This year has been a series of trials, and I am just making the calendar by good days I have to look forward to. One of my favourites, and I mean Christmas just pips this to the post, is Royal Ascot. I know, I'm black and a royalist. I don't care. I love it. I never feel as British or as beautiful on my way to those historical grounds, in all my polished finery.
When I was younger, I used to watch ladies on their way home. Hats in hand, or more likely barefooted on the Clapham Junction platform looking a little worse for wear, but content with their choices. Eventually, I discovered where they were all off to, looking so dapper. Outside of weddings, you never saw men in tops and tails or ladies with a veratible peacock of feathers on their heads, colours complimenting their dress, coat and bag. I love dressing up! Who doesn't? I'm desperately looking for excuses to wear hats at the moment. My poor friend has a christening this month and I've already warned her I'm wearing one of my collection.
This is my fifth year at Ascot and I am ready. My dress if from Phase Eight, my hat is from Marks and Spencer and my shoes are a little outside the British Isles - Miu Miu, but as green as my country. "IN ENGLAND'S GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND!" I'm getting ahead of myself.
So, the day starts with the most preening I ever do. False eyelashes, CC cream, foundation, blusher, highlighter, eyeliner, lip liner, lipstick and topping gloss, perfume layered, nails gelled, feet buffed - because I will wear heels and they will make me cry and if I'm going to be near Daily Mail, eagle eyed, frankly evil photographers, I ain't bringing the side down with rough feet.
I pick up my friends, and we start the day early - champagne and a toast to our gambling fortunes. We all squeeze onto the train to the racetrack, and it blooms before us!
It's glorious. All the women keep checking each other out, and forthrightly will tell anyone they admire that they are looking gooooood! It's the time to go all out - there will be cameras. There are cameras everywhere. There are the set that comes every year in unison; the girls that arrange the whole year what they will wear - the Phillip Treacy crowd of extravagant millinery - and the vintage crowd. I happily seat myself in the High Street lot. Although if I won the lottery, guaranteed I'd be in Alexander McQueen head to toe.
Then it's food time:
Traditionalist as ever, and there's nothing quite like sitting in a spot of sun, with a bottle of Moet and the scent of fat, crispy soft chips in the air. Last year I saw cheese on toast doing roaring trade. No kebabs though. It's not the right place for a kebab. After? Of course! Inside the hallowed grounds of Ascot. Not today, Jeffrey!
We have a gander around, read through the Racing Post - honestly, it is genuinely like being in the middle of a Jilly Cooper novel - and pick our favourites. The one who will fund our after party drinks and meal if we win. By 1pm, we gather to greet the Queen in the procession. Her Majesty has won me a few bob by wearing the colour I've guessed she'd be wearing. Until last year when she came out of left field with bright pink.
She's sitting opposite the Ginger Winner - Prince Harry who was beaming ear to ear when she lost me a tenner. -_-
Once all the beautiful horses, their coats brushed into intricate patterns, have allowed us a peak to see if their worth our money, the racing begins. And all propriety goes right out the window. You haven't lived until you've seen a man well into his seventies, screaming, "COME ON YOU FACKING WANKER!" as his horse storms to victory. You haven't seen anything until you see a woman probably related to the queen, kick off her heels and throw her loosing tickets onto the ground and stamp on them, enraged by her loss. Girls using their scarves to sit down on the grass, men struggling with their cravats, bookies yelling the odds, the crowd clapping for the winners.
After the last race, we all congregate around the bandstand and sing the most British songs you could ever imagine. My Old Man, Jerusalem, Rule Britannia... all the while waving Union Jacks and tipping pints over your neighbour because you can't sing and not hug the nearest person next to you.
It's set to rain next week as well, but I am holding out hope - mostly because I'm not sure that my hat will survive a downpour. And yet, I am supremely confident that nothing will defeat the joy that accompanies a June racing day.
It's posh, it's messy, it's fantastic. I can't wait!