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Elizabeth Peplow gives us an insider's view of what it's been like living in Bucklebury – the home of our future queen and a village under media siege – since the announcement of the Royal engagement...
A text message instructing me to turn on the TV! followed by more excited text beeps and the ring of the telephone brought the news to my little corner of Bucklebury. Yes I know! Isnt it spooky? I said, guessing who it was as I picked up the phone to a friend who just the previous evening over a drink had told me she had been accosted by a photographer with a long lens close to one of our local pubs. He told me Kate and William drank there. I just said oh really? and then went and hid so he couldnt see where I lived!
We had both laughed and lamented the media intrusion at Bucklebury Farm Park run by my partner, we had been turning foreign TV crews keen to film for background away all summer determined to maintain the dogged vow of silence the village had adopted like a protective wall around the young couple and Middleton family. For several summers now, the future king had enjoyed the freedom of the Pang Valley and there was some pride in this 24-hour news age that he had been able to do so.
I think the village has always been protective of them, says Parish Council chairman Wynne Frankum, who has met Kate when visiting her parents home and seen her around the village. Everybody has always said no comment when asked and been keen to let them have a normal life.
Bucklebury residents will certainly have more reasons than most to remember what they were doing when the news came of this particular piece of history in the making. With impeccable timing, Wynne was on the M25 when news came through of the engagement.
She recalls: My husband Roger rang to tell me and said: Help, what do I say to the press? I sat down and wrote him a script; the village is delighted and we hope they will be very happy! The poor man was dealing with journalists from around the world, from New Zealand, Japan, Canada and I missed it all. It is amazing how the media attention has continued though. We are certainly on the map whether we like it or not.
As council chairman, Wynnes main task will be to help steer plans for a village celebration on the day of the wedding so that, away from all the grandeur in Westminster, therell be a party to remember on Kates home turf.
Eleven-year-old Maya Shingadia will have a special reason to be glued to the TV on the day of the wedding, having met the real-life princess on several occasions. Kate is a regular visitor to Peaches Stores, owned by her parents, Hash and Chan in Upper Bucklebury. A couple of weeks after the mlee of the royal engagement announcement, Kate called in to the store and was happy to pose for a photograph with Maya and her mother Chan.
Hash says: It was very nice indeed. Kate called in and showed us her ring and we asked if we could take a picture. Prince William was not with her this time but he has been into the shop and always remembers our names and asks how Maya is getting on at school, which I think is really amazing when you consider all the people he meets. I think the time she spends at home in the village is important to Kate she can come here and be herself.
Hash heard the news of the engagement when Bladebone publican Simon Kelly called into the store.
We put the radio on and then soon after the journalists started to come in wanting to know about the family and even what they buy in the shop. As well as national and local newspaper journalists we had reporters from Norway, France and Germany in here and the next day Meridian TV came and interviewed me.
Local interest in the news was obviously running high copies of the Daily Mail ran out within an hour of Hash opening the door on the Wednesday morning. The fact that a future Queen has come from Bucklebury is something to be celebrated by the whole community.
This has obviously been coming for a long time but it is really superb and we are so happy for all the family, for Mike and Carole, James and Pippa.
Local residents watched in awe as the first the worlds media and then later in the day, the mist descended on the village, the weather having the final say on what had been a very well kept secret.
Local butcher Martin Fidler said: It has been a well kept secret but now its finally happened we are all delighted for them. As interest in the story reached fever pitch during the day and following week, his shop the Bladebone Butchery and Game had been surrounded on all sides by satellite trucks.
It was mental all around the village and all around England but you couldnt move or get anywhere here because of all the reporters, radio and TV crews it was gridlock.
He described the news as brilliant for the whole area. He added: Everyone is just ecstatic that it has finally happened its created a happy mood in the village and put a smile on everyones face.