Wednesday I found myself once again on the London Underground. However, unlike my usual self who is easily able to hide into the mass of people blurring about the place, I felt very conspicous - you could have picked me out quicker than a bad spot. This was due to the fact I was going to, wait for it.... The Ritz Tearoom. Anyone who knows me will understand the dedication I would have to give to myself acting not only my age, but like a 'lady'. I gave it my best shot, wearing my finest black dress, black tights and shoes, shiniest pearls and a beautifully blue bold coat. However, it wasn't quite Audrey Hepburn. With my red hair somewhat 'alight' in the dingy underground carriage, I felt all together like a blunt visual wake up call for some of the weary eyed commuters. My coat, being rather big, also managed to cover the modest dress I was wearing- travelling in public at midday wearing such attire and also poorly done, heavy make up ( I had been fashionably faffing that morning and hurriedly put on my mascara in a badly lit room) I could immediately agree, when, my friend Katie, who was also going, tex me the words ' feeling like a high class prostitute?!'
Arriving at Green Park, I walked down to the Ritz to meet her and Milly. Katie had lied, she looked amazing as did Milly. I prayed silently that I wouldn't embarass myself but as soon as I begun talking to Katie I knew it was no use- already we had started laughing over something minutely funny. Walking past two well dressed doorman and through some spectacular revolving doors ( I hated every second, my BFG feet nearly tripping up on themselves) we stepped into the reception of The Ritz Hotel. Although part of me hates the ideology of such grandeur and materialistic faff, it impressed me. The high ceilings, the rich coloured carpet, the pot plant, yes POT PLANT of orchids and ornate gold framed mirrors ( which were dotted everywhere and caused you to be constatly checking your reflection) created a splendid, regal atmosphere. As Katie tentaviely approached the reception desk, I couldn't take my eyes of some amazing flowers that were the centre piece of the circular hall. I'd never seen a plant so beautiful before.
Soon we were being directed by a young man dressed in a crisp cream suit to the cloakroom. I, thinking I knew what was going on,led my friends confidently down the stairs to what I thought was the cloakroom but it was in fact the 'powder room'. After a moment of awkward hesitation, I lead my friends to a chair where we sorted ourselves out, tamed our hair and reassured our somewhat nervous reflections that we.could.do.this. I personally had decided that whatever happened happened- I probably won't be able to afford to be back anytime soon, so no worries if I flipped a teaspoon.
Finding the cloakroom in the opposite room, we handed over our coats ( I felt rather exposed in my figure hugging dress- being a student I spend my life in jeans) and receiving our numbered blue tassles, ventured across to the main dining room. The best way for me to describe it is probably as a high ceiling, gold framed, conservatory with lots of pot plants, delicate tables with delicate chairs and delicate silverware and delicate china. It oozed sophistication.
The Butler asked for our name and directed us to a small round table where we were helped into our seats. I felt extremely far away from the table, so, nudged myself forward, only to bang my knee against a bar that ran along the bottom of the table. Trying not to laugh, I rubbed it better and sat upright in my chair- the space between me and my plate seemed like eternity- it was very strange as I'm usually hugging the table. As I looked down into the void that was my lap I immediately pictured cream scones falling and tea spilling. Just as I went to grab my serviette, the waiter quickly placed it in my lap as though reading my mind and asked us what tea we would like.
I and my friend Milly played it safe and chose the Royal Ritz Tea but my friend Katie asked for Lemon Verbena- 'an elegant sparkling lemon tasting tisane, a refreshing digesif'. As the waiter walked away I turned to her and asked 'is this another ale festival moment?' recollecting at my last birthday when she stupidly agreed to a pint of ale that smelt like fart because she was too nice to say otherwise. Laughing and switching from yes, no, yes, she changed the subject to the man who had followed us in wearing a tweed jacket and who was now sitting opposite with who katie was determined to label his 'soon to be fiance.'
