N21 Festival Cream Teas in Henriettas Garden
Station Road, Monday 18th and Wednesday 20th - Friday 22nd June 2012
I had been contemplating holding a “Tea for MD” to raise funds for the Macular Disease Society (my Ralph suffers from MD) on the occasion of its 25th birthday, when arrangements were being discussed for the N21 Festival, celebrating the centenary of Henrietta Cresswell’s famous book.
As we live in one of Henrietta’s houses, and have quite a nice big garden (although it looked bare and horrible before all the recent rain revived its lushness), I thought that “Tea in Henrietta’s Garden” would sound more apt. The MDS, however, wasn’t one of the charities chosen for the Festival to support, nor was the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group (35 years old this year), of which I am Hon. Chairman. I didn’t wish to exclude these charities from my efforts, so, in order to raise sufficient money for all the charities involved to benefit from a decent sum of money, one tea-party became two, and two became three, and before very long four days of two sittings each were being planned.
I estimated catering for about 16 people at each sitting, and offering them principally cream teas as it would by then be the strawberry season and scones were relatively easy to bake. Being short of just about everything required for such an undertaking, I sought help, and was handsomely rewarded.
Extra tables were kindly lent by Paul Van Biene, who also lent chairs, as did Jonathan Appleby and Alice Young. Paul also lent us tablecloths, garden umbrellas, china, silver-plated tea-sets, coffee-pots and cutlery, and water urns and glass jam-dishes. More tablecloths came from Heather Potts. Pretty table napkins I was able to purchase in bulk from Ebay, and also a Victorian outfit to lend atmosphere to these events. After all, Henrietta bought our house in 1893, and having recently discovered a family connection with that of Charles Dickens, I fancied that a Victorian theme would be most appropriate.
I didn’t wish to incur too much expenditure overall, so applied for funding from Healthspan, who were offering money towards the cost of holding fund-raising events for charity. I was unsuccessful, but Healthspan nevertheless sent a small donation to the MDS on my behalf.
With all the seating arrangements and tableware now taken care of, I began to wonder what would happen if it rained… Fortunately Bob Tourkow from Barnet offered to lend us his large gazebo, and Brian Tilson gallantly came round to help me put it up after I had collected it. Meanwhile, our good son-in-law Trevor managed to repair his own gazebo which had been broken in strong winds some weeks previously, and brought it down from Rugby in case we still needed extra shelter.
So now everyone could sit down and not get too wet if it rained. Meanwhile, tickets and posters for these events had been prepared and kindly brought round by Catherine Drennan, and, after having the tickets cut into shape by Joe at Sprint, I took them to Roberto (Marino and Roberto), Martha (Papylon), Dora (Home Care Preferred) and Jonathan (Mistress Appleby) for sale.
At first, with the onset of the dismal weather, they were selling very slowly. So Lynne Yazgan, whose support at this time was invaluable, suggested that we sold champagne at £3 per glass and offered musical accompaniment by live performers, to give more of a sense of occasion. This necessitated my applying for a licence, and I began to wonder where I was going to find the champagne and musicians. Here, Lynne was again most helpful, putting me in the direction of some very reasonably-priced champagne and finding some really excellent musicians, Yasmine Latkowski, Rosalyn Miller and Sam Rolles. Alice Young and Kuljit Pabla kindly offered to supplement my limited stock of champagne flutes, and Heather Potts, after much ringing around, found that Edwin Malins was willing to complete the programme of recitals for us. However, Edwin needed a keyboard on which to play, and Iain Tatch from Enfield Lock was good enough to lend us his, which I hastened to collect on the Wednesday, just before preparing for the second day of tea-parties.
So, with drinks and music organised, the sale of tickets speeded up, and it was time to think about the quantities of food we should need. Many offers of scones and cakes came in, from Celia Reynolds, Catherine Drennan, Mary Nixon and Sue Hansler, and particularly from Goulla Angelides (Eggsand bakie) and Diliana (The Fairies of London) whose contributions were most generous. I myself spent several evenings in front of the oven, busily baking away. Meanwhile, Kuljit Pabla kindly came shopping with me to purchase the jam, tea, coffee, milk and sugar. I then set about looking for clotted cream sold in bulk. But the postage/courier costs for cream from the West Country far outweighed any advantage gained by bulk buying. Then I suddenly remembered that Heather was on holiday in Devon at that time, and she very kindly responded to my plea and brought several kilos of cream back with her, fresh from Newton Abbot Market.
The scene was nearly set. Tessa Stevens kindly came round and put up the bunting I had bought, and also blew up the balloons. Allison Lee had been good enough to prepare some very professional-looking notices indicating where the parties were (not that everybody heeded them)… From The Garden on the Green I had purchased some pretty begonias to use as table decorations, and all the tickets were now sold or booked through the four outlets originally selected and also through Atkinsons in the Grangeway as well as some directly.
