Archive for the 'Social Diary' Category

Picnic in style at Royal Ascot

Whilst the last few days have seen us enjoying some early summer warmth and sunshine, our thoughts will be turning to the Season and the annual Royal Ascot Meeting in June.

For those who will arrive at the Racecourse by car and want to follow the traditions of this world famous fixture, a picnic, preferably in Number 1 car park, is a must!  But what to eat, let alone what to wear?

There is something very special about a picnic, although in this country the weather can put a serious dampener on the spirits.  Not many of us are lucky enough to have a Butler who will lay everything out, prepared by Cook in advance, but there is much one can do to tailor this to location, guests and budget.

I always advocate keeping it stylish but simple, and they key is always good organisation.  Prepare as much as possible in advance and look for the varied accessories to make the day – both stylish and practical.  John Lewis have some fabulous ideas, as do The White Company and Ikea.

The great thing about a picnic is the informality they impart.  Picnics were the first ‘rule-free’ meals remembered by generations of children.  A relief from constraint, but not entirely free from the essentials of table manners.

Whatever your budget, make sure your guests have plenty to eat and drink, but ensure what you have on offer is easy to eat too.  The last thing one wants to worry about with a pretty silk dress and floaty hat is drips of mayonnaise or squirting peach juice!

A rather nice summer menu could comprise of seasonal asparagus (just coming to the end but should still be nice in mid June) steamed and served at room temperature with a softly boiled shelled egg (quails eggs work too but are a nuisance to shell), snipped garden chives and a drizzle of vinaigrette, with shavings of good English cheese such as Caerphilly or Cheshire.  Serve with good unsalted butter and fabulous bread and you have a wonderful first course. An alternative might be roasted peaches or nectarines (easy to do in the oven with a little water and a dot of butter and sugar), served with slices of top quality prosciutto and slivers of creamy goats cheese.

For main course, you cannot beat a rare cold fillet of beef with horseradish mayonnaise, and a new potato red onion and flat leafed parsley salad, served with rocket leaves, pea shoots and seasonal lettuce.  For the vegetarian, perhaps a good frittata.

Try your hand at a vanilla pannacotta made with greek yoghurt, served with the freshest of English strawberries in individual moulds, or perhaps a timeless favourite, a flourless rich chocolate cake with crème fraiche or clotted cream.  All easy to transport, and serve – essential if you do not have a bank of staff to help you!

Ensure some lovely crisp napkins, tablecloths and comfortable cushions on folding chairs and tables, with perhaps a Bellini made with fresh peach puree and a good Prosecco to set the scene and you have the makings of a perfect day!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

Royal Ascot: Dress & Wardrobe

2010 Royal Ascot is just under a month away. Last year, our post on Ascot proved very popular, gaining the most reads out of all of our entries. This is probably because Ascot is a melting pot and people from all different walks of life can be found here.

Next week we will talk about how to picnic in style at Royal Ascot. This week, we recap on what should and should not be worn when at the races.

Alexandra Messervy, Founder, The English Manner: “Morning suits and top hats are de-rigeur, as of course are the most fabulous hats.  Trousers for ladies are now permitted, but skirts must not be far above the knee, and if you are hoping to enter the Royal Enclosure you will need to apply for a sponsored badge many months in advance, with a reference from a member of the Royal Enclosure.  Top hats should always be black silk, and morning suits can be grey or black – my own preference is grey.  Ladies’ Day is the traditional one to ‘be seen’, when even the more conservative hat-wearer can really push the boat out.  A word of caution though:  if you are not used to wearing a hat, practice putting it on and off and wearing it around the house several times before the big day, and learn to relax – otherwise you will have severe neck strain and a bad headache before you go near the champagne!

William Hanson, Tutor, The English Manner: “In 2008 Royal Ascot was in the news as ladies were turning with too much fake-tan applied and in some extreme cases, they deemed it appropriate to go without knickers. This is never acceptable. Anywhere. For women, it is advisable that cocktail dresses are avoided. Having too much flesh open to the elements at a predominantly outdoor event will only cause goose pimples.  Dress colours that work well are pastels, bright colours, neutrals such as cream and fawn, although fashion changes and each year will see a different colour or shade in vogue. As for materials, linen creases easily and for an event where you may be sitting to picnic (smart race-goers do this in Number One car park), this is not a good idea. Lightweight wool and silk are preferable. Dresses and jackets that can be removed easily if you get too hot are canny choices. Skirts that ride up when you sit down are not, however. The Queen often wears one main colour all the way up (including the hat) which accentuates height and can make shorter people look taller. Umbrellas may be a nuisance but are worth it if it begins to rain. They can be left in the cloakroom if needs be: parasols are naff.”

For further advice on Royal Ascot, please see last year’s (very popular) entry, or feel free to contact us.

The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race

This annual event is seen as a prelude to the British Season and this year takes place on 3rd April; it has taken place every year with exception of the two world wars. The course is four-and-a-quarter miles long and is held on the Thames river from Putney Bridge to Mortlake. The sporting event, which lasts around 20 minutes, is a race between two crews: one from Oxford University, referred to as ‘the Dark Blues’; the other from Cambridge University (‘the Light Blues’)..

The event never fails to draw large crowds, often with alumni from both Universities turning up to support their alma mater. Savvy spectators station themselves at rowing clubs along the course, or, the slightly more keen will get on a launch and follow the race for the duration.

