WATCH: Harry, Meghan and me: My regal week with the Sussex royals

2019-10-04 07:51
 
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Is my camera battery charged? I need to pack my memory card. There are so many things you can't forget! ...is my alarm set!?

A hundred different thoughts run through my mind – when I can't sleep, I don't count sheep. My brain either starts meal planning, thinking about a text I sent in 2008, or worries about the very thing I'm losing a night's rest over. Either way I overthink, and just when I start to feel the loftiness of my closed eyes, the default Radar ringtone screams from my bedside table. "Day one," the label of my alarm reads, and a smug smile stretches from my one ear to the other.

I'm going to meet Meghan Markle today.

It's been days, weeks, months of planning, and finally, the day is here. I slip on my high-waisted slacks and button my white shirt. I know what you're thinking and, no, it's not a coincidence that I look as though I'm on my way to the launch of my Smart Works Capsule Collection. From the outfit to the three shades carefully selected to complete my cut crease, I've been planning this royal tour like the duke and duchess planned their televised wedding. So as I looked in the mirror and put my media pass around my neck, I was ready. It's me, your royal correspondent, reporting for duty.

A glimpse of Archie with a beanie in his mother's arms getting out of the plane, a warm welcome in Nyanga, and Prince Harry admitting his undying, unequivocal love for Cape Town, and I'm weak. And to think, I've just been sat behind a desk all day.

But my legs soon turn to jelly as I make my way to my first official, so-close-you-can-smell-‘em engagement – a visit to District Six.

It's a waiting game, but you know they've arrived when you hear an aunty near the barricades say, "Yay come here, where's Archie?" And before you know it your phone drops, you've missed the shot, because the head of communications for the British High Commissioner is ushering you into the Homecoming Centre as one of the carefully chosen members of the South African media lucky enough, to be close enough, to breathe the same air as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

I wasn't ready.

And after that, everything's pretty much a blur.

Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry

(THEIR ROYAL HIGHNESSES ARRIVE: It was a quick change of outfits for Harry and Meghan between their first event in Nyanga and their second and third in District Six in Cape Town on 23 September. Photo: Bashiera Parker)

ALSO READ: A must-see look back at the Cape Town leg of the Sussex Royal Tour in stunning pics and videos!

I drive back to the office as the sun sets in Cape Town painting the sky a pastel pink on what was a warm and sunny day in the city centre, and as it sinks in all I can remember is the way Meghan moves with a weightlessness, a genuine gracefulness, as she engages with each and every person she meets. All I can remember is the very many faces Harry makes, like when he smiles completely moved by an aunty who's taken the time to cook him a hot meal, or the funny faces he pulls when he's talking to the kids in the crowd.

That I-was-there feeling hits me as I rush into the office, writing up a story about Their Royal Highnesses indulging in porring and samosas as fast as I can, before concluding day one with a text from my editor reminding me of the weight of what just happened while simultaneously hyping me up for day two: "Tonight, we sleep in the same city as Meghan and Harry."

Day two is much of the same, except I plan my outfit around the perfect scarf to join the duke and duchess at the first and oldest mosque in South Africa – Auwal Masjid. And I swear, the wind howling through the colourful houses blows Meghan's scarf ever-so-jauntily, if we were in a field of flowers, and you cued the ensemble of violinists at just the right moment, the scene would be something out of the Bollywood movies I grew up watching. But I digress.

I watch as Harry and Meghan engage with Sheik Ismail Londt, and are humbled to meet the Muslim women they end up having deep and meaningful conversations with. I didn't drop my camera this time, and I felt especially compelled to catch as many moments as I could. But still, not even the coincidental glow in my photographs managed to capture the warmth of their meeting. I felt privileged to be part of such a welcoming community and moved to see the duke and duchess so very eager to learn about the faith I so love.

But you didn't need to be a believer to be inspired.

Meghan, Harry

(ROYAL WHISPERER: The duchess whispers something to one of the youngest guests present. Photos: Bashiera Parker)

READ NEXT: Local girl in tears as Meghan kisses her hand – the story behind that beautiful photo

Day three and Archie makes his debut before I rush out of the office to meet Meghan in Woodstock. I fight the urge to shout "twins!" in front of the entire palace press, even though the duchess and I are wearing matching jumpsuits – this time it was a coincidence (or fate).

There are many more unforgettable moments, but as with every event over the three days in Cape Town and then the Johannesburg stretch, what's more moving is the people you meet along the way. Like Matsi, who launched her own company, the youth fighting gender based violence when the country needs it most, and the aunties with years of wisdom in your own community you wouldn't have met otherwise.

When you're in Cape Town, watching the duke and duchess in Johannesburg, without the distraction of your heart beating out your chest, you can really listen to everything they're saying. So while I spent most of my days trying to catch up, as Meghan says goodbye to South Africa, I stop typing vigorously for just a second to breathe – to listen.

"In our visit earlier this morning," she says, "I was struck by a small sign that was posted on the wall for the female entrepreneurs, and it said, 'Visualise your highest self, and show up as her.'"

She speaks of believing in yourself, reminding everyone that they have value and that they have the power to influence change.

She looks up from her notes, and over the podium, and it's as though she's talking right to me.

"No matter how different our lives may seem, you have made us feel part of your community, and our shared community.

"And on our visit to a mosque in Bo-Kaap, one of the women told us that the way we change the world, is to honour the dignity of difference.

"In this, we can find strength. When we can bridge divides and meet as human beings with different experiences we can all find connection. And in that connection, we become more aware of one another, of our place in the world. We find hope, and self-worth, we can find optimism and courage – ultimately, we can find joy.

"So whether for Archie, Harry and Me in South Africa, or for my husband travelling through Botswana, Angola and Malawi, please know that you have given us so much inspiration, so much hope, and above all, you have given us joy."

I type my last story, close my laptop and drive home.

My feet dragging, I'm exhausted, but I'm inspired by what was the single most significant thing to happen to me in my entire career – thus far.

As I sink into my bed sheets, I close my eyes. I'm restless.

What will I do now?

What will I do next?       

ALSO READ: Behind the headlines – When the royals came to town

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