As eyes increasingly turn to the other side of the world for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations, a Feilding resident has a treasure trove of stories about his time in London.
Patrick Nolan spent 16 years working and living in the Tower of London. He was the first non-British-serving serviceman to work as a yeoman warder.
It all started when he was a tourist at the world heritage site.
"[The yeoman warder] had a group of people in the palm of his hand. He was talking to them, he was taking the mickey."
The yeoman warder was asking American tourists if they were in London to learn English and the Australians if they were visiting for the culture. Nolan asked the beefeater, as they are nicknamed, how you become a yeoman warder. The man replied you needed at least 22 years in the military, awarded the long service and good conduct medal, be married and be an all-round good egg.
Nolan figured he met all the criteria and asked where he should sign up. The beefeater looked down his nose and said "my god, we've never had a colonial before".
Nolan and his wife Dawn were not deterred and during the application process "a small rainforest was sacrificed".
Nolan, 76, shared his story at the May military history presentation in Palmerston North, organised by the Royal New Zealand Engineers Charitable Trust and City Library.
When the Nolans returned to London for the interview, they were met at the gate by the resident governor, retired Major-General Christopher Tyler. Tyler said to Patrick anyone who had the wit to marry the sister of an All Black would be an asset to the tower. Dawn's brother, the late Doug Rollerson, also played for Manawatū.
The interview took place in the house Henry VIII built for Anne Boleyn. Nolan spotted a table that appeared past its use-by date. He found out it was around that table the committee that sentenced Guy Fawkes to death had sat.
"I've never worked in my life," Nolan said at the start of his talk.
He was born in Marton, and grew up in Bunnythorpe. He was in the New Zealand Army for 29 years, joining at 15 as a regular force cadet.
In his early 20s, Nolan served in Vietnam as a driver operator. He later served in Singapore and Sinai.
Yeoman warders have been guarding the tower since Tudor times and nowadays are primarily tour guides. Nolan had much to learn to conduct the six-stop tour with a scripted history.
"You had to pause on the commas and take a breath on the full stops and you had to repeat it as it was written down," he said.
"The questions were difficult but you defer to your mentor, you listen to how he answers it and you pick it up very quickly."
Some were easier to answer, though perhaps harder to retain your composure. What side of the river was the bridge on? Did Lady Jane Grey carve her name in the stone wall before or after her head was cut off? How many times is a person executed?
About 48 million people went through the tower in the 16 years Nolan worked there. It was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror. "He saw the same bricks and blocks in exactly the same place as I did, it was mind boggling, it was overwhelming."
The red state dress uniform was worn on important occasions such as the monarch's birthday and holy days. The more durable everyday dark blue uniform was introduced in the 19th century.
It is thought the beefeater nickname is derived from their position in the Royal Bodyguard, which permitted them to eat as much beef as they wanted from the King's table.
The next military history presentation will be on June 9, noon, at the Globe Theatre. Retired Rear Admiral David Ledson will talk about soldiers without guns.