situation. Very kindly, she offered to invite my partner and me to become members of the Royal Enclosure in our own right! She said that she felt very badly that we made plans and expected to be able to attend both in 2016 and future years, she looked at our previous attendance, and said that she realized we would be excellent members and would be happy to, herself, personally sponsor us as members. Glory Hallelujah!!!
Within weeks the necessary forms were sent to Chicago, completed by me and returned, and in short order our personal membership cards arrived in Chicago. My partner and I are now full members of the Royal Enclosure!
When I followed up with the manager and effusively showered praise and appreciation on her efforts she said she thoroughly enjoyed working with a company that prides itself on doing everything in their power to assist people to have a good experience. What a wonderful mission statement for a company that is! I’ve asked her, if she can find the time during the event when we attend, if we could meet so that I can personally thank her for her wonderful assistance and service. Her response was wonderful – “yes, that would be nice. I know where you’re going to be and I’ll find you.” The near-death experience of losing our ability to attend Royal Ascot will certainly make our visit this year that much more special.
I suppose all’s well that ends well but I can only imagine there were a few harrowing moments during this story, Charles! Hopefully, you have been enjoying the start of your visit in the UK and are ready for the races. We’ll hear from once more from Charles before Ascot begins early Tuesday morning, when he shares what exactly makes this event so very special.