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>Strawberry Brunches

24 Feb

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I can feel it in the air – like a whispered promise. Spring is coming. The birds told me so. As I skip to work at ungodly hours, their music accompanies and soothes me. How can I not be merry when the world around me is waking up from a long, cold slumber? I, too, am awakened once more. 

Today in particular was a very fine afternoon. Sunshine is scarce in Ireland. Methinks the leprechauns stuffed it in a pot at the end of a rainbow. But today, the drowsy sun, emboldened by its hibernation, greeted me with a gentle embrace. I bought myself the first ice-cream of the year, hurried to my favourite hiding place and sat down on the grass, watching the birds frolic in the bushes and listening to their song. I felt at that instant one with nature.

Ah, isn’t life beautiful? At such moments, it seems most precious. Spring is a time for long walks and gardening – watching the flowers blossom before your very eyes. Spring is also an excellent time for high tea or elegant brunches. Last year, we had several and I would like to share with you a few photographs from those occasions. 

>Regency Scene – Past Indiscretions

3 Jan

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A continuation of: http://renate-villerius.blogspot.com/2010/12/bachelor-visits-regency-scene.html

“That’s settled, then. We will send out invitations later this week. There is no fixed date as of yet for the ball but I hope to secure the Crown Inn. They have a ball room that is divine. Naturally, Harley Manor was my first choice but with our extensive guest list, I fear we would be unable to accommodate everyone.”

In Audrey’s opinion, this was no great compliment to Harley Manor but her mother was quite ignorant of these matters. Her father, a very wealthy landowner, was better suited to supervise such delicate situations but business called him away so Josephine was in charge until his return a week from now. Mr. Sharpe took his leave, wished them the very best and expressed his delight at the prospective ball. As the door closed behind him, Mrs. Hamilton ordered some fresh tea and announced her plans for the blissful event.

“You must have new gowns, of course! You cannot stand up with such a man dressed like a farmer’s daughter,” she exclaimed. The critique was aimed at Audrey’s evening dress; creamy silk with a plunging neckline and puff sleeves with ribbon trimmings – purchased only the month before and still considered the height of fashion. But objections were fruitless; no one could reason with such a creature as her mother. “You shall look your very best. All past indiscretions shall be forgotten. All it takes is one dance with that gentleman. A smile and a few words of kindness should do the trick,” she continued

Audrey rarely danced. Not due to some inaptitude on her part but because there were few gentlemen whose company she could tolerate, let alone appreciate or enjoy. Most young men adjourned to London at the commencement of the season, leaving her locked away in the country with old fogies, clergymen and bores. At the beginning of her career as an adult and woman in search of a husband, she had been dispatched to London for a proper coming-out. But after a dozen balls, they had been forced to admit that her admirers, though loyal and clever, applied to her for friendship rather than courtship.

One marriage proposal was received by an elderly gentleman, a second son of a duke. The gentleman professed his love after a cup of tea, biscuit still in hand. But due to his lack of fortune and connections, not to mention the perfect indifference on her side, he was refused. Spiteful and hurt, he spoke of his rejection amongst friends and Audrey’s conduct towards him was pronounced misleading and deceitful. Wherever she went, this supposed error in judgement haunted her and she soon quit London entirely, never to return.

“If all goes well, we may even relocate to London. Should you not like to visit Town? It has been too long, I declare. Surely, your past vices have long been forgotten. It is many years since you were last there. They will have new scandals to speak of.” But on this point Audrey would not surrender.

“I have not the slightest intention of revisiting the place of my only failure.” Though she considered her punishment disproportionate to the crime, the fault was hers; through her youthful enthusiasm and unguarded nature, she had allowed him to believe an attachment had formed between them.

“You are too hard on yourself, my dear. Think of how much you have grown since then. It would be perfectly safe for us to sojourn there. I will not let you jeopardise your future. Your fear is understandable but with all you have to offer to the world, it must be overcome.”

Audrey was silent. Her mother meant well – supported and comforted her when disappointments crossed her path. Though Audrey had always been her favourite, after her scandal her hopes were transferred to Audrey’s younger sister, Catherine, who was recently married to a Duke.

“Besides, with your sister’s recent successes, your reputation will have increased. Only imagine how eager all those fine young men will be to be seen with you.”

Against such sound arguments, even Audrey could not but yield. “Very well. We shall go to London. But we have scarcely any acquaintance in Town. Who shall we call on during our stay?” It worried her. Her friends and relations were not such as possessed townhouses. Instead, they remained in the country, just as they had done for so many years.

“That isn’t true. Mr. Beckham will be in Town. He informed me of the fact only a fortnight ago at Mrs. Berry’s picnic. Apparently, he owns a large townhouse near Grosvenor Square.”

This was no great inducement for Audrey to go to London; Mr. Beckham purchased a big estate in the neighbourhood some weeks ago. Once settled in the community, he called on his neighbours to introduce himself as was the custom. However, when he was expected at Harley Manor, he sent word that he was unable to favour them with a visit and excused himself to join a hunting party up north. Hunting! How could it take precedence over his neighbourly duties? As of yet, all she has learned of his character has been through mutual friends, who were fortunate enough to be granted an audience with His Pompousness.

