Once upon a time two happy Tea Queens took time out of their busy schedules, and traveled back in time to the Victorian era, or so they believed. A beautiful, Victorian seaside town an hour’s drive away beckoned them with the promise of an entire weekend’s worth of Victorian fun and frolic. Being the overextended overachievers that they were, however, these two were limited to only one early afternoon activity, so they purchased tickets for what seemed to be the grandaddy of them all, the garden party!
With visions of petite fours, English bone china, and croquet-on-the-lawn dancing in their heads, they each dressed in their best vintage dresses and hats. Though not truly of the Victorian era, their garb was fashionable and fun, and they felt fabulous! The lovely town itself never fails to delight, with its grand architecture, ocean views, fun and funky shops, and restaurants. On this particular weekend, many lovely ladies in full and flowing Victorian dress, a few accompanied by top hatted gentlemen, could be found gliding along the sidewalks as if having just slid out of a Dickens novel.
The “garden party” was held in a dark and musty cavernous hall which had been decorated sparingly with a few small tables, albeit topped with lace cloths and artificial flowers. Parched from their journey, our two Tea Queens were ready for a cup of tea upon their arrival. But, alas, the starting time had apparently been published incorrectly, so the weary travelers were 45 minutes early and told to return later. Fortunately a tea room was open for business just two blocks down the enchanting road. Four women in gorgeous authentic looking Victorian frocks and stylish hats occupied the first table in the tea room, oddly juxtaposed against the sleek, contemporary chairs upon which they sat, and the abstract modern art on the walls behind them. After a delicately delicious scone with clotted cream and a clear glass mug of English Breakfast tea in the back of the tea room, it was time to return to the “garden party.”
A warm welcome was given by a dashing and dramatic host, and soon after, an announcement was made from the stage at the far end of the hall. They struggled to make out all that was being said, but understood that the band was unable to make it, and that there was an invitation to move the garden party outdoors (where a lonely badminton net sagged on a small strip of lawn between buildings). And that was the extent of the “garden party.” No music, no refreshments, no presentation of any kind. Just a table and chair for seemingly no other purpose but to people watch, and a pamphlet explaining, ironically, how elaborate and lavish a Victorian garden party would have been! Granted, the ticket price had not been exorbitant. Still, it seemed a bit steep for as much as a park bench would offer.
Dazed, and slightly disappointed, the two time traveling Tea Queens headed home, shaking their heads in bewildered amusement at how an event that had held so much promise had turned out to be a non-event. The long drive home seemed shorter this time, as they laughed at the humor of it all, enjoying each other’s company, and sharing ideas of how they could have “perfected” that party!
Once home, our heroines quickly changed into new outfits befitting their next scheduled event, an auction fundraiser benefitting the boys and girls in their very own seaside community. Each lady had a volunteer job to perform, and they worked tirelessly throughout the evening, often exchanging knowing looks and suppressed smiles, as they shared a secret that nobody in that beautifully decorated venue could know. For, although it was not a Victorian theme, here was a true garden party atmosphere. From the fresh flowers and folded linen napkins, to the special vignettes of vintage garden delights, to the lilting classical music from the grand piano, and the photo “booth” with a sweet little tea table, (of course, there were also samples of Tea Queens’ tea provided by yours truly) THIS was everything an elaborate and lavish garden party should be, short of croquet-on-the-lawn, and it was just how our Tea Queens might have “perfected” their earlier non-event!
Their travel back in time may have been a bust, but for these two, the real joy of the day came from time spent together, and from giving of their time serving their own community. Perhaps their next adventure will involve planning the perfect Victorian garden party. Only time will tell.
- Julie Ann, Independent Tea Consultant, WA
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