Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Jane Austen Regency Week 2015

So I am late, just as I was with Bath, with my post about Jane Austen Regency Week back in June! I just haven't seemed to have time to sit down and write up about my two weekends there properly! Although, I know there were hundreds of photos flying around Facebook at the time, so hopefully you've forgotten all about them and won't mind reading about the week and seeing the photos all over again! (Yes, I am just going to claim *that* as being my reason for not posting about it until over a month later!)

Friday 19th June: 

After having a lovely picnic at Basildon Park with author Jeanna Ellsworth (read about that here), I headed off to Chawon with a car filled to the brim of books and bonnets! We stayed in, in my opinion, the most perfect place we could stay, Cassandra's Cup B&B, with Jane Austen's House just across the road. What could be more perfect for Regency week? (Actually, it may have been perfect on paper, but most of the events took place in Alton, which meant a car ride, but... no, I *still* think it was the perfect place to stay!) 

It was a lovely B&B. It seemed to be a converted stable or something, and it had such character, and the walls were covered in Austen related things, just as it should be.
Every morning there was a lovely breakfast next door in Cassandra's Cup, and Malene was very accommodating with the varying times we wanted breakfast each morning.
Converted stable?
How I love antique books!

Cassandra's Cups!

We didn't arrive till late, so we only had time to unpack, but there was a beautiful sunset over Jane's house when we got there. And so I had an early night, as I needed all my energy for the marathon day I had tomorrow! 

Saturday 20th June: 

I knew this day was going to be a marathon, and it was - but a very enjoyable one!

The day started with the Regency Day in Alton, consisting of various stalls with items for sale and raffles....

as well as a great duelling display...

...and some sweet country dancing.

One of the main attractions, I think, was the book signing table; it was so lovely to meet some more JAFF authors, and to have so many in one place!

It was lovely to see Joana Starnes, Monica Fairview, Jane Odiwe, Cassandra Grafton and Abigail Reynolds again, and great to be able to meet Jeanna Ellsworth, Maria Grace, Susan Mason-Milks, Leslie L. Diamond and Gabrielle Malcolm!

Joana, Jeanna, Maria, Jane (behind the bags!), Abigail, Monica, Leslie, Cassandra, Susan, Gabrielle

With Susan Mason-Milks
and Maria Grace

Chatting to Leslie Diamond, Jane Odiwe, Abigail Reynolds and Hazel Mills.

With Cassandra Grafton, Jane Odiwe and Monica Fairview.

Hazel (left) Mira (right)

I was also able to meet with the lovely Mira Magdo (Obsessed by Mr Darcy) and Hazel Mills again.

I was also flattered to be recognised by the charming Jacquelyn Hayek, who I enjoyed chatting with!

There was also the opportunity to have a carriage ride around Alton, thanks to a gorgeous 17 year old horse called Tommy.

That was good fun - we got lots of funny looks as we went round Alton!

Queuing for the carriage ride...

... and departing afterwards!

Also, after my carriage ride, the Dandy Chargers appeared with their regency 'bikes' to try! Despite what it may look like, it was actually rather comfortable!

There were lady and gentleman chargers, and the female one was much more comfortable than the male one! It was quite hard to steer though, but I got the hang of it eventually, and I didn't want to give it back!

At Cassandra's Cottage

The time was approaching 3pm, when I was due at a dance workshop, and so I had to leave the festivities of the regency day to head back to change for the dance workshop, which was in 21st century clothing!

I was so glad to be able to attend a dance workshop before the ball in the evening, as I haven't done any regency dancing before! The workshop was hilarious! I was falling down all over the place - no, not because I was awful at the dancing, it was because the floor was really slippery! (That isn't to say I was a pro, not by any means, but many of us made mistakes and did a 'Mr Collins', but that made it all the more amusing!) The Hampshire Regency Dancers were brilliant and had such patience with us novices! They made things nice and simple for us, and it wasn't as bad as I feared!  Once you got the hang on the steps of the dance, it was really quite enjoyable! I was very much looking forward to the ball in the evening.

Drying the curls!

After the workshop I headed home to have a rest and prepare for my first regency ball! (I can really see why they had maids back then, my hair alone too about an hour and a half!)

This was my hair
post the curlers,
but before I put it up!

Ready to go to the ball!

At about 7pm, I headed back to Alton, to the Assembly Rooms, for the ball. And what an evening I had! 'I danced every dance, and Mary none!' It was.... magical.
My 'Emma' moment!

