English Afternoon Tea on the Lawn

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Here it will always be summer. The sultry English July sun shines down on an expansive lawn, the heat hovers over the white stone patio. The birds are still, somewhere a little fountain babbles, flowers are gasping and the world has stopped for tea.

Come and join the group of people who revel in this kind of climate!

Come and have tea on the lawn - Twenties style!

Come and celebrate the Englishness of afternoon tea

Revive the wit of Bertie Wooster!

Wallow in the extravagance of Toad of Toad Hall

Join in, like Alice, at the Mad Hatter's Teaparty, or just sit on the grass and dream

Take a look around and find out what you have to do to join the jolly crowd

The Lawn

Despite the heat, the endless lawn, mown in mathematically accurate rows, is resplendent in lush green. Surrounding it are rose trees - only the classic kinds, no hybrids or new-fangled flowers here (with fancy colours and no scent); at one end a herbaceous border, the flowering bushes alive with butterflies, the bees humming almost reverently in their hundreds around the purple, pink and yellow flowers.

Butterflies add colour to the extravagant beauty of the herbaceous border

Many of the guests are strolling over the grass, some daring ones have taken their shoes off and are swinging them over their shoulders as they parade in groups of two or three, holding intimate and intense conversations

Come and join them, shoes or no shoes, and contribute to the scintillating and witty or profoundly philosophical conversation; feel the softness of the lawn; revel in its endlessness; walk around and mingle, joining this little group and that.... For those who are privileged enough to be here the world is far away, and so easy to put right with the kind of philosophising only possible in this unique atmosphere of gaiety, jocularity, purity, simplicity and intellectual stimulation.

The Terrace

Stretching for the length of the southern extension of the red brick mansion, the white-paved terrace presides, with its statues of nymphs, shepherds and cupids arranged like courtiers around its periphery ... images hardly needed to inspire the imagination in this heat, where the guests are already dressed in loose-fitting cotton frocks and open-necked shirts, revealing tantalising corners of bare, sweaty skin and heaving chests indicating in more cases than one that the tendency is rather to panting than gently regulated breathing

Some small tables are set up with four or six chairs each. This area seems to be mainly populated by the somewhat older ladies, who search solace with the protection of large sunshades, as they drink tea from bone china cups, held in white-gloved hands. Some are talking, some playing bridge, some wistfully watching the antics of the young who still dare to go out into the full sun.

At each end a punka-walla sits and provides a cooling breeze by means of an extravagant fan of peacock feathers, collected from the resident peacocks. These birds occasionally make an appearance on the lawn, calling in their raucous tones, and, as the heat stirs the hormones of everything that breathes in this sultry world, performing an unambiguous mating ritual which causes the children to laugh and the dames on the terrace to look away in embarrassment.

Come and stir up the ladies with the teacups, the floral chiffon dresses and the wide-brimmed hats. Comfort them, reminisce with them and listen to their outbursts of nostalgia, their concern for the morals of today's youth. Sympathise with them, amuse them, make their lives worth while. Life is too short for bridge.

The croquet lawn

The young people who are as yet too coy just to corner a member of the opposite sex who takes their fancy have gathered together in loosely formed teams for a game of croquet. In this world, where civilisation is at its epitome, the rules of croquet are second nature to these happy sportspeople, and are strictly adhered to.

As with any sport, many strokes of the mallet are the cause for jovial banter and teasing. Young men strut like peacocks, demonstraing their strength and accuracy, while the young ladies, no less accurate with the hard, gaily painted wooden spheres, do their best to pretend to an endearing helplessness and exaggerated silliness.

Many a shoulder strap slips 'accidentally' when one of the girls takes up her position over the mallet, she feigns concentration n the aim of her shot, as she leaves herself exposed just long enough for the partner of her choice to drink in the delectable sight - 'clonk' as another ball passes cleanly through the hoop, the shoulder strap is hitched back into position, and a disarming smile at the chosen young man forces him to smile back, bringing his chin back up into its accepted position.

Croquet is a relaxing and sociable sport - find out the proper rules from The Croquet Association

Bring your croquet mallet, choose your partner, select a colour! Come and join in the expertise and enhance it with sparkling conversation - open your legs and swing that mallet!

The Arbour

A cunningly designed corner of the garden, out of sight from the terrace or the house, the arbour is a closed-in garden where wanton bushes of dog roses and a strategically draped willow tree provide privacy, while dividing the arbour into little niches.

Why not bring a partner of your choice into the arbour and see what happens?

The Spread

This is upper class England in the 20s. Not only is the company very English and steeped in tradition - the food being served is plentiful, traditional, delicious, completely without regard for calories or cholesterine ... let's take a look.

Two large refectory tables have been carried out on to the lawn. Damask tablecloths, reaching the ground and with starched folds you could cut your finger on, radiate a pristine whiteness that, if they weren't covered in plates with luscious displays of food, would be almost blinding.

English summer fare awaits in breathtaking abundance, all displayed on the finest porcelain tableware. Every square inch of the tables is piled high with irrestistible delicacies or covered with floral decorations consisting almost entirely of red roses of a colour so intense that no artist could possibly aspire to reproduce their richness or beauty

Come and drool, come and fill your plate

What will it be:

  • Cucumber sandwiches, the ultimate English summer tea ingredient, juicy, refreshing, thin as paper and as aristocratic as the peacocks?

  • Chocolate sponge cakes - oozing decadence with a sinfully thick layer of creamy chocolate filling and topped with a filigrain decoration in white, milk, and dark chocolates?

  • Angel sponge cakes, so light they float above the platter?

  • Scones, accompanied by clotted cream, blood-red strawberry jam and buttercup-yellow butter?

  • Canap├ęs sporting the best of British cheese - Stilton, Wensleydale, Cheddar and Chester, a rainbow of colour complete with Sage Derby and garnished with tomatoes and pickles?

  • Rows and rows of fairy cakes with coloured toppings?

  • A strawberry cup from some divine source, sparkling with Champagne and sweetened with large red strawberries from the kitchen garden only two hundred yards away on the other side of the house?

  • Salmagundi - the traditional Edwardian picnic dish?

  • Succulent cold meats?

  • Slices of pink fragrant ham, wrapped suggestively around tasty asparagus tips?

  • Tea from the enormous teapots, attentively poured by the numerous butlers?

  • Home made ice cream, bursting with fresh fruit and nuts, each spoonful a cardinal sin which would cost a good Catholic at least a dozen 'Hail Mary's?

  • As ubiquitous as indispensible: 101 varieties of biscuit - ginger biscuits, orange thins, coconut crunches, garibaldi, rich tea.... crumbly, crispy, chocolatey, spicy, plain, buttery, nutty, fruity, sweet, short, soft, spongey, chewy, creamy, salty, savoury?

Can I really take part?

Let's put some life into the scene. Anyone can come - everyone should come. To join in, please start by posting any of the following to contribute to the party:

  • A recipe for a typical summer dish which can be eaten outside

  • An idea for a picnic (non-food related). A game? A practical tip?

  • A description of your dress and/or hat if you are a lady ... in 20s or similar style

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