Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Tea ceremony in England and a visit to Brighton

 We've just had a short break in Brighton.

The Brighton Pavillion was turned from a farmhouse into this wonderous palace by the Prince Regent, son of George111 (that's the one they made the film Mad King George about)

A strange man, who once he was made Regent, had access to large amounts of money and who spent an awful lot of it decorating the pavillion in chinoisery style.

The Chinese and Japanese influences are everywhere and are amazing.
The building itself is built in Indian style, and the outside appearance makes it look bigger than it actually is.

Queen Victoria is supposed to have disliked it, and it's furnishings, but it's more likely that she chose to get rid of it simply because it was too small for her large family, and was in the centre of the town and there was little privacy.

She actually removed much of the furniture and put it in her other Palaces, so must have liked it I think.
I can't tell you how wonderful the interior is even though much of the furniture has gone. The wallpapers, curtains, and chandeliers are worth the entry money on their own.  Do go.  No photos were allowed of the interior I'm afraid.

And, in the shop on the way out, I came across a wonderful little book called Tea and Conversation.  I have been struggling with finding the right words for Life 5 - "shall I be mother."  The original plan was to make the piece about life as a geisha, and filling the models body with information about the restrictions of being a geisha, and the importance of the tea ceremony to Japanese culture.

However, I've been amazed by the gems in the book and have been finding out about the Afternoon Tea ceremony in England.  Here's some snippets which may make you laugh, but may surprise you too.

"Draw up a menu of conversation" 
As the hostess takes so long attending to the table decorations, the food, the choice of guests and her appearance, she should also be aware of shaping the conversation.  In order that the guests can quickly be in touch with each other, the hostess could also draw up a menu of conversation. This could be placed on each person's plate.

At a formal tea party it is wrong to consider the art of conversation unimportant.  It is one's duty to try and make others happy.

Advice for young men's conversation at tea parties
The finest compliment that can be paid to a woman of refinement and esprit is to lead the conversation into such a channel as may mark you appreciation of her superior attainments.  Let your conversation be adapted as skilfully as may be to your company.

Never lower the intellectual standard of your conversation in addressing ladies. Pay them the compliment of seeming to consider them capable of an equal understanding with gentlemen  (nb, note the "seeming" as opposed to really considering them capable!!)

Do not use a classical quotation without apologising for or translating it.  Whether in the presence of ladies or gentlemen, much display of learning is out of place.

Teatime in springtime (all seasons are considered separately)
Springtime offers great scope for the enthusiastic hostess. The isolation of winter months ensures plenty of guests, an eagerness for new conversation and the latest styles.

For those who have wintered abroad, afternoon tea is the perfect showcase for their European fashions and for those who have spent cosy days at home dressmaking the fruits of their work could be paraded.

The awakening of the flowerbeds will inspire the astute hostess in spring and Easter. She will plan her afternoon tea to be at one with the countryside, to echo nature all around her. The hostess will collect garden and wild flowers to adorn her table; she will make a vivid table decoration to be a visual masterpiece which will stimulate conversation and put guest at their ease.

A theme should be chosen and the able cloth, napkins, tea equipage, china, doilies, table runners and all trimmings will be coordinated in accordance with the theme. The cloth might be embroidered with crocus and tulips and the corner of the napkins decorated with matching imagery. Where possible the crockery should match one of the colours, as would the tray cloth.

AND SO ON AND ON.  Wonderfully appropriate isn't it??  Can you see why I leapt at paying £3.99 for this treasure?!


  1. That little tea book makes me look at my vintage embroidered table linens in a new light! You have a mine of anecdotes and statements there for your quilt. I think we forget the formalities attached to drinking tea in our own society sometimes.

  2. I just love the Pavilion, it might well be my favourite building anywhere.