Meeting Kate was worth the wait
Charlotte Allsop-Widley presented her posy of flowers and a small bag of Easter eggs to the Duchess of Cambridge, but was soon more interested in the earthworms churned up by the crowds than any exchange between her and royalty.
The 6-year-old Nelson girl had been up half the night before, watering the small bouquet to make sure it did not dry out.
She and her 3-year-old sister Caroline caught Kate's attention with their fairy pink dresses made for a wedding they attended in England, and which their mum Kymberly Widley had strained to keep clean as the girls struggled against wanting to sit down in the mud during yesterday's long wait.
"I want to see Princess William," Charlotte said.
Their spot in the front row of a huge crowd in Blenheim yesterday came courtesy of Lynda Blomfield, of Motueka, who had also travelled to Marlborough for the day, and who noticed the young girls with their flowers and let them through the incredible crush. At the point the royals approached, the sea of fervour became an undertow of near panic.
By 11.30am yesterday it had already been a very long day, and 6-month-old Vianne Widley, who until then had been the model baby in the arms of her mother, finally fell apart. Her shrill screams rang out over the royal party, and Kate, immaculate in blue and suddenly in front of us, appeared quite moved.
"These are for baby George," Charlotte said handing over the flowers and chocolate Easter goodies.
Blomfield described the duchess as a "beautiful young woman" who was "very gently spoken".
The small bouquets were among many presented, along with cakes and soft toys. No wonder they needed an air force Hercules aircraft to get them from Wellington and back. The lumbering aircraft had flown low over the rapturous crowd on its way into Woodbourne. An entourage of dignitaries including Prime Minister John Key and Opposition leader David Cunliffe arrived soon after in a fleet of shiny cars, followed by the royals.
"I spotted a ponytail - it's a ‘mum tail'," Kymberly Widley said as the car sped by.
The 32-year-old is a huge fan of the duchess, and had been thrilled to hear recently that she and William were visiting so close to Nelson. "The fact they were here, 1 hours from Nelson, meant we couldn't miss it."
The day started early with strawberry muffins for breakfast then the road trip to Blenheim. Apart from a few metres of bunting along a fence and a placard that read, "Look busy, the king is coming", the town managed to hide quite well it was hosting a royal visit.
Thousands of people were instead jammed into Seymour Square and hanging from trees in the centre of town. Security was extra tight, with police numbers boosted by staff from
Nelson. Many were happy to oblige the crowd by taking photos of them with phones and cameras.
Word soon got out among the Widley family and friends from Nelson who had also gone over for the day, that Kate and William were to do the walkabout on opposite sides of the pathway. A mother of one in the party had been watching it on television and phoned to warn them.
Nick Widley made the call to move from where they were to another spot.
"If he's got this wrong and it's the William side, there'll be hell to pay," Kymberly said while striding across the grass in her summer dress and high heels. The Nelson family attracted almost as much attention as the royals, being singled out by an Australian Channel 7 news crew for an interview.
Baby Vianne's early grizzles were quietened by her mum's deft ability to discreetly breastfeed her while standing in the crowd. Nick Widley, who hails from Devon, said it was more exciting seeing the royals in "the most remote country in the world" than it would be back in England.
Judging by the numbers of young people in the crowd, they doubted the royals had become outdated.
"I think the royal family is something to be embraced rather than discarded. It's part of New Zealand's history," Nick said.