The Resident columnist Henry Conway, a consummate socialite, on striking the delicate balance between the opulence of The Season and the austere times we live in…
Living in a time when we are constantly told we need to tighten our belts as a nation, sometimes the social whirl can bring with it a little twinge of guilt. Though definitely more socialite than socialist, even I stop every so often, and reflect on how ridiculous my summer season is.
Dressing up as if belonging to the 19th century at Royal Ascot, or behaving like the Belle Époque never ended on the river at Henley, ‘The Season’ has a codified indulgence that is unrivaled anywhere else in the world. Precisely why we need to keep calm and carry on with it.
London was never designed to be a backwater, with a parochial social calendar. Our city quite rightly grew to be the beating heart of the world, where one is always able to find the very best of the best. Our reputation for quality and tradition is what makes our social season the model the rest of the globe flailingly emulates.
In straightened times, should one rein back? God no. But don’t spiral into vulgarity
In straightened times, should one rein back? God no. But don’t spiral into vulgarity. This season, it’s about austerity grandeur, not vulgar excess. So how to navigate the season with a conscience? Simple really, just take some lessons from the old school of entertaining, and learn how indulgence should wrestle with restraint.
Beating at the heart of most of the summer season is the Great British picnic. Every event sees some form of outdoor eating, be it by the side of a pitch with an abundance of wicker, out of the back of an old Rolls with crystal pinched from the dining room, or in a field with your grandmother’s mohair blanket to save your bottom (something you will be truly thankful for).
Leave helicopters and armies of staff well alone – unless you have a box in the Royal Enclosure, or a table in Stewards – you need to get to grips with DIY glamour for The Season. Should you be the kind of person who burns everything you touch, get Partridges on Duke of York Square to make you up a picnic, or if we are being further restrained Carluccio’s do a very good, more reasonably priced version.
Champagne taste on a prosecco budget has been reality for the majority of Toffs from the Lloyds crash
Decant everything into sturdy tupperware (don’t scoff, remember HM The Queen adores tupperware), and pack some porcelain serving dishes in the car – we aren’t animals after all.
One of the most British of all traits is that as the world goes to hell in a hand-basket, we can stoically plough on, unflappable in the face of high emotion. Take this and run with it while preparing for this year’s social season.
Champagne taste on a prosecco budget has been reality for the majority of Toffs from the Lloyds crash onwards – as long as you are at the event, your clothes are still good quality (a little fraying is always forgiven), you can swap things around in any way you want. With a decent filter, it will all look fabulous on Instagram, and it’s only the geo-tag location that anyone will really be interested in.
Can’t get there? Just tag yourself in anyway…
Follow @henryconway on Instagram