Stories with Sandra – The Best Season in the World

Offer me a castle in Spain, a mansion in Monaco, an apartment in Paris and no dice. Leave London in June? But it’s the season!

I wonder how many home exchangers, who’ve found themselves in London in the summer, have dipped their toe into the mad, marvelous world of the English season. It’s supposed to be a sophisticated mix of cultural, social and sporting events, but really, the Season is about dressing up.

Just one of the reasons everyone loves Ladies' Day

Just one of the reasons everyone loves Ladies’ Day

Whether it’s taking the afternoon train to Sussex in full evening dress for a picnic followed by some extremely high-brow opera at Glyndebourne or sporting the most flamboyant hat at Royal Ascot while hubby is in full morning dress (which is of course full evening dress) or possibly putting that same husband into a comical stripey blazer, such as Bertie Wooster might have worn if Jeeves hadn’t stopped him, for the Henley Regatta, everyone has their chance to get out the glad rags. The honourable exception is the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament, where you only need a hat and suncream and/or an umbrella and a rain-coat. Usually you need both. Rain and Wimbedon go together like strawberries and cream or Pimms and cucumber. (Both of which are, of course, also de rigeur at Wimbledon).

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It all started back in the 18th century when Queen Anne was cantering across Surrey Heath and it came to her in a blinding flash. “What an ideal place for a racecourse”, she cried. And so Ascot Race Course was established, and somewhere along with it the conviction that racing was the Sport of Kings. This brilliant idea was rapidly followed by more regal racing at Epsom in the form of the Derby, named for Lord Derby and then, just in case it all looked a bit too much like fun, George III, the great art lover and the one who either went mad or not, depending on what movie you saw, added a little sobriety and Germanic culture to it all by sanctioning the ‘Summer Exhibition’ when every Tom, Dick and Sir Joshua Reynolds could exhibit what they liked and the whole of London turned up to see what was passing for art in the 18th century.

Summer at the Royal Academy

Summer at the Royal Academy

People have been predicting the end of the season for decades, probably centuries, but it just keeps growing and getting even better. Wimbledon came into the mix in the 19th century, Glyndebourne in the 20th and the Goodwood Revival, which is not just a race meeting but a Concorde of elegant, gorgeous cars, with people dressing up (inevitably) as the kind of characters who might have driven those cars. Most of them seem to have been James Bond or Jay Gatsby.

Obviously, I love the season and I especially love Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot, where traditionally the Queen’s horse competes, does an honourable job and then loses. It even lost in her Diamond Jubilee year, which I thought was tactless.

This year as I was deliberating between a large but elegant black straw hat by Queen’s milliner Freddie Fox or a small, perky number which I thought looked rather retro with a little veil dotted with black spots, a la Bette Davis in her youth, I wondered if this just might be her year. The Queen’s. Not Bette Davis. After all, her coronation was 60 years ago and every single one of those sixty years her horse has been relegated somewhere in the also-rans. No-one loves horses like Her Majesty and few, I reckon, know as much about them as she does, so surely it must be her turn soon.

With the Yeoman Prickers, been there since Queen Anne

With the Yeoman Prickers, been there since Queen Anne

I decided what I had to do. First was wear the perky number. Second was have a bet on ‘Estimate’, the Queen’s runner this year in the Gold Cup stakes. I was not alone. Even the Yeoman Prickers had a bet, I believe. They have been around since Queen Anne’s Day, and were armed with pointed sticks to prick any unfortunate hoi-polloi who got in the Queen’s way. These days, they have only umbrellas to ward away the rain.

And what happened? One won! That’s what happened. Her Majesty became the first reigning Monarch to win the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot. Ever.

God Save The Queen!

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Should you decide to ‘do’ the season, try living nearby. Possible addresses include:


Screenshot_6_24_13_9_28_AMListing 110527 Ascot Contemporary 3 bedroomed home with garden in Royal Ascot.

Screenshot_6_24_13_9_27_AMListing 345673 Four storey, 5 bedrooms, 4 bthrooms, could accommodate 8. Victorian Wimbledon.

Screenshot_6_24_13_9_26_AMListing 67838 Light and charming, 4 beds, 3 baths home in Wimbledon.


Photos: Sandra Harris, Carine06Tigre Municipio, Winky, Neil Rickards, Herry Lawford, David Blaikie

3 Comments on “Stories with Sandra – The Best Season in the World

  1. Sandra, as always a lovely piece. You made me miss London, and all the great things the city has to offer (despite the weather sometimes). Thank you for introducing us to many sports and the history behind it.

  2. Sandra,
    Thanks for your funny, brilliant writing! Very informative…great to see women in their facinators! We’ve been home exchangers twice in Germany. (I used to work as a ballet dancer in the opera houses in Munich and Berlin). Would love to hear your thoughts on going to the theatre in London. (I trained at the Royal Ballet School in the 1970’s in London.) That was fun because the Beatles were still together in those days! Any info on walking the Lake District would also be fun to read about.Thanks again!

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