As you can see from Sunday's post, the house was appropriately dressed* and I had taken the precaution of warning all those not familiar with English garden party dress code** that the vast majority of the female guests would be wearing pretty dresses (I didn't bother with the menfolk, although two of the German guests had made more of an effort than the actual Commonwealth representatives - one had rather spiffy red braces on and the other a suit with a pale pink tie) this was not to intimidate them into making more of an effort, but rather that I didn't want them to feel out of place and under dressed. One friend declared she didn't have any summer frocks (or maybe it was just that she didn't have any garden party appropriate?) and was taken in hand by another friend who decked her out in a perfect dress and added a hat and shoes - I gather the whole trying on of possible outfits was accompanied by the consumption of several bottles of wine, so many in fact that it's amazing the nail varnish was as perfectly applied as it was! Another friend gleefully went shopping and turned up in a stunning dress covered in summer flowers. It's amazing that people were so adherent to the dress code given that it was billed as a garden party and therefore it should be in the garden, but it wasn't. We were housebound.
All week long I had checked the weather forecast for Sunday, checking different sites to find the forecast that most suited, to no avail. What was possibly a 50% chance of showers at the beginning of the week became in actual fact constant rain. It did not let up. Not once. Of course the guest list had been designed with the aim of being in the garden and the house. The river pageant would be on the TV and people could watch it or not, flowing through the house. Therefore I felt able to invite more people than the house might comfortably hold...Looking back it's amazing how many people the house can comfortably accommodate, I guess it helps that the ground floor is fairly open plan, it is also great to have a huge (liveable) cellar that the children could be packed off into*** to watch DVDs or play games.
We were all able to laugh at the weather, after all there's nothing you can do to alter it, commenting that it was perfect British weather for a very British celebration.
A lot of my friends had asked if they could bring a contribution to the buffet table, and never one to turn down free food I suggested to most people that they bring cake (I asked another friend to make cucumber sandwiches because they are (or at least seem to me) typical English picnic/garden party food, despite the fact that I loathe them) consequently the table was heaving with cake, carrot cake with a rather gay pink and pale blue union jack frosting, a white chocolate cheesecake with a patriotic blueberry and raspberry topping, strawberry cake complete with a stenciled pistachio crown, advocat cake...then of course there were sausage rolls, cheese and pineapple on sticks, sausages on sticks, deviled eggs, chicken wings****.
To drink we had Pimms, of course. I have a lovely punch bowl, it holds 4.5 litres. We emptied it twice, I think I've made quite a few converts to this very English tipple, although we didn't manage to convert quite so many to the joys of twiglets! Consequently I now have no Pimms, and it's summer (in theory), here's hoping the visitors over next week from the UK think to stop in duty free on their way to the airbridge!
For my German guests the drink situation was a little...confusing, or maybe disconcerting. Germans take their cake with coffee, and to be fair the Brits would usually associate cake with tea or coffee. However, this being a garden party (albeit an inside garden party) and moreover a party, alcohol was on offer, unless they happened to be driving or be under the legal age that is. There was no mention of hot drinks at all...until a friend crept up to me in the kitchen and whispered to ask whether it was possible to have a cup of coffee to accompany her cake, and then when one smelt the coffee another asked - good job I only asked those locals that I know to be anglophiles eh? Otherwise I'd have been stood making endless cups of coffee.
I think the afternoon went well, it would have been nice to have had the luxury of the garden as well, but you can't have everything can you? Maybe next time!
** the Germans, who seem, on the whole, to be as incapable (to my eye) of dressing up (and I don't mean in a batman outfit) for a do as they are of having fun spontaneously.
*** 20+ children aged from 2 to 17 make a lot of noise (although not much mess surprisingly, it helps having a mobile and keen hoover called Logan) could really have done without a couple of the boys bringing their toy guns with them though and trying to conduct a running battle.
**** one of my friends was eating a chicken wing and clearly had his hand down a fraction too low, Logan snatched it from his hand and I would imagine swallowed it whole for fear of it being wrenched from his slathering jaws, fortunately Jason didn't lose any fingers, just his pride.