By the time Monday 18th arrived, people were still besieging us with requests for yet more places. The odd one or two we allowed to squeeze in without tickets (paying at the gate), but the 16 per sitting originally anticipated eventually turned into 25-29, eventually making a grand total of 215 guests! And still we were turning people away! Fortunately, I wasn’t short of wonderful helpers, without whom all would have ended in disaster. Alice Young did a splendid job signing people in at each sitting, taking the orders for champagne, and making sure that guests at the first sitting left punctually to allow us time to prepare for the second sitting.
Monday 18th was dry and fairly sunny, and that morning we took delivery of the china and silverware which had been used for the Edwardian tea-party the day before. We had awoken to find that we had no hot water, which set alarm-bells ringing, but somehow we managed to resolve the problem by the time the afternoon came. Alice, her daughter Jayne, Heather Potts, Lesley Denchfield and Maria Dreyer were my helpers on that day, and a fine job they did for me, very swiftly settling into a routine and ensuring that everyone had what they needed.
On Tuesday 19th there was no tea-party, as grandparental babysitting took priority, followed by a night at the opera. Alas, the curtain having got stuck, the performance of La Boheme, with Georghiu and Alagna’s 20th anniversary of their first performance together in this opera at Covent Garden, started and ended 35 minutes late, resulting, after all the curtain-calls, in a very much delayed arrival home…
Wednesday 20th was again a bright and dry day, and with the same team as on Monday, minus Jayne, we were well used to the routine to be followed. Once again Ralph, whose job it was to purchase fresh strawberries and milk each morning, enjoyed himself wandering around and chatting to the guests, and helping Heather to sell tickets for the N21 raffle. Henrietta herself put in an appearance each day, going off afterwards for an evening appointment and returning the next morning. Pots of jam made by me from the apples in Henrietta’s garden were also selling quite well.
The weather forecast for Thursday was not good, and Brian came round on Wednesday evening to help put up the second gazebo. Thank goodness he did, for it really turned out to be quite wet, and we couldn’t have accommodated so many people indoors. It was sad to see some guests sitting with their umbrellas up for extra protection, but everyone seemed to enjoy the occasion nevertheless. Alice and Lesley were joined on that day by Kuljit Pabla, Lauren May, Sheila Youngs and Pam Boyland, with Heather arriving later after a prior engagement. Once again, they all took to their tasks like ducks to water, and everything ran smoothly.
Friday’s weather was even worse, for it wasn’t only wet, there was a fairly strong wind. It blew one of the umbrellas over with the result that we had to put them away and seat everyone under the gazebos and verandah roof, while the musicians would have to play just inside the French windows. The wind also brought down the train lines with the result that Edwin was marooned en route at Finsbury Park and Kuljit at Alexandra Palace, with a bus strike to contend with as well. Fortunately the underground was still running, so Heather rushed up to Southgate to rescue Edwin, while Kuljit proceeded here by taxi. We just about managed to keep to schedule, to have enough supplies left for everyone and to keep guests dry that afternoon! Henrietta was blown over so many times that we were obliged to move her into the greenhouse for safety. This time Alice, Kuljit and Heather were joined by Lesley and Mary Nixon, and again they did a sterling job.
It was a daunting task, a logistical nightmare and an enormous challenge for me to organise these tea-parties, but we did manage to raise over £800 for the Festival charities and have enough left to give substantial donations to the other two charities. Once again a HUGE thank-you to all those mentioned above, as well as to Hugh and Ann, for without their inspiration, energy and infectious enthusiasm all the tea-parties would have remained just a dream. It was really rewarding, too, to see so very many clearly happy faces in our garden during the Festival week. But I’m afraid I must disappoint those who have expressed a desire to come to a similar tea-party each week or month – I don’t think I’ll do it again!
Gillian R. Western
Before the Event
The home of local resident, Gillian Western, was once owned by Henrietta Cresswell and as part of the N21 Festival, Gillian will welcome guests into her garden for afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea will be accompanied by classical music.
There will be two sittings daily:
Monday 18th June 2012
2.45pm to 4pm and 4pm to 5.15pm
Wednesday 20th June 2012
2.45pm to 4pm and 4pm to 5.15pm
Thursday 21st June 2012
2.45pm to 4pm and 4pm to 5.15pm
Friday 22nd June 2012
2.45pm to 4pm and 4pm to 5.15pm
Tickets are £5 per head and profits go to charity.
Tickets available from Atkinsons Chemists (Grange Park), Home Care Preferred, Mistress Appleby, Papylon and Marino & Roberto.
We would like to say Thank You to the team of volunteers, who have made this event possible.
The Fairies of London are kindly donating fairy cakes for one of the days. www.thefairiesoflondon.co.uk
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