What a fantastic day we had on Sunday at the tearoom with our Britain at War Afternoon Tea. I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did.
We had been planning the event for a couple of months, thinking about the food, the songs, the jokes, the quiz and the little bags of sweet things for everyone. For the last few weeks you could have been forgiven for thinking the tearoom was open late on a Thursday night as planning meetings and singing practice were had by me, Mr M and the fabulous Elaine. As usual, we started out with a couple of obvious choice songs such as There’ll be Blue Birds Over. It didn’t take long though for the three of us to be depressed by the songs and wondering how we would ever turn drab sounding songs into a fun afternoon for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the famous songs are poor, but the way we were singing them, as Mr M said, was making them all sound like Dirges – (a lament for the dead, especially one forming part of a funeral rite). Elaine and I sulked a little at our choir master’s criticism but then realised that we actually agreed with him. So we had more tea and cake and went away to think again.
Over the next few weeks, songs were suggested and dismissed. Some that were dismissed were re-suggested in a different form and finally we had a good handful of songs. We all had a song that we demanded be included at all costs. Elaine chose “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”. I chose “The Music Man” and Mr M picked “Where have all the flowers gone”. I did have a bit of a fight with Mr M about my song and he would insist that the song had nothing to do with Britain at War. “But there is the verse about Dam Busters,” I cried. I do believe that I even took tips from Bev, the Girl with the Puppy Dog Eyes and eventually he agreed that The Music Man could be included. Not only that, it would be first song! Victory!
Elaine suggested that we could do I’d Like To Teach The World to Sing as our duet piece. Well you wouldn’t believe the laughs, tears and more laughs we had over this song in our practices. Firstly, I don’t need to remind you that I am no singer. I open my mouth and sounds come out. Sometimes they are in tune, most times they are not. Now Mr M really is the Music Man. Many years ago he was in a band playing the guitar and strutting his stuff with his long black hair and yellow boots. Mr M did forget sometimes that it was me and not Tina Turner he was working with. I think I got more reprimands that Elaine I have to say!
Going back to this song though. Do you know what a high key the Seekers sang this in? Well Mr M could actually tell us what key they had sung in. I could tell him that there was no way on this earth I would be able to get anywhere near that key, whatever they called it! Elaine decided that she was going to do the harmonies. You know the ones – la, di, da, di da. That was great and Elaine sounded perfect. The only problem was that we very quickly realised I could not concentrate on singing the words of the songs whilst Elaine was singing the harmonies next to me. I do believe that at one point Mr M was ready for sacking me from the group and having Elaine as a solo artist! Anyway, finally I managed to crack this by ignoring the girl singing lovely harmonies in my ear and concentrate on the words I should be singing. Perfect. Oh no! No sooner had I managed to conquer this problem when Elaine said, “We need tambourines!” So the following week, Miss Tipsy wandered into the practice session with two tambourines. We laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed so much that we cried when we realised that getting me to sing, listen to harmonies being sung in my ear, play the tambourine, keep in tune and keep to the beat was just too much of an asking for me. Elaine was much better at this so she was able to keep the beat going and I just made noises with the tambourine. I have to admit to having sleepless nights about doing this song as a duet and could see it all falling apart on the night!
During one of practice sessions though, our rendition of “Where have all the flowers gone” just fell into place, helped of course by the guitar man keeping us in tune, keeping the beat and doing his own little solo bit in the middle. Me and Elaine looked at each other and said, “That’s our song!” Our duet was changed from teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony (I was never ever going to achieve that one!) to the lovely and moving Where Have All The Flowers Gone.
Thursday last week was our last practice. All our props were ready, our outfits sorted and our songs sounding as good as they were going to sound. We sang, we laughed, we chatted, we drank tea and we ate cake. That’s the benefit of practice sessions in the tearoom – there is always tea and cake to be had.
Sometimes, actually quite often, I am amazed by things that happen in the tearoom and it always seems there is a reason for things happening. On the Friday before the event in popped Colin Mitchell for his first visit to the tearoom. I have to admit that I had not a clue who he was. To me he was a customer and all customers are as special and important as each other in my eyes. Anyway, he was in with a few other people and I chatted away to them as I do with everyone whenever I have the chance. Colin saw the notice for the Britain at War event, told me about his poetry, explained that he had poems that would fit in nicely with our theme and that he would send me some to use on the Sunday if I wished.
Now I am always amazed and eternally grateful that people remember our little tearoom once they have gone out of the door. It is always a lovely surprise to receive a message from Trip Advisor telling me there is a new review or for a face book message to pop up. Checking my emails that night I was humbled that Colin had sent me a lovely message and 8 of his poems for me to look at and use at the event. As soon as I had read A Place of Safety, I knew that I wanted to read that poem at the event. I showed the poems to Elaine and asked her if she would like to read one of the poems. Elaine chose The Garden Shed. All these poems were looking at the war from different perspectives and certainly very emotional. If you check our videos on facebook you can see both Elaine and myself reading our chosen poem. I hope that we did justice to these amazing poems.
Just as a matter of interest, I am currently trying to organise a night of poetry with Colin so watch this space.
So Sunday arrived and it was time for the Britain At War Afternoon Tea. Everyone arrived and it was great fun seeing what everyone was wearing. We had an Admiral, Air Warden, Soldier, Medic, Posh Women, Air Force Men, Waitress and Amy Johnson.
The Afternoon Teas were served with lashings of tea, each person getting their own 3 tier stand with their selection of sandwiches, two small scones and 3 home-made cakes. Well, not everyone, I had to share with Mr M as there were only enough for the 16 lucky ticket holders.
The food was followed by the sing-song and everyone had a great time. Songs were sung, poems recited, jokes told and stories remembered. The quiz was marked and turned out to be a tie with Bev, The Girl With Puppy Dog Eyes and Teresa, The Cover Girl. The tie-break question was needed. When everyone arrived they had to pick up their evacuation cards I had ready for them. The tie-break question was “Imagine you are an 8 year old evacuee. Use the ticket given to you to make your own evacuation card and write on it why you think the tearoom should give you safe haven”. The Girl With the Puppy Dog Eyes made her answer way too mushy but Teresa’s was the winner with, “Because I’m Worth It”.
Slowly the tearoom emptied as everyone left to go home but with the questions of “when is the next one”, “what is the next theme”, hanging in the air.
The Temptress, The Girl With The Puppy Dog Eyes and Miss Tipsy stayed a while to give us a hand clearing all the tables. It was not long before we were all sitting listening to the hum of the dishwasher whilst we all chatted, laughed and, of course, had more tea and cake.
We are now planning our next event.
Did I tell you I love our little tearoom?