It’s a tricky time to be posh, right now. The smart set should be out preening themselves, being seen hobnobbing with the politicians, intelligentsia, gangsters and fraudsters that collectively form the so-called great-and-the-good. Instead, the only Hobnobbing they’re getting is the dark chocolate sort in front of Tiger King (they passed on it it first time round when they realised it wasn’t about John Aspinall).
The social summer is all but over, a British season without Wimbledon, Henley, Cartier Polo even Silverstone (which, frankly, is a little too nouveau but worth it to meet Lewis Hamilton walking the paddock). But the biggest loss to anyone in possession of a tightly furled umbrella and pair of binos has to be Royal Ascot.
Well fear not, poshos. Coronavirus can take Glyndebourne, rob us of the Boat Race and Badminton, deprive us of Chelsea Flowers (in fairness COVID-19 probably should’ve stolen Cheltenham Gold Cup; poshos bad, that one, sozzer), but they can’t take Royal Ascot. You’ve locked the gates? Fine! We’ll do it at home. And what’s more, it’ll be better! Take that, coronavirus!
Here’s bloody how…
Invites & Badges
Identify who is going to be in your ‘Ascot bubble’ – up to six people from two households – and send out the invites and the badges, a key Royal Ascot feature. Ideally your friends should have applied in January, admonish them if they didn’t.
Badges are only worn by socialists, school librarians and Royal Ascot poshos. A badge is your pass to the Royal Enclosure, and even Kate Middleton is obliged to wear one, making her look like she’s doing a shift on the tills.
As Her Majesty’s Representative, the power is yours, so get your craft on. Blue Peter and Royal Ascot happen to Venn around badges, with Royal Enclosure ones all being hand written with a distinct ‘here’s one I made earlier’ vibe.
Calligraphy the names of your mates on the badges, including the relevant titles. You can freestyle a bit; The Hon Boaty McBoatface, The Earl of Caravanshire, and so on.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Royal Ascot is about anything as trivial as horse racing. No, there’s far more important stuff to be getting on with. Mainly your time will be tied up in hours of sauntering around looking flipping dapper. Fear not, you can recreate this in your Fulham ground floor flat…
We’re assuming that everyone at your party is in the Royal Enclosure, it would be harsh to split them up. So men, it’s morning coat and trousers, top hat (black, please, nothing screams Mozz-Brozz quite like a grey topper), smart handled brolly (say No to Nick Faldo golf umbrellas, however smart the asset manager you’re giving free advertising to) and a woollen waistcoat.
Be proud that this is the only country where wool trousers, waistcoat and jacket is somehow the perfect combo for a height-of-summer June event.
If the gents are aspiring to Edward VIII then Ladies, think Lady Di-meets-Meghan-meets-Kate-meets-wow-that-would-be-one-hell-of-an-Oprah. It’s super formal; hemlines no higher than just above the knee and necklines including straps of at least one inch wide, not off-the-shoulder or asymmetrical.
As you gather your pandemic bubble of six, why not get your cleaner to come over, armed with a tape measure, to inspect all the ladies’ skirts as they enter to ensure they conform.
Maybe invite a seventh friend who gets turned away by the authorities for an illegal hat brim?
Social distancing may be at the forefront of everyone’s mind right now; but it’s been top of the agenda at Royal Ascot for at least a century. The Royal Enclosure has always been big on social distancing, with the polloi kept strictly at bay.
Recreate the Royal Ascot scene by inviting your less smart neighbours to dress in lounge suits and fascinators over the fence. Spend the rest of the afternoon looking down your noses at them as you sweat into your morning coat and have approximately half as much fun as they do.
The Americans, bless ’em, have ‘tail gating’. The British have 4th June and Royal Ascot. The premise is exactly the same, eating out the back of your car.
The weird thing about Royal Ascot is that the main event happens before anyone gets into the actual racecourse, it’s all going on under a gazebo out the back of a Skoda Superb.
Recreate this in Putney by gathering on the drive and grabbing what conversations you can between traffic and fumes on the verge of the A3.
Champagne and copious amounts of it. Pimm’s if you must. But basically Champagne. By not attending actual Royal Ascot you’ve saved a fortune in not buying from the various bars littered across the Royal Enclosure.
The pro tip, for next year, is to make sure your morning coat includes pockets sewn into the tails – mine is designed to accommodate a bottle of Pol Roger in each tail. The stewards have never clocked…
Masks are all the rage this season, we’re not sure why…
But Royal Ascot has always embraced masks. The predatory husband-hunting mask of looking like a potential Lady of the realm when actually you work as a receptionist at Douglas & Gordon, the veneer of respectability granted to the hedge fund that’s shorting every corporate sponsor at the race.
Everyone’s wearing a mask already. You’ll have little problem recreating this sociological element at least. Deep.
We’re assuming this all takes place in your Balham garden, but for the real Royal Ascot experience you’ll want to find a venue that really channels the new structure at Ascot.
Opened in 2006, the redeveloped grandstand at Ascot Racecourse can be most accurately recreated by moving festivities to the South Terminal of Gatwick Airport.
But given that a 14 day quarantine period is a tall order for even the most dedicated of race-goer, perhaps consider Membury Services on the M4 between Newbury and Swindon, it ticks most of the boxes, despite not actually having boxes…
It is quite possible to attend Royal Ascot for five days straight and not watch a single horse race, but what’s normally an afterthought for anyone attending the actual meet can now be brought front-and-centre as you recreate Royal Ascot at home.
Wheel out the telly and watch the live footage as the racing continues ‘behind closed doors’. You might even find time to place a bet or two.
The Train Back
The train back from Ascot is an eye-opener…
Recreate it in your bubble of six with a game of sardines. For the full effect ensure that, while you’re crushed into the laundry cupboard, someone vomits. Maybe introduce a stink bomb into proceedings.
To ensure absolute authenticity, one of your number should be travelling without a valid ticket and be hauled off at Egham to face a sizeable fine and a lengthy Uber back to Notting Hill.
A Debauched Night At 151
You’ve lost a shoe, brolly, top hat and dignity, but you’re king of 151. Skip the queue because you’re mates with Rollo and descend into the official post-Ascot after party.
Recreate this at home by spilling beer over the carpet about 3 days prior, you may have to create a damp problem in your flat for maximum effect. Ideally you’ll be able to round up some leery 50+ year olds to sit on the sides, buying drinks for anyone young looking.