Lessons to learn before Ladies' DayBy Anne Diamond
June 09, 2011
BBC Radio Berkshire presenter Anne Diamond wil be at Royal Ascot's Ladies' Day next week - but she has learned a great deal since the last occasion.
Last Royal Ascot Ladies' Day I attended, I wore a huge hat, an even bigger tent of a dress (well, I was eight months pregnant) and I got into Big Trouble.
Because I had taken the day off work - I'd cried off sick, I seem to remember. But unfortunately, I was snapped by a photographer and the picture of me in full bloom appeared in many of the next day's papers.
My long suffering boss at breakfast TV station, TVam, was not amused. Nor was I, because that particular picture was so awful I dreaded that it would haunt me for years. I looked like one of those "stately galleons" Joyce Grenfell used to sing about - all frills and furbelows ballooning in the wind, with my hand firmly clamped upon my hat and a stressed look on my face!
I haven't been back for Ladies Day since. But this week, I'll be returning to present my BBC Radio Berkshire show live from what's sure to be one heck of a party there, as the racecourse celebrates its three hundredth year.
No doubt my friends and celebrity pals will be planning their ridiculous headgear even now. Perhaps we should all be looking out for a reprise of Princess Eugenie's beige pretzel.
Last time, I popped into milliner David Shilling's Knightsbridge salon for an especially bold statement, wide-brimmed extravaganza. This time, I'm going for something just a little larger than a fascinator and smaller than a dinner plate so that my "cans" (radio earphones) can fit around it.
Life is so different for me nowadays that I'll no doubt leave it all too late, until the last minute, and end up scraping something together from my niece's dressing up basket.
Or perhaps don those Mickey Mouse ears I picked up last year at Disneyworld with the kids.
Life has certainly changed for the racecourse over the years. It was all started, of course, by another Anne - good Queen Anne, way back in 1711.
She thought it would be a great idea to let the horses run at full gallop on an area of open heath at Ascot (which was then known as East Cote) and make it a spectacle for everyone to see.
Of course, we still mark her contribution with the Queen Anne Stakes every year.
It was one of her better ideas, and possibly a high point of her whole reign, though she didn't live long enough to see it become the focus of world racing, fine horseflesh and human fashion, pomp and pageantry.
She popped her clogs just three years later - though many noted at the time that her death was probably a blessed release. Labelled dull and plain ugly at the time, she had a dreadful life.
She was pregnant no less than eighteen times (all of them died), she became depressed, hugely obese and riddled with gout! In fact, her body was so enormously heavy and swollen that they had to build a vast square shaped coffin for her, poor dear, may she rest in peace.
What would she think now of the whole Royal Ascot ritual 300 years later?
There's nothing else quite like it in the world, and this year, they're expecting bumper crowds as people try and shake off the recessionary blues.
Certainly I'll be there (BBC Radio Berkshire between 1 and 4pm) with a smile on my face and a strange creation on my head.
And we'll all be looking out for the Queen (who seems to have rejuvenated her fashion style, methinks) and the new Duchess of Cambridge (hair up or down, fascinator or full-brimmed, do you think?) Fingers crossed for more hat-friendly weather.
I don't want another dreadful photo to haunt me for the next twenty years.
Anne's regular blog is at www.bbc.co.uk/annediamond