Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tea in the park with a difference

Crowds 1
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Well, that was interesting. Rather like a wedding reception – an alarming number of people we knew, as well as several familiar faces we couldn’t quite place. Except, of course, that most of us don’t have HRH the Duke of York at our weddings, let alone the men in strange hats. In a way, these gentlemen were quite a highlight – tall fellows with extraordinary feathered tall hats, carrying sticks over their shoulders – presumably to beat off the importunate guest or – perish the thought – worse.

After leaving Dunoon in a gale, with the rain pelting down and a temperature as we came off the ferry of only 5 degrees, the sun and more-or-less dryness of Edinburgh came as a great relief. There was still quite a wind gusting round, flapping the marquee and tearing unwise hats from the heads of the godly – for this, remember, was the Garden Party to mark the opening of the Kirk’s General Assembly. The dress code for the event had obviously meant whatever came up your back (or onto it, for that matter), so we saw the lot: Highland dress (on Scots, on visiting American clergy), go-to-wedding polyester in assorted pastels, uniforms (military, clerical), morning suits, trench coats, capes – and even an anorak or two. The best hats were on the heads of men – the feathered jobs on the Prince’s minders, the bandsmen, and a wonderful fedora or two. And at least one bowler hat.

The food was small, dainty, toothsome, delicate, crustless. The tea was, sadly, Indian and powerful; I managed to tutor a charming waitress in the art of watering it down to palatability. The bands were lovely – a regimental band and a pipe band who played, inter alia, the music from The Last of the Mohicans. I wondered if this was significant.
The band played on

We wandered on the incredible grass, looked into the ruined Abbey Church, enjoyed simply being close up to The palace of Holyroodhouse. We hobnobbed with bishops and a former Moderator, whom we knew long before he was anything like so well- known. When the rain threatened we made a beeline for the marquee, and we made a foray to the tastefully-appointed, if temporary, loos when we needed a heat (hah - caught you!)
Minder with hat.

It was all good clean fun, even if the closest I got to Prince Andrew was to lean my phone on a tall hatted-one's shoulder. He looks much as he did, but older. Just like the rest of us, in fact.

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