That is the only way I can describe it. My ball gown was styled on Romola Garai's dress in the 2009 Emma, and I honestly felt as excited as Emma when I walked into the ball room.

It was lovely to meet up with the friends I had seen at, and new ones I had made from, the regency day and the workshop, but this time all in our finery!

It was wonderful seeing so many people - about 100 I would predict - wondering around in such lovely gowns! It was a special treat for me to be able to meet my lovely seamstress finally, Sarah Marshall of Marion May Designs, and her lovely friend Kelly.

When everyone had arrived, the Hampshire Regency Dancers showed us how it was done properly, with some very impressive dances, and then the amateurs took to the floor! But, it went really, really well actually. Better than I thought.
Showing us how it is done!

Again, the Hampshire Dancers were just brilliant, walking us through the dances again to remind us before adding music, and so it really wasn't daunting and it really worked! Here is a short video from the ball. Can you spot me?

Supper time!

After an hour or so of dancing, we had a break for supper and then we were straight back on the floor until we were all kicked out, very reluctantly, at about 11pm - I could have danced all night! (Feel free to continue singing the song I have probably just put into your head!)

Mira and I waiting for the dancing to start!


While others watched...

  ... or rested at the sides!

The musicians were wonderful!

I think this photo just about sums up the night;
a flurry of activity and lots of pretty gowns swooshing around the dance floor!

Post-ball glow! I am sure Mr Darcy
would have agreed my eyes were certainty
brightened by the exercise!

So, I headed home, or rather dragged myself home ('I was so fagged!'), to have a well needed sleep, to recover for the next day of festivities!

My first regency ball was truly better than I could have ever imagined!

Sunday 21st June: 

Mira, Kelly, Sarah, Joana and me!

After a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, I spent the morning visiting Jane Austen's House Museum, in costume, with Sarah, Kelly, Mira and Joana. It made the experience of touring Jane's house even more special being in costume!
As predicted, many of the visitors enjoyed taking our photo whilst walking around the house - put on a regency outfit in the right location and you become a celebrity!

Taking a turn about the garden
with Sarah Marshall, my seamstress!

Making lavender bags!

Mira, Kelly, Sarah and I in Jane's garden

Mira (left) and Joana (right) outside Jane's house

It was a lovely morning, and then once we had taken a turn about Jane's garden, and had a lovely lunch in the public house across the road, I had a change of outfit, ready for Evensong that evening, and Mira, Joana and my new acquaintance Jacquelyn walked down the road to Chawton House Library.

It was not open, but it is a lovely house and the St Nicholas Church in the grounds was also very pretty. 

It's graveyard has the graves of most of the Knight family, as well as Cassandra Austen,  Jane's mother, and Cassandra Austen, Jane's sister's graves.


Having a gossip!

Chawton House Library

Walking down to the house

It had been a lovely day, but it still wasn't over as I was to attend Evensong at St Lawrence Church in Alton, a church where Jane Austen's relatives  had preached in the past.

It was a really well thought through and considered service; appropriate hymns and a brilliant eulogy.

The choir, complete with Regency outfits!

Leaving after the service

My new lavender outfit
had it's first proper outing!

Leslie, Jeanna, Joana, Mira, Jacquelyn, me, Hazel and Maria

Chatting after the lovely service

And still the day was not over, for Jacquelyn, Mira, Jeanna, Joana and I went for a meal after the service before heading home. It had been a lovely day!

(I know, I know, I took my hair down - how shocking! Lady Catherine would not approve!)

Monday 22nd June: 

On this day I was meant to be attending a talk by Abigail Reynolds, but, as you might have imagined, I was very tired and so I had to return home to recover for the second weekend of activities!

Before heading home however, I had a pleasant surprise; a raffle I had entered during the Regency Day I had won! I never win raffles, so it was a lovely end to the weekend! I won a gorgeous bracelet!


Friday 26th June: 

After a few days of much needed rest, I headed back to Chawton for part two of Jane Austen Regency Week 2015!

Carolyn, myself and Jeremy
My second weekend began with meeting another lovely Janeite, Carolyn Finnell, of Austen Travel.

We had a lovely chat over a cup of tea (hot chocolate in my case!) and, as added bonus, Carolyn arrived with Jeremy Knight, Jane Austen's great grand nephew! It was fascinating to talk to him, he has many stories to tell, and I hope to meet him again sometime when I am in Chawton.

The ceiling in Cassandra's Cup

After this meeting, I unpacked once again in Cassandra's Cup B&B, and prepared for my next event, a Regency Musical Evening.

