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Bunting and community bonding: the joy of street parties, with Val Stones

Val Stone, The Cake Whisperer

Our very own baking queen, Val Stones, shares her special memories of quintessentially British street parties celebrating the Her Royal Highness’ coronation, a royal wedding and good old-fashioned community spirit. Val also treats us to two special summer bakes to share not only with your nearest and dearest, but neighbours too.

Has it really been 69 years since Queen Elizabeth’s coronation? How time flies. I was only three at the time and I still can remember the momentous occasion.

We watched the ceremony in my Nana Croot’s living room; she borrowed a television from her daughter-in-law especially for it. I would visit my Nana every week. I remember her vividly; she always wore a wrap-around pinny and was lovely to cuddle, but her hands were rough and raw from washing clothes by hand.

On that very day, I remember the house being full of aunts, uncles and cousins, who were moving furniture, making sandwiches and all talking at once. I had never seen a TV before, so when the box lit up and I saw moving pictures, I was fascinated. I gazed as the soldiers and horses paraded along, followed by the fairytale coach where Princess Elizabeth waved to hundreds of people.

We watched intently as the crown was placed on the new Queen’s head and everyone cheered delightfully. It took years before I ever saw the true splendour of the event in colour, after purchasing our first colour TV in 1974!

Charles and Diana on their wedding day

My lovely mum considered a street party for the end of the Second World War. However, it wasn’t until the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981 that we experienced our first street party when my own children were already five and seven! We lived down a quaint, little road in Darlington with about 40 properties housing both young and older homeowners who were always chatting over the fences, across the road or with a coffee in hand.

As the Prince’s wedding approached, us mums got together to talk about setting up a street party to celebrate. I volunteered to make Victoria sponges, butterfly buns and jellies. On the big day, the sun was shining, everyone took tables and chairs out into the road (which was officially closed off). Red, white and blue bunting along with several Union Jack flags, themed plates and mugs were lovingly laid. The finished look was charming, with tables of all different heights which made me smile. It was truly fabulous seeing the whole community come together. Once the highly-anticipated wedding had taken place, we all rushed out into the road to celebrate!

Just like magic, food appeared from everyone’s homes carried proudly by children, mums and retired folk. The lively conversation between the generations over a scrumptious afternoon tea was the cherry on the cake. I remember us all talking into the late afternoon! I still have stored away, in my treasure box of memories, a commemorative spoon and medal; we all put money towards one for each child to keep.

Union Jack bunting

Since then, there have been many events that we have celebrated with local, lovely people – royal and otherwise. Our most recent street party commemorated the end of the first pandemic lockdown and to applaud the NHS staff – a well-deserved social occasion for our little community. We were all looking forward to celebrating the 69th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation, but the sad passing of Prince Philip added a deep sense of melancholy.

We will celebrate in the streets again. Now that lockdown has lifted, we’re filled with happiness and hope. A silver lining from the past year is the newfound importance of community. In the face of a pandemic, the country has rallied together. We’re proud of the key workers, respectful to strangers and go above and beyond for our neighbours. We have shopped for each other, posted mail, collected prescriptions and waved supportively at vulnerable loved ones through the window. I especially enjoy delivering baked goods with my granddaughter to friends who are shielding and seeing the delight shine on their faces from our socially distanced visit (including the kisses blown from the little one!). Many, many people have been vaccinated against coronavirus now and finally, the future feels brighter.

Street party table full of food

To prepare for upcoming celebrations, I wish to share with you two showstopping bakes that are perfect for any occasion. The first is a delicious Elderflower and Lemon Cake which will be centre stage of my summer gatherings, while the second bake is a quintessentially British Victoria Sponge cake with homemade raspberry jam and fresh cream – enjoy!

Elderflower and Lemon Cake

Keep looking for reasons to celebrate and keep on being you.

Val x

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