Monday, May 2, 2011

Tea (√) Scones (√) HAT (√√)

As the carriage pulled away, led by four white horses, it was time for reflection and anticipation.

It was like Christmas morning at Lady Marmalade’s house on the morning of April 29, 2011. Well, not exactly like Christmas, but the excitement in the air was as thick as London fog. Looking out the window, however, we were in Astoria, New York, under the beautiful blue skies of a sunshiny day.

I slept over at Lady Marmalade’s house on the evening of the 28th so that Marmalade, Lady Loughtry and I (the one and only Lady Notoriety) could wake up together on the morning of the big event. The event in question is, of course, the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.

I’m not really that much of a royal watcher to be honest. I mean, I find it all fascinating; the monarchy, the house of Windsor, the drama, the titles, the scandals, but I just view it from afar. It’s like reading a fairy tale; I don’t know what it’s like to exist in that reality.

On the Monday night, prior, I was having drinks with Lady Marmalade and I suggested that since she was in town on a staycation and I was off work on Friday that I come to her house on Thursday after I finished work and that we watch the royal wedding together. At this point, Lady Loughtry was out of town, but was returning, we hoped, before the wedding. As it turned out, she was returning the next day so she would indeed be present for the festivities.

I wasn’t even sure that I was going to watch the royal wedding to be honest, but after making this suggestion, plans and ideas began to formulate in my head faster than a party planner with no budget trying to spend a millionaire’s money on his bimbo fiancé’s outrageous wedding ideas.

The first thought through my mind was: hat; I needed to find a hat. There was no possible way I was going to watch the royal wedding and not wear a hat. Now, being gay I knew it would not be a mans hat that I chose. No! Why choose something dull and boring when the women have so many beautiful, over-the-top options available to them. Yes, I knew I would be looking for something in the style of Philip Treacy, the haute couture hat designer from Ireland. It had to be Kentucky Derby worthy – festive, fabulous and dramatic.

I was more surprised than anyone when I found the perfect hat on the very day I started my search. It was in the first store. I hadn’t even seen it when I walked in. I had looked at everything else and was on my way out when I saw it. It was like a light from the millinery gods had suddenly been turned on above the purple hat sitting on display. I took it off its display stand and put it on my head right there in the store. I didn’t care that it was for a woman. I was determined to see how it would look on my head. It was the only one in the store. The only one in that style, the only one in that color. There were no more. That didn’t stop me from accessing my inner Gemini though and putting it back on the display and leaving the store in order to see what else I might find down the street. That may seem a little more Libra than Gemini, but it’s what I do. One side of me wants it and the other side wants to see what else is available. The answer to that question: nothing. There was nothing else as striking and appropriate as that hat. Thankfully, it was still there when I got back.

Once the hat was purchased, it was easy to move on to less important things like scone recipes. I know how trivial it sounds to be concerned about a hat when you’re attending a party of three people and watching a wedding that is being televised from across the pond, but I am dramatic and truly wanted to find a hat that would make a statement. I knew everything else after that would be easy.

Lady Marmalade found scone recipes. She found two, in fact, that she decided to make. I was in charge of buying the tea and finding clotted cream. I completed both of those tasks on Thursday afternoon. I knew that the Amish Market had a small, but complete, Twinings of London tea section. I was tasked with buying English Breakfast tea and any other kind I might find appealing. For the English Breakfast we had already decided that we wanted loose tea. When brewing a pot of tea, I can’t imagine the British use tea bags. I could be wrong, but it’s my under researched opinion. While standing in front of all of those glorious teas I saw a box of Prince of Wales tea. Well, as William is known as Prince William of Wales, I had to buy that box of tea bags. Can you blame me? It occurred to me while in the Amish Market that they have many interesting, odd and hard to find items that you can’t find at Food Emporium or Trade Fair. My suspicions were proved correct when I found a small bottle of English Double Devon Cream. Okay so it’s not exactly clotted cream, but it’s the closest I could find. Clotted cream can also be referred to as Devonshire cream, so with the words Devon and Cream in the title and the appropriate thickness of the cream visible through the glass I breathed a sigh of relief after paying for my items. If you’re keeping a tally, that’s one hat, one jar of cream and two types of tea purchased. This party was taking shape before my eyes.

Thursday evening when I got to Lady Marmalade’s house, we had to make a trip to Trade Fair and purchase the ingredients necessary to make the scones. It wasn’t until after my arrival that I actually learned there were two scones recipes to be made. I was very excited and couldn’t wait for us to bake the next day. I’m telling you the excitement started the night before. We just didn’t leave cookies and milk out for Santa before bed. Speaking of bed, we didn’t go to bed until 1am. We had scrapped our original plan of getting up at 4am to watch the wedding in real time. We decided to be more realistic and record the royal event and watch it at a more reasonable hour.

