The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

Now that we are past the long­est day of the year and the nights are draw­ing in, it would be un­der­stand­able if the mun­dan­i­ties of life were get­ting you down. So here’s some­thing to con­sole you: we are at the height of “The Sea­son”. At this time of year, there are umpteen events that al­low you to feel that tiny bit more spe­cial than those around you whose lives re­volve around wash­ing, iron­ing, DIY and earn­ing an hon­est bob. Oh, how we all like to feel a bit spe­cial! Put down the Mor­phy Richards and the Black+Decker, put on your best hat and head off to­wards the near­est so­cial oc­ca­sion that will cause you to for­get do­mes­tic life, if only for an af­ter­noon. “The Sea­son” started in the 17th century and peaked in the 19th, al­though we still man­age to keep it go­ing. Orig­i­nally, it marked the start of the landed gen­try’s stay in Lon­don for the sum­mer. They would up sticks, staff and all, from the coun­try es­tate, and travel to their sec­ond home in the great me­trop­o­lis where they would at­tend balls and ex­hi­bi­tions, visit each other’s houses and gen­er­ally get on each other’s nerves un­til the au­tumn when they moved lock, stock and bar­rel of oys­ters, back to the coun­try to be­gin their win­ter of hunt­ing and shoot­ing. Sadly, you’ve missed the start of “The Sea­son”, which is gen­er­ally re­garded as be­gin­ning with Chelsea Flower Show and end­ing with Cowes Week, af­ter which – on Au­gust 12 – the gen­try will shed their blaz­ers and white flan­nels, put on their Har­ris Tweed and head up to Scot­land to sur­prise the grouse. I am not averse to “The Sea­son”. It brings colour to our lives and pro­vides won­der­ful people-watch­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. The at­mos­phere is un­fail­ingly buoy­ant and cel­e­bra­tory, and yet the prospect of at­tend­ing each and ev­ery event would, I fear, leave me reel­ing and dys­pep­tic – over­dos­ing on straw­ber­ries and cham­pagne, bon­homie and Bisodol. But start­ing a lit­tle later – with Royal As­cot be­hind us – does give one a chance to hit the ground run­ning, and with Wim­ble­don un­der way and the Hen­ley Royal Re­gatta start­ing next week, there is no ex­cuse for avoid­ing the party spirit. Wim­ble­don is the best sum­mer sport­ing event there is, and a mag­net for real ten­nis fans as much as the cor­po­rate crowd who now seem to over­whelm many a sum­mer bash. Whether you have tick­ets only for the ground, or find yourself in the Royal box, you are as­sured of a good time and some stonk­ing ten­nis. If the weather is in­clement, a pop star will even lead the com­mu­nity singing. Should you have a healthy build­ing so­ci­ety ac­count, you can even buy one of those el­e­gant navy blue, white-braided Ralph Lauren blaz­ers worn by the um­pire and lines­men. It will set you back £880, un­less you are a cheap­skate and pre­fer to buy it at an on­line dis­count site for £400. Talk­ing of blaz­ers, be­ing a state sec­ondary school kid, I have al­ways found Hen­ley Royal Re­gatta slightly bizarre. Not the row­ing; that’s won­der­ful, ex­cept that not a lot of people seem to watch it. They ap­pear to spend most of their time drink­ing in tents. No; the odd thing is the sight of gi­gan­tic for­mer sports­men (in terms of both girth and height), aged 40, 50 or 60, wear­ing the school blazer that was their daily uni­form in their teens. The Le­an­der Club (which is ap­par­ently the posh­est) has a pink blazer and con­trib­utes won­der­fully to the jol­lity of pedes­trian traf­fic on the river­bank. Do go along and walk up and down the river­side. I have an old striped blazer of in­de­ter­mi­nate scholas­tic iden­tity that I bought in Ox­fam many years ago. It is now rather tight around the mid­dle and will do me nicely next week (as long as I don’t get stopped by an old Blenk­in­so­ponian and am ex­pected to swap sto­ries about Puffy Benger and Gussie Fin­knot­tle). Should your school days be some­thing you would rather for­get, then wait un­til the week af­ter the Hen­ley Royal Re­gatta and take yourself off to the Hen­ley Fes­ti­val of Mu­sic and the Arts. It uses the same site and tents as the Re­gatta, to which it adds a float­ing stage on which or­ches­tras and mu­si­cians per­form in the evening. It is a sheer de­light and Mrs T and I have been reg­u­lar at­ten­ders for 20 years or more. There is amus­ing “street theatre” on the river­bank, art and sculp­ture ex­hi­bi­tions, and a host of restaurants, from bistros and bars to that lovely thing they call “fine din­ing”. It’s black tie for the men and glam­orous out­fits for the women, and the over­all feel­ing is a cross be­tween the Proms, the Royal Academy’s Sum­mer Ex­hi­bi­tion and a vil­lage fete. This year you can en­joy per­form­ers as di­verse as Bryan Ferry, Joss Stone, Burt Bacharach, The Jack­sons, Rick Wake­man, Jasper Car­rott and Alistair McGowan, with the River Thames and its plea­sure­craft glid­ing by as a glo­ri­ous back­drop. Hear­ing Do You Know the Way to San Jose as a skein of geese fly low over the wa­ter will be a sight to re­mem­ber. Should you re­quire more high­brow fare, then Glyn­de­bourne and Gars­ing­ton Opera will fit the bill. But if all this cul­ture is just too much, take yourself off to Glo­ri­ous Good­wood from July 29 to Au­gust 2. Now, to be hon­est, I can take or leave Royal As­cot. But the Earl of March has cracked it at Good­wood in terms of or­gan­i­sa­tion and pre­sen­ta­tion. You will not come across a more crisply main­tained race­course, a more de­light­ful at­mos­phere or finer views – right across the Sus­sex Downs as far as the Isle of Wight on a clear day. The Pimm’s, food and close­ness to the ac­tion make for a great day out – and there are 19 meet­ings from May to Oc­to­ber if you are busy that weekend. Be­ing a res­i­dent of Cowes, I shall en­ter into the spirit of the yacht rac­ing, even if I haven’t a clue where they are head­ing or who is in the lead. The town boasts a spir­ited at­mos­phere dur­ing that first week in Au­gust, and then, when the yachties de­part to the grouse moors, the north coast of the Isle of Wight is once again peo­pled by those who de­light in its charms re­gard­less of “The Sea­son”, which, by then, will have de­lighted us all long enough. With so much go­ing on in sum­mer, the calm of Septem­ber gives we so­cialites a chance to catch our breath and head, once more, back to the sticks. But that’s some time off yet.

Thames tra­di­tion: the Hen­ley Royal Re­gatta is a great oc­ca­sion for com­pe­ti­tion and colour, while the Hen­ley Fes­ti­val of Mu­sic and the Arts fea­tures per­form­ers such as Joss Stone, in­set

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