A Garden Party – The Queen’s Jubilee

I went to a garden party….in honor of the Queen’s 70th Jubilee on Jun 4.  Canada is a commonwealth country, so I grew up singing God Save the Queen in grade school, along with our national anthem, Oh Canada.  One of my very first memories is of the Queen’s visit to my city in 1959, although as a wee tyke of three I wouldn’t have had any idea of who she was, but I do vaguely remember standing on the riverbank near the church watching the Royal Yacht glide by.  All I knew was an important person was onboard, so we had to wait…and wave.

The Guest of Honour

So when I read that the city was throwing a garden party in honour of the queen’s 70th anniversary on the throne, I went straight to the website to sign-up…..but the registration was already full, as the event was limited to only two hundred people.  So I spoke to a very nice lady at city hall who put us on the waiting list, whereby I happened to mention that my mother at 96 was the exact same age as the Queen.  (I’m not without my devious ways.)  A few days later an invitation arrived via email – Hear Ye, Hear Ye – you have been added to the Queen’s guest list.  Attendees were encouraged to dress up and wear a hat, including vintage 50’s styles from the era of the Queen’s visit.

Attendance was limited at this exclusive event as they wanted to model it after the Queen’s own garden parties. She holds three every year on the grounds of Buckingham Palace and one in Scotland – a tradition dating back to the time of Queen Victoria in the 1860’s.  The parties are by invitation only and fancy dress is required.  Tea, scones and cake are served to about 10,000 people.  It’s a way for the Queen to recognize and reward public service, and a chance for her to mingle.  This year due to mobility issues, other members of the royal party filled in. Here’s a link to more information about the Queen’s annual Garden Party.  

The day of the party dawned warm and sunny, with a delightful breeze – one of those perfect June days you so seldom see anymore.  The venue was a public park with beautiful gardens (I posted about Plein Air Painting here in Sept. 2019 when the flowers were at their peak) and we walked through the arbour strung with hanging baskets to the registration desk.  

Pink is my favorite color for flowers

Chairs were set up under the large shade trees for the required speeches, with every stripe of politician represented – federal, provincial, municipal.  A pipe band opened the ceremonies.

And then to the food tent – we snagged a table in the shade.  The food was wonderful…..the traditional tea party fare.

The sandwiches – salmon, tuna, egg, cucumber – were all excellent.  I tried my first cucumber sandwich – where else can you find a cucumber sandwich but at a tea party!  And scones of course, and all kinds of dessert squares, and cookies, including these special Union Jack ones.

These individually wrapped souvenirs were sugar cookies with royal icing – almost too pretty to eat, but I managed.

There were macrons in red, white and blue.  I’m always disappointed by macrons, as they look better than they taste, and aren’t they French?

There was tons of food left-over, as witnessed by the trays of sandwiches behind the tables, so I hope the food bank benefited. 

There was no cost for the tickets as the event was paid for by a heritage grant, but I wonder if some of the people who RSVP’d forgot to show up, or changed their minds, although there did seem to be a good crowd there, including a few people who were walking through the park and asked if they could join in.   

The table décor was lovely, and a few lucky souls got to take the centrepieces home.

I really liked these royal blue satin tablecloths.

There were flags,

and tents.  Nothing says fancy summer party like a white tent.

Ladies Who Lunch in Hats

It was fun to check out people’s outfits, and their hats.

Vintage Laura Ashley (British Designer)

I wore a floral yellow dress from the 80’s, and got several comments on it, but sensibly wore flat sandals, although I did see a few people tottering around on impossibly high heels, sinking into the grass.  I’m too old for that and too afraid I’ll fall over and break something. I needed the sweater because it was cool enough in the shade, and also to cover my arms, as I don’t do sleeveless anymore. It felt strange to wear a dress again, for the first time in five years. I wasn’t too happy with my hat, an old straw relic also from the 80’s, but didn’t have time to look for anything else. Plus, I think those fascinators are silly things on most people.

A vintage clutch purse which closes with a satisfying click, like all 50’s style purses do, including the Queen’s. She has over 200 of her iconic brand, in many colors. It’s rumored that she sends secret signals to her staff with her purse, shifting it’s location to indicate that she wishes to be rescued from a conversation or wants a dinner to wrap up.

My mother’s pearls

And pearls of course, there were lots of pearls in evidence.

After lunch, there was an enactment of the Queen’s life put on by a local theatre group, with various members representing the queen at different stages in her career.  No matter what people might think of the monarchy, there’s no denying the Queen has lived a long life of dignified service, not to mention surviving all those family scandals. She must be a woman of fortitude, strength and resilience.

Afterwards, we wandered through the garden pathways admiring the baskets, although the flower beds themselves were just newly planted. 

All in all, it was a beautiful day and a wonderful party.  Long live the Queen!