I thought the reasonable hour would have us waking around 8am or so the morning of April 29th. I was mistaken. Lady Loughtry was knocking on my door about 6:20am. She was already dressed in hat and jewels. Lady Marmalade was already in the kitchen working on the Strawberry Rosemary scones. That’s right folks, Strawberry Rosemary scones. I later dubbed them Berry Mary’s.

I quickly put in my contacts and ran to the bathroom to wash my face. I returned to the bedroom and began to put myself together for the morning’s festivities. I chose to make the hat the focal point of my costume for the party. I wore jeans and a white v-neck tee. Over the tee I wore a black vest complete with lapels. I needed the lapels, you see, because along with the hat, I purchased a crown, set in black stones, which I turned into a lapel pin for the occasion. As my hat was purple, I wanted to find something with a bit of purple in it that would also add a splash of color. It occurred to me on Wednesday, when I was trying to decide what to wear, that I had a shiny, multicolored tie that included the color purple. I tied that tie into a Windsor knot and wore it strategically bloused out of the vest. It was just enough zing, but not a distraction from the hat.

I emerged from the bedroom and went straight to the kitchen where I was not only given a Ruby Red Grapefruit mimosa, but the name Lady Notoriety. It was while I had been still asleep that my two companions had come up with our names: Lady Marmalade, Lady Loughtry and Lady Notoriety. Cheers, now drink! The moment our titles took shape so did the English accents that we would use throughout the day.
As I mentioned previously, the scone making was already underway by Lady Marmalade. Lady Loughtry was starting her spinach/mushroom/cheese frittatas and I helped out where needed. I floured the counter and the rolling pin for sticky scone dough. I peeled and sliced apples for the second scone recipe. It was full of apples and cinnamon and topped with sliced almonds. I added the dollop of strawberry preserves to the Strawberry Rosemary scones prior to placing them in the oven. I helped in small ways. Everyone had their task and the laughter and drinks flowed and the kitchen began to fill with the smells of our English breakfast.

When the scones and frittatas were out of the oven it was time for the tea. That was where I came it. I made the English Breakfast tea. Lady Marmalade made the pot of Prince of Wales.

The table had been set with Lady Marmalade’s grandmother’s china. It was laid with two platters of scones, a platter of frittatas, two pots of tea, cream and sugar for the tea, clotted cream, orange marmalade and raspberry jam. It was a feast and we did just that – feast.

We retired to sofa and chairs post breakfast with our teacups in hand. We watched the Abbey fill with fabulous, stunning, ridiculously excessive hats. It seems the women were required to wear a hat. I felt right at home in my own. We watched the procession of Royals to Westminster Abbey. We watched William and Harry wave to the crowds of cheering Londoners. We watched Charles and Camilla. We watched the Queen and Prince Phillip.

Then she appeared – barely visible, by design, to the cameras. The anticipation was growing as we waited to get a full glimpse of Kate and her gown and to learn who had designed it. We watched her wave to the crowds from behind the glass of the Queen’s oldest car and held our breath as the car came to a stop in front of the Abbey. When she stepped out of the car the crowd went wild. There were even a few tears shed in the room in which I sat. She was the gorgeous, living, breathing, epitome of a fairytale princess. Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen designed the gown. Sophisticated, stylish, elegant and sexy, it was daring and conservative, modern and nostalgic. More than one person, both on television and at my gathering, compared it to Grace Kelly’s wedding gown.

We watched as she walked down the aisle in the grand tradition of a royal wedding. Slowly, methodically, allowing all to take in the beauty of the moment. She may not have been born of royal blood, but she seemed surprisingly relaxed and composed for someone not born to that life. Maybe it’s because she was truly happy to be marrying the man whom she loved?

I couldn’t help but remember watching Lady Diana marry Prince Charles. I was 10 years old, gay even then. It’s hard to believe that she is dead now and that her eldest son married the love of his life in the same pomp and circumstance tradition that we, the world, watched her marry his father nearly 30 years ago.

The ceremony was a little too steeped in tradition to be personal, but the personal moment was to come. That horse-drawn carriage had taken them to Buckingham Palace and the crowds had gathered outside the gates in anticipation of the kiss. When they emerged from inside the palace, slight trepidation gave way to smiles as they waved to the crowd from the balcony. The crowd roared when they actually kissed for the first time in public as husband and wife. But William didn’t stop with just one kiss; he kissed her twice. Prince Charles has been the first to kiss his bride on that balcony and his brother Andrew followed suit when he married Fergie, but William was the first to kiss twice. Neither kiss was lengthy, but both were appropriately sweet. It was worth all the anticipation and waiting.

I did my best to document the silliness of our posh, pretentious tea party/English breakfast. It was everything that I imagined it would be. I remarked near the end that there were no two people I could have been more at ease and happy with in watching the royal wedding than Lady Marmalade and Lady Loughtry.

Thank you, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge for sharing your day with us. Could it be that a new era of British Royal has now taken center stage?

Signing off from my ground floor flat,
Lady Notoriety