Our tea arrived on a silver tray in ornate tall silver teapots that curved luxuriously at the handle. I have decided that the tables are made purposefully small there just to test your co-ordination and balancing skills as you re-arrange plates and saucers in very limited space. As Milly kindly poured my tea I sat back and just took mental photographs of the place. It really was stunning and yet again in life I looked at the detail on the walls and the architecture and thought hats off to the skilled men that created this- nowadays it all seems to be the same and made by machines. I also looked around at everybody, at the mix of ages, the couples, the babies, the other young women and noticed how everyone was looking around at each other, questioning their neighbour about things and marvelling in the place itself.
Various stupid things were making us laugh but I was determined to keep composed- I know what my friends are like and I laugh loudly. However, it was tempting fate too much as soon, simply having a swig of tea, I and Katie caught each others eyes and broke out into delirious laughter. If you have ever experienced silent laughter to the point where it hurts because you're not in an appropriate place and you're crying so much which means your mascara makes you look like a panda and the more you try and stop giggling, the more you laugh, you'll know how I felt.
Soon our tier of mini sandwiches and pastries arrived- we had a selection of salmon, egg and onion, cucumber and sour chive, cheese and pickle, and ham and mustard. We were starving so we soon were tucking in, yet, as I was eating Katie suddenly stopped, saying how she had 'eaten more than you so I'll wait.' It was ridiculous as people around us had relaxed and the waiters were friendly, but still we felt that we had to 'reserve' ourselves-Milly made a point of how 'exhausted' she felt just having afternoon tea, let alone doing it 'my whole life- think of Kate Middleton!' This I agreed with- although I loved the afternoon, give me a big mug of tea and toast in my cosy kitchen any day....
As we made our way through the sandwiches (more were brought to us which we declined) we were given warmed scones- which were amazing. The Ritz clotted cream and Jam should have its own medal. Mmmmyumnomnom. We were also given a small glass dish of what I think was vanilla cream and raspberry jelly? It was loverrrly. By now, we had consumed a fair whack of the Queens tea and as I reached to try a little pastry, I realised that my hand was shaking slightly. I also noticed how stuffed I felt but as many of us have done, I ignored it and continued.
We had been given a music request form - there was a grand ole pianist playing songs. When we first heard/spotted him, all I could see was a moustache and we commented on how he looked like a bald Hitler, which we found ironic being in such an English establishment. However, we realised he did NOT look like a blad Hitler and in fact had a rather friendly face. To begin with he was keeping it very classical but as the afternoon progressed he begun to play more film themes, jazz pieces and just as I was debating with the two others about asking him to play Disney Aristocats, the melody of 'Circle of Life' reonated around the grand hall. Immediately I added to the classical pieces we had written down, adding 'Aristocats', 'The Entertainer', and 'Its Only a Paper Moon' all of which were played apart from Ludovico Ein Audi. Throughout the afternoon each of us got a little emotional as he seemed to be playing relevant songs to each of us- as I was talking about how I had wished I still had my grandparents alive to see this, he struck up the tune of Claire De Lune, their favourite.
Just as Milly was rollling her eyes and puffing up her cheeks in food exhaustion, the waiter wheeled around a huge, fresh strawberry and cream victorian sponge and what I guessed was a fig cake. Too polite to say no, Milly asked for a thin slice- beware, the waiters will literally give you the thinnest, transparent bit of cake if you ask for small and a honking great block if you dont. I and Katie couldn't finish our victorian sponge. Don't misunderstand me, it was lovely with vanilla cream, but, after devouring our weight in cake and sandwhiches already, we just couldn't do it.
Something I forgot to mention was that at various points of the afternoon the hall was suddenly filled with waiters, in their penguin tails, arriving at peoples tables with a mini birthday cake and champagne whilst the piano DUDE struck up Happy Birthday on the grand piano ( man, how I wish I could steal that piano.)
After having our last cup of tea, laughing at the sheer fact we were where we were and having a photograph taken in the toilets (honestly, you would too, they're amazing- look) we went to get our coats and leave. All three us agreed how happy we felt and how proud we were to have gone together. Just as we were leaving I asked the doormen for directions to Oxford St whilst Katie, who was laughing at something, was standing next to me. 'She always laughing that one?' said the Doormen.'Yes' I said. 'What a nice way to be' he replied. I couldn't agree more and what a memorable place to spend the afternoon with two of my oldest friends.