A supermarket driver who delivered shopping to vulnerable people during the coronavirus lockdown is flying back from a holiday in Greece for his son’s wedding to attend the King’s coronation.
Geoff Norris, 55, who works for the Asda store in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, received an invitation to the Westminster Abbey ceremony on May 6, having been awarded the British Empire Medal in 2020 for his services to the Covid-19 response.
However, he realised this would come in the middle of a family holiday on the island Kos from May 3, ahead of his son Anthony’s wedding a week later, where he will be best man.
Mr Norris said: “When I received the invitation from the Cabinet Office I felt very, very proud and very, very honoured.
“I obviously accepted straight away, but the panic set in as soon as I realised I was going to be out of the country, but I had to be at both occasions, I couldn’t miss this opportunity to be at the coronation of King Charles III and I certainly couldn’t miss my son’s wedding.”
Mr Norris, who used his own car on his days off to make sure elderly and vulnerable customers got their shopping during lockdown, contacted travel operator Tui to see if he could fly back in time.
He said: “The Tui website said it was going to cost £1,000 to make any changes. But I phoned and explained my situation, which they treated as ‘exceptional circumstances’.
“I have to say, their staff went above and beyond to try and help, but unfortunately the scenarios offered didn’t quite accommodate what I needed.
“So a friend’s son, Jason Duke, who is a British Airways pilot, sorted flights that work perfectly out of his own pocket, which is very generous of him.
“I can now be at both events, which means the world to me.”
Mr Norris will fly back to London on the evening of May 5 before returning to Greece a day after the coronation.
He added: “I want to publicly thank everyone, and the companies involved, for all their help, kindness and generosity.
“During the pandemic, we only ever set out to help the elderly or vulnerable.
“Three years later, it is going to be an honour to represent my colleagues, customers and the community at such a memorable occasion.”
More than 450 British Empire Medal (BEM) recipients will be at the service.