Monday, 20 April 2009

Ladies Who Lunch

It's already close to two weeks since I turned into one of those formidable 'Ladies Who Lunch' - just for a day - don't begin to imagine I could keep it up for longer! One of my erstwhile work buddies scooped me up in her shiny new silver coloured car and whisked me away to Stansted. Not the airport, in case you're wondering, but Stansted Park's 'Pavilion Tea Room', in a 'Walled Garden' no less. Apart from Tea Room being a bit of a mis-nomer, as we were having lunch, the place is great.

The surroundings are everything you would imagine from such a elegant name. Stansted Park is set in 1800 acres of ancient beech forest which, in1983, was gifted to the public by the Earl of Bessborough, together with the arboretum and the family home, Stansted House. There is now a garden centre and a light railway to add to the attractions of the park, and as a whole it offers a wonderful venue for weddings, corporate events or simply a family day out.

From the car park, you turn left through an arched doorway into the walled garden which is dotted with ornate, white wrought-iron tables and chairs, already scattered with people on the sunny morning we were there. Then it's left again into the Pavilion. This is a semi-circular, glorified conservatory, for want of a better description, all high domed glass in delicate white framework - probably UPVC clad aluminium if you inspect it closely - but very elegant.

There are palm-like potted plants near the columns that support the roof, and tables and chairs are strategically place so's not to make you feel hemmed in as you walk between them; chairs with pseudo woven-cane seats in a wonderful caramel colour and with black, rounded backs reminiscent of bent cane chairs ( but sadly, also plastic) give the whole place a palm court atmosphere, further enhanced by the black-an-white checkerboard floor.

The solitary waitress dressed in black, is a mature lady, with sensible, flat lace-up shoes. Her slightly less-than-sprightly walk gives the nod that the shoes are for comfort, not safety. She seems to cope well with being in sole charge of serving, for diners go to the counter to place their orders and pay, leaving her free to distribute the plates of food as they are ready to serve.
The food is delicious, everything home grown and home made on the premises.

But it was the clientele, whose diversity gave food for thought, that made up my most enjoyable course!

Four of the Ladies Who Lunch at the next table had shades of grey-to-silver hair, but the fifth one had obvious spent a fortune at a salon to camouflage her locks with a not-totally- believable, pale umber - just a little too perfect; the last was young enough to still sport her own dark brown hair, with no more than a slight, reddish rinse. She looked a typical spinster (judging by her ringless hands), quieter than her friends, and arty enough to want to go and inspect the metal wall sculptures more closely through her black rimmed spectacles. Her companions were wearing variations of red, white, navy blue or cobalt clothes but she had a plain brown V-neck jumper and black trousers that pushed her even higher on the anonymity scale.

Left of their table sat a family group of Granny, Mummy and two well behaved pre-school children, obviously out on a special treat, while slightly further behind them to their left, were two gentlemen in business suits, that my lunch companion had pointed out as a couple of undertakers, as they'd walked into the room.

'How on earth do you know that?' I'd asked her, wondering whether she'd suddenly acquired second sight. 'I've been to a lot of funerals this year!' came her prosaic reply. Guess it must have been their lunch break....Even undertakers have to eat.

Opposite these two, on the other side of the room and to the right of the 'Six Ladies Who Lunch' , a deafening silence came from a couple who were obviously long time partners. Sir had his back to me, so I couldn't see his expression, but his gaze was riveted on a newspaper folded in half and spread over his place setting, as they waited for their food. Madam gazed disinterestedly around the room with eyes the colour of rainwater, her thin lipped, down turned mouth registering disapproval of the world at large, by the look of it. Her pale blue blouse added to her frosty aura. Once their food arrived, and the newspaper relegated to a coat pocket, they did actually talk sporadically to each other, so perhaps all was not lost.

They were in stark contrast to the couple immediately along side us, who kept up an animated exchange, with a lot of gesticulation on the part of the woman. I was sure I'd met her somewhere before, as she looked so familiar, but couldn't remember where. I hoped I'd be able to get her to turn aside long enough to say 'Hello!' and solve the mystery, but her attention was fixed steadfastly on her companion. Her eyes scarcely left his face the whole time we were there...must have been love!