Mrs. Hamilton was kinder in her assessment of his person; the general opinion of his character was so favourable that it had impressed upon her the belief that all had been some mysterious misunderstanding that he sought to rectify as soon as possible. As such, she spoke very highly of him with unrelenting speeches about his intentions to visit them for an introduction.

Perhaps if it had not been for these many tedious remarks on the subject, Audrey would have forgiven his folly and reserved her judgement until in company with him. But, as it was, the many accounts of his generous nature and good breeding only made his ill treatment of them more strongly-felt. A gentleman so easily swayed from his responsibilities could not in essence be a good man.




>Living History: Reenacting Jane Austen

2 Jan

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We are all familiar with the books of Jane Austen, spend rainy Sunday afternoons swooning over Mr. Darcy and wish we could step into Elizabeth’s lucky footsteps. Now, you might not get to meet Mr. Darcy, but reenactment allows you to travel through time and enter a different life. Events are held all across the world where people indulge in this strange hobby. So, what’s the appeal? As an experienced regency re-enactor I will share some of my experiences and photographs with you.

                                                           at my first ball with my aunt

I first heard about the society through my aunt, who co-founded it after experiencing a lack of civilian re-enactment groups. Many people were interested in the period itself rather than the military element. From the desire to demonstrate middle-class regency life, the society was born and quickly, my whole family joined. Made up of period piece enthusiasts, it was no difficult task to convince them. I was only twelve years old when I attended my first event – a ball in a real castle!
I wasn’t even officially a member at that point but it opened my eyes to a new, exciting world where I not only inhabited a regency heroine and got to dance with dashing rogues (who were perhaps a cook or accountant in real life), but it also deepened my love for history. Being involved in living history requires some effort on your part and whoever would like to take up this marvellous hobby, should take the following issues into consideration:

                                                                           a peek at our wardrobe

  • ·         You are in charge of your own costumes. Although members might let you borrow a gown or two when you’re just getting started, there are patterns available from the period so get your sewing kit out! I can tell you in advance that recreating a historical costume takes a lot of work, patience and fitting. You wouldn’t be the first one to cut off the wrong part or sew something on backwards. Through experience, you will become more proficient in creating your own historically accurate outfits. Just do some research on fabric and colour. I’ve seen one too many ladies in dresses that reminded me of Barbie goes to Prom.

                                                           attending a Regency wedding in church

  • ·          Events can take place internationally so depending on your location and commitment, there will be some travel expenses. You will need to bring your costume and accessories, food, etc. You’ll need a car to get all your stuff safely (and in good condition!) to the event.

sipping tea on our country estate; I’m in white
  • ·         Read, research, refine. If you’re going to portray someone from another period, you will need to know how they talked, sat, acted and so on. Familiarise yourself with the etiquette and the history of the period so you know what was going on in the world. There’s another excuse to re-watch Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion.
dance and dinner at a ball; I’m wearing the red dress
  • ·        Dancing lessons. If you want to actually dance at a ball, you will have to take regency dancing lessons. It’s my favourite part of the experience. Mastering the dances takes a lot of time and energy. During every dance rehearsal we had several moments were we said: “Wrong way, Mr. Collins!” I know of several regency dancing troupes in the U.K. so that is something worth checking out. And just think, next time you’ll watch a period drama on the BBC, you’ll be able to pinpoint what dance they’re using and trace their footsteps to refresh your memory. 

                                                          fishing with my sister and uncle


If you have the time and money to invest in this hobby, I highly recommend it. Through my society, I attended balls, picnics, hunting parties, historical weddings and battles. We cultivated idleness and sipped tea for an audience while the men engaged themselves in sport (shooting, for instance). The ladies drew, read books, played old-fashioned games and wrote letters. I’ve also tried fishing at one of the events but there were no fish to be caught. I suppose it wasn’t the season.

                                                              f.l.t.r: my aunt, myself, my sister, my uncle


I’ve been photographed by a dozen people at once (which made me feel like a film star), called Anne Frank (wrong century!) and even once a servant (wrong class!). My favourite events had an international flavour. It enables you to meet like-minded people from all across the world. All those brooding Italians and Spanish soldiers. I even met my first boyfriend through this hobby. Alas, as it turned out he wasn’t my Mr. Darcy. But as I surveyed all those fine specimen of manliness in their military outfits, I perfectly understood Lydia. “Ooh, officers! A man is nothing without regimentals!”

This hobby also has a bit of a theatrical aspect. We sometimes staged scenes, including public arguments between different groups/classes of re-enactors. To make matters easier, we decided on a character to play for the duration of our membership. Because my mother, sister, both aunts and uncle were all members we created a regency family so we could still be related in our new fantasy world. Under this regency name, I wrote diary entries. It gave me my first taste of historical fiction and I enjoyed it immensely. Our society also had a magazine with useful tips and information, interviews, recipes, etc.

                                                                      my family in the beginning of our adventure

Links about living history:

Regency dancing groups:


If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment box and I will get back to you.