I enjoyed an evening of singing, piano and cello music.

It was also well thought out, the music chosen often being known to Jane or even by Jane's favoured composers. Below is an example, Sonatina by Pleyel.

There was also a fun drama group who performed some extracts from Persuasion, with some rather amusing twists!

That is me in the front row!

Saturday 27th June: 

On the second Saturday, I was rejoined by Mira Madgo, and we attended a brilliant talk by Gabrielle Malcolm, about the Jane Austen fan phenomena. It was fascinating to listen to, and it was great to be able to chat to Gabby more. You must check out her book, Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen

Mira and I then had an afternoon free, and so what better way than to visit Jane's house again, in costume of course!

Once again, it was just as special to wonder around the house and grounds that Jane knew and loved.

It was also great fun to be able to play Jane's piano as well!

Here is a video of me playing the piano in fact!

We found shelves in the closet!

Jane's writing table

Chatting to Jane

Can you see me?

After the house, we popped into Cassandra's Cup for a very regency orea sundae!

Then we headed back down to Chawton House Library and St Nicholas Church (it is such a lovely walk down there!).

Jane's mother's and sister's graves. They lived such long lives.
In fact, all her family did. It was just Jane who died young!

Being Mr Collins!

Being Charlotte Lucas/Collins!

St Nicholas is a beautiful church!

Then we decided to be true Lizzy Bennets and go for a walk through a nearby wooded area, which I am sure Jane would have walked herself many times.

In fact, we even had a go at the 'Jennifer Ehle Lizzy Bennet' run!

After a delicious dinner next door, we then spent the evening in the most appropriate way we could, and watched Northanger Abbey - Mira and I consider ourselves a little like Catherine Morland and Eleanor Tilney!

Sunday 28th June: 

The final day of Jane Austen Regency Week 2015 had arrived! Far too quickly for my liking, but before the evening event, Mira and I spent the morning having a rest in the B&B while watching Pride and Prejudice 1995 - we had about 6 hours to kill, so what else do you do with 6 free hours? (Also, Mira and I like to think of ourselves as Lizzy and Jane - but, usually we act more like Lydia and Kitty!)

"Shelves in the closet. Happy thought indeed!"

After this, Joana Starnes returned to Chawton, and we all went on a short excursion to Selborne, the village along from Chawton, where Gilbert White, the pioneering English naturalist and ornithologist, lived.

We then all went back to base, ready to prepare for the final event of the week, the Regency Supper. And what an ending it was! It was a delightful evening.

Cheeky flirty fan shot!

We arrived early, and headed into the garden where there were some pretty arches!

Then we waited in the lobby to head into supper.

I gave my feather
 it's first outing!

I used the bread to separate
 my sweet and savoury!

Once we went through, there was some entertainment from some local singers, and the meal was fantastic. It was just as it would have been in the regency era; the savoury and sweet all out at once! It meant, to modern eyes, you had a very strange looking plate of food - and you needed to be clever to stop the fruit and jelly mixing too much with the salmon and crab claws!

Crab claw shot!

I met some more delightful Janeites and had a great chat to them throughout the night.

After dinner, I managed to start a bit of a trend! I suggested to some other ladies and gentleman at our table to take a turn about the garden, and once we had gone, everyone else seemed to follow! It was great fun!

My new regency pals!

When I said everyone joined us, I really meant everyone!

And anyone left, those who were not in costume in other words,
took photos of us all!

Our choral entertainment

And so after the second round of entertainment, a brilliant sketch about a Janeite time travelling back to regency England, the coffee was served and the raffle, which had been happening throughout the week, was drawn, and the evening came to an end...

Thanking the singers

The raffle - I didn't win anything this time!

...as did Regency Week 2015! And what a week - or rather, two weekends for me! - it had been!

Monday 29th June: 

Linda Beutler (top), Joana (left) and me

All packed and ready to return to reality, there was one more thing to prolong the inevitable. JAFF author Linda Beutler was over in England, and happened to be around Chawton, and so Joana and I toured Jane's house - not in costume this time! - and had a lovely lunch with her. It was fantastic to be able to meet her.

But after we had dropped her back at the station, I could not delay any longer. I had to return home. Back to reality. But what a time I had had. I have such happy memories from the week, and was able to have a good catch up with old friends, as well as become acquainted with many new ones! I already can't wait for next year, although I do have 10 days of festivities in Bath to look forward to - and tide me over - until Regency Week 2016!

Your affectionate friend,
post signature