By Anastasia Hancock.
It was the best of British on show at The Chap Olympiad’s annual alternative sporting event, an eccentric gathering in central London’s lush Bedford Square Gardens celebrating ‘athletic ineptitude and immaculate trouser creases’.
Sadly, an unseasonal and unremitting deluge which began as the first cravat was ironed early that morning and did not stop until the last Pimm’s & Ginger was downed late that evening forced soggy moustaches to droop, stiletto heels to sink deep into mud, and damp pipes to extinguish quite unsatisfactorily.
Still, this was a celebration of all things of the Empire, and Blitz spirit was out in force. Loins were visibly girded, dress shirts were extra-starched, and cheeks were rouged with defiance. Gentlemen in immaculate cummerbunds and bow-ties gallantly held umbrellas over perfectly red-lipsticked ladies presiding over everything from old-fashioned hampers crammed with champers and crust-less sandwiches, to tables heaving with candelabra, silver platters and punchbowls overflowing with fruit.
It was no surprise then, that on the leafy outskirts of this charmingly old-fashioned scene, the confused faces of bemused tourists could be spotted peering curiously through the ancient London Planes that enclosed the Square, where a very British lesson in old English eccentricity was in full swing.
Elegance and propriety were the buzzwords of the day, and sodden revellers were treated to themed ‘sporting events’ such as Butler Baiting, Ironing Board Surfing (where G&Ts were supped by gentlemen carried on ironing boards held aloft by their staff) and moustache wrestling. It was a shame that the incessant drumming of heavy rain on a sea of black umbrellas drowned out the plummy tones of the Shouting at Foreigners event, where contestants negotiated with a curmudgeonly, uncooperative foreign shop assistant (points deducted for ungentlemanly language, and for hitting the foreigner, naturally).
Saturated guests of the event, which was established by vintage-style Soho favourite Bourne & Hollingsworth, were offered an array of first-rate cocktails which echoed past favourites of the Empire, including the Redbourne (lashings of gin and elderflower) and the Pink Dandy, Rosato, Rosé and plump English strawberries (all mixed by dashing waiters in elegant dress, of course).
Edwardian dandies rubbed shoulders with Soho beaus, rouged land girls, uniformed officers and ball-gowned beauties as the eclectic crowd joined ranks to the gentle swell of swing music to casually break the standing record for the largest group Charleston. The Kings Cross Hot Club band presided over the evening’s revelry as cravats were tossed into the air, stockings were rolled down, and gin was quaffed well after the sun had set over Bedford Square.