Wine & dine

It seems that the limitations of isolation have inspired me to consider content that revolves around subjects other than fashion (finally!) and I love the photos I took while playing around with decorating our garden table so much that I have decided to dedicate this entire blog post to them.

I obviously haven’t been able to rummage around in charity shops for a while and although I have succumbed to a few online clothing purchases, my attention is starting to ease away from a mainly sartorial focus. Being confined to a certain location for a long period of time has encouraged me to see my surroundings in a new light; noticing details I may once have overlooked, and rekindling my imagination with ideas of how to manipulate spaces to a unique effect.

Where once my Instagram feed would have consisted purely of outfit combinations and flatlays, it’s now also a home for experiential shots, appreciation of local landscapes and my garden, and a platform to explore different angles.

Laura Jackson’s #MakeAMealOfIt hashtag has left Instagram in a frenzy of fancy dinner set-ups, and being the sheep that I am I was desperate to put my own spin on it. We had some glorious summer-like evenings that spurred me on to make a meal of it myself, and my ambition to bring to life a fabulous dining experience was born.

This idea seemed unfalteringly brilliant when I planned it, and it wasn’t until I prepared to start my project on a sunny Saturday afternoon that it dawned on me I had absolutely no idea what it was I was going to do. Previously, the most intricately I had ever laid a table was comprised of chucking down a tablecloth, spreading out some basic placemats and lining up mismatched cutlery.

As I don’t have my own place and am currently residing at my parents’ house (and also because the extent of kitchen items I own are jammed in a stale cardboard box of utensils that somehow survived university and are now withering away in the attic) I got creative and started running around the house collecting anything that may look impressive and had the potential to compliment an alfresco feast.

On my last charity shop haul prior to lockdown I spent about 50 pence on two funky glasses and a fiver on a crystal decanter (definitely purchased because it conjured up an image of me looking very glamorous while hosting a future dinner party), which are now the only acceptable items I’ll be taking with me when I do eventually move out. So, of course, it seemed fitting to christen these with the beautiful occasion that was a takeaway during lockdown.

I helped my mum pick out some tablecloths from H&M home a couple of years ago and dug these out from the airing cupboard, in particular thinking how striking the faded yellow one would look against the wildflowers in our garden. Fearing it wouldn’t cover the table (which, to my surprise it did), I had selected an old cream style as well, but these two materials looked glorious layered together, the scalloped edges of the larger tablecloth beautifully framing the scene.

I wanted to combine different textures and tones, so grabbed the wooden chopping board my brother-in-law carved for my parents and positioned it as a centrepiece, along with various strands of foliage gathered and clipped from nearby flowerbeds, and bluebells, which unexpectedly encouraged all the vivid pastel colours to pop.

The sun moves round onto our patio to show off the last of the daylight, and I find the patterns it casted on the glass and the shadows strewn across the fabric so mesmerising.

To finish I assembled some dusty candles from my room, ornamentally placed in ramekins to stop the wax damaging the cloth, plopped down my speaker to seduce the ears of those attending with 70s rock music, and sought out a good bottle of red wine (left over from the night before) to help the good times flow.

Evidently I dressed up for the occasion (it was only a matter of time before fashion made its inevitable appearance in the blog post) in a dress my friend gave me a few years ago. One of those LBDs (I despise the term but it’s annoyingly accurate in this context) that becomes a wardrobe staple, I have found myself reaching for it again and again either for elegant parties or nights out.

I think it’s actually from Misguided, where I haven’t personally shopped in ages due to fast fashion ethics and past letdowns with poor quality clothing, although in a testament to this garment in particular it has stood the test of all-night dancing and more wear than was probably initially expected.

The air was fragrant thanks to the scent of fresh Indian and Thai food, combined with barbecue fumes wafting from neighbouring gardens, multiplied by the thick, cloying heat that clings to a warm spring day.

It’s these times that I am grateful to lockdown despite the circumstances, because I can’t remember another reason why I’d be gathered so close with my immediate family for such uneventful yet happy moments. Wining & dining has never meant so much as it does now; the temptation to reflect on life has surfaced the nostalgic importance that revolves around food and putting in effort to make mealtimes special.

The simple yet grand act of eating out in the open seems to symbolise a connectedness with the earth, amplifying positivity and dispelling hostility. I’m not sure if it’s just me (probably) but such a small alteration to typical habits ignites a wildness and a joy within me that triggers a mood that can only be described as deliriously happy and excited – but maybe that was just the wine.

We continued drinking and listening to music until dusk fell, evoking memories of similar dwindling evenings: sitting in a wooden chair until the moon replaces the sun and slowly you notice it’s totally dark, the only light flickering up from the burning ends of cigarettes. There’s a pause to fetch blankets in order to prolong that wholesome, warm feeling of huddling with friends and family, dishing out stories and bouncing off each other and really feeling like there is nowhere else in the world you would rather be.

I hope you are finding joy in the activities you are able to practice at home, and that soon this will be over and we can be thankful for eating meals in restaurants and go back to complaining about spending copious amounts of money on drinks in bars (even though we continue to do so).

Lily x

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