The hottest June day since the 1970’s and it’s an early start for myself and friend Lydia. After dropping various children off at school, child minders and nursery, it’s off to Derby station to catch the train to Reading then onward to Ascot for the second day of Royal Ascot 2017. Of course, our early start wasn’t anything compared to that of Her Royal Highness, the Queen who had to give her speech at the opening of Parliament before a quick outfit change and onto Ascot for the parade at 2.00pm.
One of my favourite traditions at Royal Ascot is watching the Royal procession as it travels around the race course and into the parade ring, guessing the colour of the Queen’s outfit before she appears (I wrongly guessed green for Wednesday but she wore a beautiful bright yellow). After the parade it’s time to put on a quick bet before the first race starts at 2.30pm. I’d had a few betting tips from friends ‘in the know’ and Lydia is possibly one the luckiest ladies I know, so I had a good feeling. We placed our bets, found a shady spot at the side of the track and soaked up the atmosphere. ‘And they’re off…’, it was a close race with a photo finish, but our horse wasn’t a winner. This pattern repeated itself for the second race, the third, fourth and fifth … by now I’m feeling a little less positive about winning a small fortune! But who cares? We had a fantastic time sitting on the lawn people-watching, commenting on outfits, picking our own ‘best’ and ‘worst’ dressed. We had a few nice compliments ourselves; one lady asked where my dress was from, a waitress telling us that she’d spotted us earlier and we looked ‘very classy’ which, of course we did! I wore a nude coloured lace dress with pink and purple embroidered flowers by ‘Little Black Dress’ teamed with a Ben deLisi fascinator. Lydia donned a white and gold Ted Baker dress with a pale pink fascinator and her gorgeous wedding shoes. I’ll let you into a secret though – by the afternoon we’d nipped into the Ascot shop and brought a pair of pumps each!
At 5.00pm we made our way to the 1768 tearooms for our pre-booked Afternoon tea. The tearoom is named after the first recorded year of races being held at Ascot. Afternoon tea: a selection of finger sandwiches, mini cakes, scones with strawberry preserve and Cornish clotted cream, all washed down with a pot of English Breakfast Tea. It was heaven to spend a few hours sitting in an air-conditioned room.
After tea we joined in another Ascot tradition – songs around the bandstand. By 6.00pm most race-goers are feeling the effects of Pimms and Processco and are in fine voice ready to sing along in the crowd of several hundred to well known tunes. The atmosphere is amazing; ladies in their finery, gentlemen in top hats and tails, Union Jacks waved high in the air and the band playing merrily. This tradition was started in the 1970’s by the late Lady Jinny Beaumont, wife of Sir Nicky Beaumont, Clerk of the Course from 1969 to 1994 and is now synonymous with Royal Ascot.
Then it was back on the train northwards, finally arriving home just before mid-night, it was a tiring but wonderful day and we are already planning our 2018 Ascot trip.