We'd arrived at about noon, as my friend knew how busy the place got, and as time went on it was easy to see how right she'd been. Singly, in pairs or groups the diners kept coming, but somehow there always seemed to be enough room to accommodate everyone. Many of them would fall into a category I would label 'the beige brigade'. Have you ever notice how many OAP's of both sexes dress in drab tones? And my friend and I? We added a true splash of colour, her with scarlet jacket and myself in total contrast with brightest jade over an aqua top - you could have seen us coming from a mile away!

PS. Please don't imagine our conversation was sparse, just because my mind was registering all these details - our tongues had a great, non-stop work out - put it down to multi-tasking ability!


  1. Good for you! I love to see women in colours it can be so flattering and cheery.

  2. Excellent! People watching is fascinating! Love it!

  3. People watching and a good lunch at a swanky place do wonders for our disposition. I guess we all should become 'ladies who lunch'.

  4. "Ladies who lunch"

    I've never heard that phrase before. It sounds rather delightful, actually. I'm quite happy not being a lady, but lunch is something I always enjoy.

  5. You sure painted a vivid picture with your words.. even more colourful than scarlet, jade and aqua. :)

  6. I'm with you in that posh caff Jinksy - I love people=watching too. And I agree it is nice now and then. We have a large Ladies who lunch club here and I have often been invited to join - I shudder at the thought - get all poshed up, have my hair done, nails done, put on my best jewelry, go to lunch then come home at around mid afternoon and have to take all my finery off and get back into my gardening/walking clothes - no thanks.

  7. Multi-tasking is good. Now when I see a brightly dressed lady involved in a sprightly discussion I will know that in her head she is deciding if I'm an undertaker.

  8. Wonderful descriptions. I must return to read it again more thoroughly. I do hope I never end up next to you in a restaurant!

  9. Very glad you can multitask, that way we got a nice story from you. Isn't it fun just to set and watch others, and listen to a little of their conversations.

    I love to go to a Mall, not to shop, but to set and watch the people coming and going. I can remember as a child, my Grandparents would drive about 15 miles on a Saturday night, to a larger town, and we would set in the car and watch the people walking by on the streets. Of course as a child I found it very boring. But now that I am old I enjoy it immensely.

  10. I feel as though I've been there! How I wish I had! Extraordinary, Jinksy!

  11. Ahh - people watching - a wonderful occupation that you can do anywhere in the world.

    Some of my most memorable people watching episodes have been in other countries where we would buy a local newspaper - especially if it was in a script other than English, and sit in the local square and pretend to read it.

    It would get us lots of curious stares, especially if our appearance was vastly different from the locals!

  12. Good narration. I could see the restaurant right in front of my eyes.

  13. I was riveted, jinksy, by your perceptive observation of the people around you. I wonder, though, what you would have made of the two gentlemen in dark suits if your friend hadn't told you they were undertakers?

    I get into awful trouble from family and friends for my habit of 'ear-wigging' when eating out. People watching - and listening - is a longtime occupation of mine....

    PS I've tagged you over at my place for a 'meme of the moment', although I'm not sure if you approve of them. I rather feel that your answers to the questions would be singular and probably very funny, too! But please just ignore the tag if you don't feel inclined to do the meme.

  14. You know, I can totally see you bringing the "color" to the lunch party.

  15. Hehheeh! You're a woman after my own heart! I love to people watch and chat with my friends! And what better way than at a fabulous place? Glad you had fun! Jenni

  16. Instead of listening to conversations, my dad liked to position himself at the entrance to a shopping mall or department store and look at people's shoes. He said you could tell a great deal about a person from the condition of his or her shoes.

    I expect to read a blog from you on this subject before too long....

  17. You are a very observant peacock, my dear. I enjoyed your article very much!
    Blessings, Star

  18. I wish all you lovely people could really have been there with me in person - as long as I didn't have to foot the bill for all your luches! xxx

  19. Beautifully told! I want to go there myself, now!

    I know exactly what you mean about the 'beige brigade'. I think it's partly because when you get to the age when comfort and fit are the most important thing, there's not a lot of choice, but there are those who actively choose it, too. Billy Connolly did a great routine on the subject!


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