Grannychic

Although I’m not a granny, I was happy to read that the latest home decorating trend is Grannychic – also known as Cottagecore, or Grandmillenial style. 

I first read about this new style, a direct reaction to the popular beige minimalist décor, in the October issue of Susan Branch’s blog.  (Here’s a link to her blog.)

Susan Branch she is a cookbook author and watercolor artist, who lives on Martha’s Vineyard.  She published a bestselling hand-written cookbook thirty years ago called Heart of The Home (recently re-issued), and has a long list of other cookbooks to her credit.  I discovered her a few years ago, after reading a review of her self-published journal, Martha’s Vineyard – Isle of Dreams – which piqued my interest enough to order it.  This illustrated journal centers around her adventures buying an old cottage on Martha’s Vineyard while in her 30’s and fixing it up.  She also has two other handwritten journals, The Fairy Tale Girl about growing up in California in the 1960’s-70’s, (worth it for the chapter on meeting the Beatles), and A Fine Romance about her three month trip to the English countryside with her husband, (for those who always wanted to rent an English cottage).  These gorgeous books are all for sale on her website.  You can also sign up for her blog/monthly newsletters, which are always cheery and uplifting. 

To me, Susan Branch is a perfect example of Grannychic.  She lives in a big old (1849) white house on Martha’s Vineyard, which she bought with the proceeds of her first cookbook, (a far cry from the initial shack).  The house itself is my idea of house heaven, complete with a white picket fence and flower gardens.  Her husband Joe (he owned a restaurant, they bonded over cooking) is a sweetie, and even her tuxedo-cat, Jack, is a lovable character.  In fact, her life is so perfect, that sometimes I’m too envious to read her blogs.  She’s not Martha Steward though, she’s more casual and laid back.   

So, what is grannychic – antique furniture, shelves full of books, candles, wallpaper, fabrics (chintz and toile and florals), plaid pillows, and lots of color (especially blues, pinks, greens and white).  Check, check, check – I have all of those.  Although I’ve renovated the outside of my older style home and parts of the inside, I never got around to getting rid of the wallpaper and wainscoting in the dining room and now I don’t have to! 

Which just goes to show, if you wait long enough everything comes back in style.

It’s also a way of living – flower gardens, feeding the birds, listening to old music, baking and cups of tea.

It’s cluttered versus bare surfaces, lace doilies, pretty tablecloths, and china. I’m envisioning those who de-cluttered now frequenting thrift shops trying to buy their stuff back.

It’s even Laura Ashley (must check closet).  I’m hoping that it invades the fashion world too, so we can all dress up again.  I’ve been watching old re-runs of Murder She Wrote lately with my mother, and wow, the clothes, everything so colorful and coordinated.  It seems like a different world.

Grannychic is the kind of comfy, classic look which never goes out of style.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the aesthetic of those beige minimalist rooms, it’s just that I don’t think I could relax in them.  We’re now into the time of year when the winter winds are howling, so it’s time to draw the curtains (I don’t have to replace those either!) light the candles and get cozy. 

Now, if only it extends to Christmas decorating, as I have way too many decorations….

Fifty Years Ago Today

“It was fifty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play….” 

No – if my memory serves correct, the lyrics are, it was twenty years ago today.

You know you’re getting older when the Beatles are considered senior’s music and many younger people don’t even know who they are.  One youngster upon hearing an early Paul McCartney track remarked that he thought the singer would go far. If you haven’t seen the cute British movie, Yesterday, it’s based on the same premise – a world where no one knows the Beatles music.  (Aside – British actors must get annoyed when every lead role goes to the lovely Lily James.)  

I recently turned old enough that the government is now sending me money – along with an information package that I’m now eligible for free drugs and pneumococcal and shingles vaccines and reminders to get routine tests done so I don’t become a drain on the heath care system someday.  I’m right smack in the middle of the baby boomers, and the problem with my generation is that there are so many of us.

I came across this list in a magazine geared to boomers the other day, and yes, we are still a marketing demographic.

How many do you remember?

Suddenly I’m fifteen again in the kitchen of our old farmhouse waiting for the bus, with the radio tuned to the local FM station. It’s 7:30 and I’m wearing a mini-skirt and trying to grab a few bites of breakfast with the smell of perked coffee in the air. I’m sure my mother sat down and enjoyed a cup when we were all out the door and peace and quiet reigned once more. Maybe she changed the station to some easy-listening music.

The bus stopped frequently as practically every farm had kids and my brother playing lookout at the window could see the flashing lights down the road, thus giving me a few extra minutes to gather my books and fringed suede purse, (all the rage then.) The bus picked up students for six different high schools in town so it was crowded. (Did I mention there were so many of us?) As we were the last ones on we often had to sit three to a seat, and someone from another school would reluctantly move over to make room, but the advantage to being scrunched in like sardines near the front, was close proximity to the bus-driver’s radio and more top ten hits. I got in at least an hour of music a day that way.   (A few years later when I was in my senior year, the peak had thinned out and there were empty seats. Now there are only three high schools left.)   

