Sunday 6 April 2014

The Ultimate High Tea

  Joy @Joy's Book Blog is hosting a new meme that celebrates all things British.

Her first British themed post involved a Downton Abbey tea in Missouri...which brought to mind my time in the UK in 1991.

I was a young 23 year old exploring the world for the first time on my own. It was scary & exhilarating. It also left me with a lifetimes worth of wonderful memories.

One of the amazing adventures I experienced was a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

There are no photos from this visit though as camera's were not allowed. Everything that happened at Buck Palace is pure memory.
In hindsight, I wish I had asked a friend to wait for me out the front so she could have snapped a pic of me leaving via the front gate!!
Instead, I will quote a few pieces from my travel journal at the time...

"What a magnificent day! 
It turned out to be a lot more special than I thought. But then I barely thought 
about today at all until I was on the train to Bank and realised that I was really 
going to a Garden Tea Party with the Queen! 

"I wore a deep purple calotte suit, with black trim around the square top. 
Also a black hat; both borrowed from Kerrie. Diana lent me a black bag, 
gloves and a black and white necklace. I actually wore my own underwear and shoes!!
I put my hair up and I must say I felt good."

My friend, Jo nannied nearby. Her family were very excited about my trip to the Palace and they asked me to drop in on the way.     They snapped lots of photos of me all dressed up, they poured over my invitation and the sheet detailing arrival procedures, use of gloves and other proper protocols for the day. By the time they were finished with me, I was in a lovely state of anticipation and excitement too!                                                                                                                                                                                 I met up with Paula and her friends at Bank station and we proceeded to one of the side entrances. We had been forewarned that everyone tried to arrive by the front gate and it took a long time to get through the security process. Whereas the side gates were much faster. The side entrance also brought us through some of the gardens and lawns that wound up to the back steps of the Palace. It was a lovely way to arrive.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The area in front of the steps was a huge expanse of green lawn dotted with striped marquees and garden chairs. The marquees were full of tables with afternoon tea and discreetly dressed wait staff. Three lines began to form out from the back steps.                                                                           Officials randomly selected about 5 people to stand in the centre of the three aisles. These people were asked to don their gloves, instructed on how to address the royal family and to wait patiently. The rest of us milled around balancing delicate tea cups and cucumber sandwiches.
"The gardens of Buckingham Palace were glorious. There were several ponds overhung 
with trees and shrubs. One pond had a dozen or so gorgeous pink flamingoes. 
Ducks were also abundant.
The flowerbeds were very colourful - gardenias, daisies, lilies, geraniums, lavender, 
hollyhocks, sweet peas and lots more I couldn't name. It was a profusion of colour.

The Queen, Duke and Queen Mum came down the stairs right on 4pm.
They each proceeded in a leisurely fashion to the royal tea tent, talking to people
who had been pre-selected. The rest of us just watched on.

The afternoon tea was delicious. Tea, coffee, iced coffee or juice for drinks.
For nibblies we had dainty sandwiches, sponge rolls, fruit slices, chocolate gateaux,
lemon cake, fruit tarts, savoury buns & ice-cream - mouth watering!

We entranced by the Grovsner Place gate, but exited through the front gate!
I actually got to go into Buckingham Palace! Obviously only the
foyer and main entrance areas, but one had glimpses of red carpeted staircases, gilt framed mirrors, chandeliers & huge portraits of royals past and present.
To say I was thrilled is an understatement.

On our way out, we saw the Changing of the Guard...from the inside!
It was quite thrilling to see all the tourists peering through the gates - at us!!

What an experience. What a day. What a memory."

This post is also a part of Jenny's Alphabe-Thursday 'U' meme.


  1. I so love this story -- thanks so much for sharing it with us. What an amazing experience and wonderful memory. You look fabulous in the suit and hat!

  2. How fantastic! You're rocking your early 90s outfit there...How did you manage to score an invitation?

    1. The family I nannied for had jobs with connections - they were able to apply for or were given a number of garden tea invites each year. I simply had to pass the police credentials check :-)
      As for the outfit! At least you can't see my big hair crammed into the hat!! (I loved a good perm back then!)

    2. How fantastic. I was a nanny too! But in Canada, not London. I don't think any of them had connections to anything…
      I had one perm, it was the 70s. It was a disaster. I've never been brave enough to try it again.

  3. This is just fantastic! What an experience!

  4. Great experience!

  5. What a great story and a great experience! Nice to see picture of you and you describe the event so well!

  6. What fun, and you look just right!


  7. what an amazing experience! you looked so prim and proper!

  8. Anonymous11/4/14

    Wow, just to get an invitation:) What was it that (your job, heritage, etc.) you were on the list of invitations? You were dressed "just right"!

    1. The people I nannied for worked at Australia House in London, which was the first step. Being Australian with a clean police record was probably the second. My employer may have written a reference as well. I'm not sure now after all these years.
      It's a good memory either way :-)

  9. The ultimate British experience! What a great memory and story! Thank you for sharing.

  10. What a great experience, and you looked so posh!

  11. Anonymous14/4/14

    Oh my ... I am speechless! Thank you so much for sharing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those of us who will never be able to experience it ourselves.

  12. That's such a great memory - one of those unrepeatable experiences.


This blog has now moved to Wordpress.
Please visit This Reading Life to comment.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.