Three-year-old Akeem Tamungang was straight in with the questions.
“What’s your name?” he asked the Princess of Wales.
“Catherine,” she answered.
And then he had his eyes on her poppy.
Explaining that it was to “remember all the soldiers who died in the war”, she then gave it to him, carefully giving his mum the pin for safe-keeping.
Little Akeem may have stolen the show during what was an impromptu stop to say hello, but there was a sense that the princess herself also wanted to be heard.
The trip to Colham Manor children’s centre in Hillingdon was her first engagement as patron of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, to see how services come together in one place to help pregnant women and new mums.
The centre is on the site of the primary school and is the perfect place for parents to come for help without feeling ashamed by the stigma that still exists for some mums asking for mental health support.
Usually we would only get the chance to listen to very short snippets of Kate’s meetings. This time we stayed in virtually from start to finish.
The collapse of local community spirit came across as one area that appears to be troubling her.
‘People are so isolated’
Praising the work of the centre, she said: “You hear time and time again about the stigma associated with reaching out for help.
“…so much of the adversity comes from the lack of connection, whether that’s relationships or your physical connections with people within your community and you’re providing both here, so I think more places like this would be so valuable.”
In a later conversation she added: “People are so isolated and disconnected [so] to be able to come together and feel that they are part of something, the sense of family comes up all the time – feeling like they belong, feeling like they can have trusted people that can listen to them.”
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She continued: “It’s so needed in communities across the board, whether that’s talking to the vulnerable, homelessness, or addiction – they need the same as what mums need and if we can try and join the dots within community provision right from the start, ultimately you’re helping that next generation.”
The princess knew we were listening, and showed she knows her stuff on the issue of early years support.
I’m just not sure her knowledge is always recognised or acknowledged by a wider audience.
But it felt like our new Princess of Wales, who we know isn’t always that fond of public speaking, is becoming increasingly confident in what she wants to say and trying to make sure we hear it.
As she was about to leave, one woman thanked her and Prince William for the work they’re doing on mental health.
Kate replied: “It’s something we’re on a journey with.”
Now, as we’re told she wants to “create her own path” as Princess of Wales, it’s up to her team to get more of us to concentrate on the substance of what she has to say.
Even if sweet moments with little Akeem will always be hard to beat.