Posts Tagged 'Ascot'

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 Year of the Blog: Reflections on 2009’s Musings

Happy New Year to everyone!

February 2009 saw the very first blog entry for The English Manner eleven months and 37 posts later, it is clear to me what a range of subjects we have been able to cover. From the very first post, which commented on suitable business attire in the modern day, to one of our latest entries about respecting age, I think you will agree that etiquette does apply to all aspects of life.

The blog has now had a slight lick of paint to give it a fresher feel; I hope you like it (if you can notice any difference at all!)

My personal favourite of all of the blog entries has to be the one from the 23rd November on Pre and Post Lactarians. I do realise that I have written a majority of the blog so it sounds almost immodest to pick one of my own piece, but what I like about this particular one is the grandiose terminology that Professor Alan S. C. Ross invented (or cited) in one of his books on the subject of sociolinguistics. It’s so pompous it just has to be tongue in cheek, I am sure.

Each year, May sees the start of the British sporting and cultural season. Last year we commented on the major events of said period, such as Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. More posts on these events are inevitable, as they never fail to flag up questions of protocol and social customs. Incidentally, if any of our readers have any queries we are always willing to answer them. Please see our main website for details of how to pose your question.

The problem with writing a weekly blog (give or take a week here and there off) is that it becomes slightly difficult when the yearly cycle of events begins again. Does one post the same musings on the Royal Epsom Derby again? Should one try to cover new ground about the same event? The trouble with that is, eventually one will run out of things to say as it will have all been said. As to how we at The English Manner will be getting round this minor dilemma, you’ll have to wait and see.

What is to come in 2010, I hear thousands of you all ask? We aim to provide an insight into events such as the Oxford & Cambridge boat race, Glastonbury, and the State Opening of Parliament, as well as commenting on the etiquette that is associated with wine, flags and behaviour when abroad. Naturally, blogs are reactive and as such anything that crops up in the news that regards etiquette will probably get a look in on our blog, too.

But we want your ideas and suggestions for postings, too. If you have a subject you’d like further investigating or a couple of questions about the same topic, please feel more than free to send them to us. Equally, if you read one of the posts and disagree, are confused, or concur with what we’ve said… comment! We love reading what you’re saying – a lot of the time they can be insightful and sometimes amusing.

Here’s to an interactive 2010.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot, held annually in mid-June (this year: 16th-20th), is the epitome of the British Season. As well as being a major social occasion, it is firstly a world-class sporting event, dating back to the late eighteenth century.

Tickets for the Royal Enclosure need to be applied for well in advance and letters should be sent to Her Majesty’s Representative at Ascot (currently the Duke of Devonshire).

There are four days in Royal Ascot. The first, Tuesday, is the busiest; Wednesday is popular with betting-types; Thursday is Ladies’ Day, and Friday is quieter but popular with the young.

There is so much to say about Royal Ascot (it can only be termed ‘Royal Ascot’ during the four days in mid-June) however; I shall concentrate this entry on the dress codes for the event.

ascot-raceThe dress code is still strictly enforced and it has been known for race-goers to be turned away for all sorts of reasons: men without hats, ladies in inappropriate dresses. Last year 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.

Hats should be on straight and should be sensible: too much veiling and you won’t be able to drink or eat. If the brim is too low then you may not be able to see, so it is important to make sure you are wearing a sensible and comfortable hat, which should on no costs be removed, as your hair will look messy. When purchasing or choosing your outfit, do remember that you could be in it for up to seven hours. Shoes (if new) should be worn-in before the event as to avoid blisters.

For men, morning dress is required in the Royal Enclosure and on Ladies’ Day, this should be light grey. Top hats should be worn at a jaunty angle – never should they be worn totally straight and looking like chimney pots.

Morning dress consists of a tailcoat of sorts (although not be to confused with the pointed tailcoat worn in White Tie): this tailcoat is rounded; a buff waistcoat, which can be single or double-breasted; a pair of formal striped trousers worn with braces; a stiff white detachable collar (although a soft turned-down sewn on collar is acceptable now); a double-cuffed shirt; a necktie (please not a cravat), and finally a pair of black Oxford shoes. A top-pocket handkerchief is optional.

If you are still in any doubt as to the event’s protocol or what to wear, please do feel free to reply to this blog with any questions you may have. Alternatively, please visit our main website for more information: www.theenglishmanner.com

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

In Season: What To Wear

Two weeks ago, I commented on The Season in general. Now, as the start is less than a month away, here are a few dos and don’ts on dress codes to help you navigate this social juggernaut for some of the main events.

Chelsea Flower Show
Probably the most relaxed event in terms of dress code, and it is all in the entrance here.  Take the bus, tube or arrive by taxi, but be prepared to queue at the gates so arrive as early as you can.  Essentially, you are here to look at the flowers and gardens, and not on a fashion parade, so understated investment dressing is the key here:  depending on the weather go for light suits or dresses and jackets, and do remember a lot of walking is involved, so wear comfortable shoes.  If you are attending the private view then cocktail dress of course, but the men can get by all day in a crisp blazer and chinos with well-polished loafers.

