Social timing: the Etiquette Rules of ‘The Season’
Nobody does summer quite like the Brits. Yes, we can't rely on the loyalty of the sun. And yes, it’s often warmer in the Atlantic than it is in the garden.
But when it comes to putting on some spectacular summer events, we really know how it's done. How so? Well, we have a unique ability to merge two of mankind’s most beloved pastimes: sports and socialising. Indeed, for us Brits, the two are inextricably linked; no social event makes the grade unless it centres around a cracking sporting fixture, and no sporting occasion is worthy of attendance unless it promises an elegantly clad crowd with whom to socialise.
Tradition has much to do with it. Newcomers bemoan the stuffiness of it all, but secretly, everyone loves how glamorous it feels to be old-fashioned; that's really why the crowds keep coming. Naturally, there is an etiquette attached, which all visitors who wish to fit in must follow. It's not about class these days, but conduct. And if you know the rules, a season of summer jollity awaits.
Cartier Queen's Cup (23 May–18 June)
One of the five premier polo tournaments in the world, Cartier Queen’s Cup is famous for the calibre of players and the fact that HM The Queen historically presents the cup on finals day. Held at the Guards Polo Club in Windsor Great Park, the final is a firm diary date for those eager to soak up the action of a fast-paced chukka while gawping (covertly, of course) at the Hollywood stars in the crowds.
Prior to arrival, make sure you are dressed suavely and have swatted up on the rules of polo – if you're there just for the champagne, you'll reveal yourself as an amateur. If required to tread in the divots (that is, flatten the turf disturbed by ponies during play) do not, under any circumstances, show reluctance on account of your brogues. Shoes can be shined in minutes, a reputation can take a lifetime.
Royal Ascot (20–24 June)
when it comes to actual racing, it's total silence until the final furlong, then erupt with hopeful cheers as if your bank balance depends on it.
Royal Ascot’s Royal Enclosure is renowned for its dress code – make a mistake and you won’t be allowed in, so check their website to make sure you get it right. Top hat and morning dress? You're good to go.
Racers ‘in the know’ enjoy a picnic lunch beforehand in one of the car parks – Car Park One is the spot to pre-book. Lunch should consist of finger food like scotch eggs and smoked salmon sandwiches, all washed down with a river of champagne. If it rains on your picnic, so much the better; three-course lunches with butlers and gazebos are not really the done thing.
If HM The Queen is present on the day – likely – doff your hat when she passes in her carriage. The same applies to all members of the Royal family. And when it comes to actual racing, it's total silence until the final furlong, then erupt with hopeful cheers as if your bank balance depends on it.
Henley Royal Regatta (28 June–2 July)
This five-day rowing event takes place in Henley, Oxfordshire in late June/early July. The place to get access to at Henley is The Stewards' Enclosure – the one reserved for members and their guests – as it's by far the most exclusive. (There's a 10-year waiting list, don't you know!) If you find yourself with an invitation, ensure that you observe the dress code: jackets and blazers with flannels, and ties or cravats – no excuses. Things to know about the races: make sure you know the difference between 'Bucks' and 'Berks' (Buckinghamshire and Berkshire are the two sides of the race course and rowers must stick to their side) and always face the river during a race. Finally, however tempting, no jokes whatsoever about the cox.
Wimbledon (3–16 July 2017)
With Andy Murray at the top of his game, admission to Wimbledon's centre courts is a golden ticket. Number one rule when you're there is: absolutely no cheering when the ball's in play. You might desperately want to get your voice on the telly – yelling 'Come on Andy!'– but you'll earn yourself a snarl from your neighbour at best, a telling-off from the umpire at worst. If you need to leave your seat for any reason, remember you won’t be allowed back to it until players change sides; there's no point getting huffy with the security staff over it, the rules are in or out, no half measures. Falling asleep during a match is acceptable, as long as you have a Panama to cover your brow. And if you're allergic to strawberries, don't go at all – they’re the only food others are likely to eat.