Unlike other sporting events in the Season, spectator dress is casual (sometimes very casual) although past and present students of either Oxford of Cambridge University tend to turn up wearing varsity colours.

It is one of those very English occasions where everyone watches, either on the television from their armchair, or cheering on the river banks, whether or not they follow rowing for the rest of the year!  The weather is usually cold and windy, and by the time the boats have lined up the 20 minute race lasts for some considerable time.  Because of that, dress, which is casual (sometimes very casual) needs to take into account warmth and practicality as well as correct form.  We suggest a good warm scarf, blazer and possibly waterproofs, sturdy shoes, and warm layers.  Avoid taking umbrellas so as not to impair the view of your fellow spectators, and do remember to cheer without bawling, and to be a good sport.

Sporting etiquette is at its peak at this event, with the losing team leading the applause and congratulations for the winning crew.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Protocol for the Formula One Season

It is the world’s richest, most extravagant sport, but protocol is not be forgotten as the 2010 Formula One season begins in Bahrain this month. Unlike many other sporting events, the Formula One world championship does not take place over a number of days or weeks in one location. Instead, there are 19 Grand Prix in 18 different countries, spanning 5 different continents, each taking place over the course of one weekend at some point between March and November.

The most important detail for spectators to consider when attending a Grand Prix in a foreign country is that the culture, customs and rules of protocol may be different to their native land. For instance, in a devoutly Islamic state such as Abu Dhabi, the everyday rules of etiquette may be completely opposite to what we are used to. It is therefore of the utmost importance that before travelling to a foreign Grand Prix destination, spectators are aware of the customs to which they will be expected to adhere, and should plan their trip suitably. Planning should involve special attention to clothing. Although there is no strict dress code for Grand Prix, both sexes should be wary of showing too much flesh in Islamic countries, even if temperatures are high and such actions would be considered permissible in one’s home country.

More generally, behaviour around the circuit should be tailored to the individual safety requirements of the tracks. All motorsport is potentially dangerous and even spectators are not completely free from danger. For instance, spectators should be wary of standing too close to crash barriers as fatalities have been known when a car collides into a tyre wall and causes high-speed impact with onlookers. Therefore, it is vital that observance and responsibility are displayed at all times.

Formula One is also, understandably, a very noisy event. Earplugs are advisable, and if spectators are planning on using klaxons to show support, it is courteous to ask the permission of any nearby spectators, who may not be prepared for such loud noises at such close proximity.

James Hanson

Sticking to Your Guns: Shooting Etiquette Faux Pas

shootingOctober sees the pheasant, woodcock and capercaillie shooting season begin and so listed below are The English Manner’s top etiquette blunders to avoid at all cost when out in the fields.

-       Never attend a shoot if you have never held a gun or had adequate training. Being dangerous is considered frightfully rude

-       Pick up all spent cartridges at the end of drives. This used not to matter but now in the environmentally-friendly society we live in, it is considered bad form not to

-       Make sure you mark your quarry for pickers-up and their dogs: never leave a dead bird to rot

-       Always ask what one is allowed to shoot before commencing. Hosts will have different rules from each drive to the next

-       The polite guns never boast about their scores

-       In the unfortunate circumstance that one shoots something that one is not supposed to, or that you cause a fellow gun an injury, it is expect that you leave the party immediately. Other guns are expected to be discreet about the incident, too. NB: If a major accident occurs, unwritten rules of etiquette dictate that the guilty gun never shoots again

-       Restrain yourself: a shoot is not the place for loud, bawdy behaviour

-       Under no circumstances should one shoot a white pheasant

-       Never swing your gun along the shooting line or in the direction of other guns

-       Make sure each bird shot is dead before proceeding onto the next one. It is better to use both barrels on one bird than two barrels on two birds (with the first barrel not yet fully killed).

-       Do also remember to tip the keeper. Anything from £15 upwards is usual; more if he has cleaned your gun.

Unsure about the terminology used in this blog? Next week: a beginner’s guide to shooting terms.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Cowes Week

Hyacinth: Not incorrect but perhaps not that subtle

Hyacinth: Not incorrect but perhaps not that subtle

Cowes Week is the oldest regular regatta in the world. Unlike Henley, which began in 1839, Cowes was first held in 1826. It began following the Prince Regent’s (who became George IV) interesting in yachting. The first race at Cowes was held at 0930 on 10th August. It is now the tradition that Cowes Week takes place on the Solent from the first Saturday after the last Tuesday in July, until the following Saturday.

As well as the boating element, Cowes is much loved for its social cachet. Parties and live music have become as much of a part of the week as the yachts. On the Friday, a firework display is held, with the pyrotechnics being launched from barges around the waterfront. This tradition dates back more than 150 years. People attending Cowes should be aware that this particular tradition may not happen at this year’s event due to lack of funding.

Now, what to wear? Alexandra Messervy, Founder of The English Manner, gives us the following advice: ‘Stick to looking the part in deck shoes, sunglasses, windproof gear and a chance to wear that perfect Hermes headscarf (or a good imitation from tie Rack!) – and there are plenty of wonderful wellies around if the weather is wet’.

Also – for gentlemen that wish to wear blazers please don’t have an emblem on the top-pocket. Very Non-U.

Do also remember that if you get the chance to go on board one of the yachts, it is required that you do not board until given permission. Once on deck, soft-soled shoes or no shoes at all.

The English Manner are always happy to answer any specific comments about any aspect of protocol. Please see our website for contact details, or just comment on this blog post.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner



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