Wow. I feel British. I feel transformed.
I have always wondered what it would feel like to be British. I have always wanted to dunk myself into everything British, this includes: food, culture, style, etc.
On Saturday 31st January, I enjoyed a culinary heritage called The Afternoon Tea for the very first time. This Afternoon Tea experience, has earned itself a 5 star on my pleasure radar. I must warn you, I take my limited number of pleasures seriously. Thanks, Oprah.
As a Nigerian woman with a Nigerian mentality, this celebrated traditional Afternoon Tea was not my cup of tea. Well, until Saturday. Before then, it would have been very fake and ridiculous of me to pay an absurd amount of money for the experience of sitting in a Drawing Room,in a fancy hotel, drinking cups of tea and eating finger sandwiches.
My old self, before Saturday, would have calculated the cost and concluded that the price tag for the whole experience would buy my family a month’s worth of peppery stew with assorted meat, a bag of “Tolly Boy” long grain rice and fried plantain. (My poor husband, who loves to enjoy life, has never understood this thinking). Moreover, tea and sandwiches have never screamed “pleasure” at me.
So, how did I find myself, enjoying this “perfect example of quintessential Britain”?
Thanks to my very stylish, refined and upper-class looking relative, R. He is a white British film producer who works hard and enjoys life.
To cut a long story short, it was R’s treat. He wanted to surprise his wife, L. According to R, L had been working very hard and needed a well-deserved break. He was taking her to Coworth Park (Part of the Dorchester group of hotels) for 3 nights. He invited us to join them for Afternoon Tea at 2.30pm on Saturday.
When Saturday came, the excitement of my children and husband were hard to contain. My children were looking forward to seeing their Uncle and Auntie. My husband, the Afternoon Tea. Me, I was full of anxiety.
My anxiety was short lived, I was going to wear my “Makeover Hat”. My “Makeover Hat” has the power to change me into whatever is required to help me fit in anywhere. Almost every day, it changes my Nigerian accent to sound more like the people around me. Also, when necessary, it is able to carry me out of my informal Nigerian ways to a place where different rules of etiquette are required. Some people describe this as “faking it”.
I asked my husband, J about dress code but most importantly, if the finger sandwiches were going to fill and satisfy my gut. I was brought up on very filling, heavy and dense foods. I was worried that finger sandwiches, scones and pastry were not going to do it for me. Moreover, R had warned us not to have much for breakfast. An advice, I later appreciated.
At 1pm, sticking to an elegant smart dress code, we drove our silver Vauxhall estate car to the Royal Borough of Ascot. “African time” was not an option here as J was on hand to make sure we kept to time; being late would have been too humiliating for my white husband to bear. After 10 years of marriage, he is still trying to accept me for my lack of punctuality.
We arrived early enough to take a walk round the picturesque grounds of this 5 star hotel. With my “Makeover Hat” in place, I fitted in perfectly. I felt major and it felt good. The most important feeling was happiness. I was spending quality time with my supportive and loving relatives, husband and two daughters. It was heaven.
Fast forward to 2.30pm, my hat had now transformed me into Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford who started the Afternoon Tea trend. After a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, I knew it. I knew this experience was going to be life changing. And it was.
My gut comfortably full of the luxurious selection of traditional English finger sandwiches, my ego massaged by the excellent waiting staff and I was with the people I love. I was with the people who have got my back. What else matters?
Thank you L and R for making me feel British.