Even though we lived in the country, we weren’t country music fans, unless you counted cross over artists like Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gayle, so the only one I recognize from the country list is Charley Pride – Kiss an Angel Good Morning, but I know every one of the top ten billboard hits. 

Of the movie list, I only remember seeing Billy Jack (with my cousin) and Fiddler on the Roof (my mother’s choice), both rather forgettable, other than perhaps one memorable song each.  We didn’t have the money or the wheels to go to the show very often.  I think Love Story was out that year too, a more popular film for teens, but not all movies were good, then and now.

We might have had better music but would I want to be that age again – no!  Too much homework, and not enough money.

Many of my fellow boomers are retiring.   My dentist recently retired and when his millennial-aged children took over the practice, the first thing to go was the oldies-but-goodies radio station. During my last checkup I heard Spirit in the Sky for the first time in decades, (possibly not the best soundtrack for a root canal.) Now it’s some variation of that horrible rap music.  I turned the radio on the other day and heard this snippet of a lyric, “I held your hair back when you were throwing up.”  Now, there’s a romantic visual.  Contrast that to “Well, she was just seventeen, and you know what I mean…”    Not that all those hits on the list were great though – Knock Three Times on the Ceiling was pure cheese – the same thing could be easily handled today by a text message.  

My financial adviser recently retired – I’ve been with him since I was 32 and took an “Investing in the 80’s” evening course he taught at the local community college.  We had a meet and greet to introduce me to his much younger replacement, and I swear we both had tears in our eyes reminiscing about old times and 12% interest rates and that $150 dot.com stock I once sold for $10.  I only saw him once a year at RRSP time, but he was someone you could count on for wise advice, well except for that one stock whose name escapes me, although it caused much angst at the time. Now I have to start all over again with someone else. The same with my doctor, my accountant, my hairdresser.  I’m already on Lawyer Number Three. The previous two died young, and as the replacement is the same age, I’m worried. You see all that expertise and work ethic walk out the door, and it can be unnerving having to adjust to someone new, whatever their age.   

That’s the other thing about being in your sixties.  People YOUR OWN AGE start to die on you – cousins, work colleagues, the spouses of friends. You start to read the obituaries online.  I lost a work colleague last week, a kind soul who always used to call me SISTER, and I felt incredibly sad that I hadn’t gone to visit her, hadn’t even known she was that sick. 

I remember the head nurse of chronic care once saying that the key to a successful old age, was being able to adjust to change and loss.  No wonder they say, “old age isn’t for sissies” but really what is the alternative? Another approach is accepting the limitations that come with age, not necessarily giving up but pursuing more realistic and meaningful goals. I won’t be backpacking in Europe anytime soon, but I might still become a rich and famous novelist and rent a villa in Tuscany and invite all of my blogging friends…..

It also helps to have a passion in life, a sound mind and good health. It’s hard to enjoy yourself at any age if you are in constant pain or suffering from any of the many indignities of growing older – bad knees, hips, cataracts, etc….many of them fixable, but reminders all the same.

Now that I’m officially “young-old” my mother must be “old-old” although she has never really seemed her age. She has certainly been an inspiration when it comes to aging (she built a new house at 72, took up painting at 87 and has had several solo exhibits) but somehow I doubt if I’ll see her age. I have more of my dad’s genes, hence the need to start taking better care of myself. (You might have noticed there have been no baking blogs lately…..maybe next week)

If there’s one thing that scared me when reading Keep Sharp – Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s new book about building a better brain, it’s that our habits in middle age (good or bad) help determine how we will live our old age. Number one was exercise. Some people were motivated to make positive changes during the pandemic, others waited it out like hibernating-couch-potato-sloths addicted to multiple streaming services. I recently signed up for Netflix – the last Canadian holdout – as I figure it’s going to be another long winter ahead.

If anything I think the pandemic has aged us all to some extent. We stay home more, get more sleep, take afternoon naps, watch more TV, have tea and toast or Meals on Wheels/Door Dash delivered when we’re sick of cooking and fill our days with errands and appointments to minimize exposure……plus scan the flyers for bargains as food costs soar! I’m sure I’ll be taking up bird-watching any day now – seriously, I have three sets of binoculars and this is on my Bucket list for next year. If old age is for the birds, I want to see them!

Apparently albums are back in style again for music connoisseurs, so I’m thinking I might pull some of those old records out of the basement and crank up the stereo (Pioneer with vintage 70’s turntable – make me an offer) and listen to some Carly Simon if “it’s not too late.” Let the Music Play!  

PS. A neighbor of mine lived to be a vibrant 105, but she was always young at heart…