Polo
Don’t, whatever you do, dress down.  Polo is probably the most high-profile of the season’s events, and attracts not only an international crowd but also seems to be a magnet for the celebrity crowd, from jet setting movie star to B-lister wannabee.  If the weather is good, team a pretty summer dress with the highest Jimmy Choos, or wear a chic trouser suit.  The latest designer sunglasses are a must-have – but do make sure that if you are invited into the Royal tea tent, you remove them out of the glare!  Men can get by with a blazer and well pressed trousers – the more one imitates the well-dressed smooth good looks of George Clooney, the better!

Royal Ascot
416_ascot_royal_416x300Morning 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!

Cowes
The cult brands of Jack Wills, Musto and Joules will be raking in the money this year as sailing appears to have taken off again – if it ever went out of fashion.  For spectators, stick to looking the part in deck shoes, sunglasses, windproof gear and a chance to wear that perfect Hermes headscarf – and there are plenty of wonderful wellies around if the weather is wet.  A plug here for the wonderful work of the RNLI – spare a thought for this entirely volunteer-led organisation which aims to raise some £131 million a year to maintain the fleet of rescue craft and on-shore lifeguards.  There is rarely a day when crews do not risk their lives to save others at sea so, if you are attending any sailing event this year, pop a coin into the nearest donation box;  you never know when you may need them!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

The Greatest Minefield of All: The Season

The ‘Season’ begins in just under a month’s time and is a uniquely British thing.  In these days of a so-called classless society it is quite amazing that this totally inimitable feat of social engineering continues to hold such sway.  Perhaps it is entirely because it is such a change from the mundane that it remains so popular!

The Season came about primarily in the 19th century, and its heyday was reached during the reign of the gregarious King Edward VII.  Since then, we have witnessed two world wars, banking crashes and the horrors of the credit crunch, and whilst there are bound to be some financial casualties this year, particularly where corporate sponsorship is concerned, many of the events of ‘the season’ seem to attract ever increasing crowds.  Attendance at most is not cheap, but because corporate sponsorship has boosted entry many people will be invited to at least one event this year through work or friends.  Our intention is to give a basic guide – but do email us for more specific assistance!

Blooms from 2008's show

Blooms from 2008's RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Debutantes went out in the 1950s as a result of The Queen’s ‘modernisation of the Monarchy’, although the Berkeley Dress Show and the Paris Crillon Ball have been revived to rave reviews – aspiring young ladies no longer need to be presented at Court, nor do they necessarily want to find a wealthy and eligible bachelor for long term wedded bliss, but instead perhaps enjoy a chance to show off a pretty dress and meet some new friends, whilst the aspirations of good manners, correct dress codes and a little bit of gentility in our increasingly hectic lives is cutting the mustard.

Officially, the ‘season’ is a three month period from May to July when in days gone by, the Court and fashionable society were in town (London).  During winter months, the ruling classes spent time at their country estates hunting, shooting and fishing – nowadays many do not even own one home let alone two – but the Chelsea Flower Show, this year from 18th May, continues to herald the start.

The English Manner always has a presence at Chelsea, usually with guests who are taking part in one of our guided garden tours, and if the weather is good, it is a wonderfully English way to kick-start summer.  The Derby follows, and then Royal Ascot, possibly the most famous race meeting in the world, presenting an opportunity to wear that fabulous outfit and out of this world hat, whilst picnicking on smoked salmon, strawberries and champagne at the side of the course – in Number One car park, of course!

After Ascot and The Queen’s Birthday Parade, we have Wimbledon, Glorious Goodwood and the Festival of Speed, and for the sailing fraternity, The Royal Henley Regatta and Cowes Week, preceded by Cartier International Polo Day – always a firm fixture in the social calendar and now attracting a celebrity crowd from all over the world.

Packed tightly in between all of these are myriad charity events, timed to perfection to attract the most likely donors, and to give credibility to all that partying!  Coupled with the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair and Hampton Court Flower Show, those who have the money, the time and the inclination, can have a jolly good time!

Of all the summer events, I think Royal Ascot is probably the one we think of more often than not when we talk about ‘the Season’, and it was here that the term ‘Royal Enclosure’ began.  King George IV invented the idea of entertaining his private friends, and the idea of a private or select area quickly caught on for Centre Court at Wimbledon, the Stewards’ Enclosure at Henley – where entry is even more restricted than Ascot – and the Member’s Enclosures at Polo.  As the names imply, entry is limited, often to the cognoscenti and ‘who you know’, and there are essential elements of dressing up as well as certain rules and traditions.

As ‘the season’ unfolds, we will give you some do’s and don’ts on protocol and customs.

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner


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