Great things can evolve through tragedy if food and community are involved…….

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In January 2011 a very dear friend of mine died from a particularly aggressive form of cancer. In her final weeks, she was lovingly cared for by staff and volunteers at St Luke’s Hospice in Harrow. The Hospice is a beautiful old Grange House; with manicured, well stocked flower beds, rolling lawns,  and wooded areas within peaceful, serene gardens where volunteers come to give the residents massage therapy, manicures, read to them, play music for them and ultimately help create a happy, joyful calm atmosphere. I was so impressed and moved by Philly’s care that I wanted to do something for the Hospice. That summer they were organising a 10 mile sponsored night walk around the streets of London, so I persuaded 10 of my lovely friends (not that they really needed any persuading) to walk with me. We were reticent of approaching our friends and family for sponsorship money – we are, after all, serial fundraisers – all of us have been on various local committees/groups  together over the years, and are frequently begging everyone to ‘dig deep’ for our various causes…..So, what could we do to raise funds, but give something back at the same time? After much discussion, one of our walking party girls offered her own beautiful gardens to hold a Charity Tea Party. Everyone was roped in to bake bake bake for St Luke’s (some more keenly than others I have to say! Many other friends also offered to make cakes for us, so we had the beginnings of an amazing afternoon….. We spent a few pleasant mornings shoving flyers through acquaintances letterboxes, and emailing all our contacts with invitations: GARDEN PARTY, TEA, HOMEMADE LEMONADE, CAKES, SCONES and RAFFLE for the princely sum of £5.00 We spent the next week with everything crossed, praying for sunshine – or at least not rain…. At last the day dawned – rainless if not particularly bright, and we spent the morning finding our moth-eaten tablecloths – last used Christmas 1983, fine china (or at least mis-matched remainders of Grannies’ tea services,)  picked wild flowers (from sustainable sources of course) and erected a gazebo so that at least the cakes would remain dry even if the worst happened! Finally at 3 O’clock, cars started arriving and continued to come in drifts until 5.30 when the last few left – very replete and lighter of pocket! We raffled boxes of fabulously decorated cup-cakes – made by a friend who is so passionate about decorating cakes she would happily spend her life doing it…A hamper of speciality teas complete with Cath Kidston cups and Tea pot;  sold off cakes to grateful visitors, and after a quick count up, found we had raised in excess of £580!! We all got so much from the experience, from the walk itself, to planning and organising the day – all of us showing strengths in different areas – it was a real celebration of baking skills, friendship, community spirit and love. Why not try it – get together with a group of friends and arrange a tea party; soup lunch; coffee morning; pizza-make; the feeling of community, connection and shared friendship is fantastic to experience, and you will hopefully make a few quid for your chosen charity too.

Author: Celia

The Rambler, AKA Celia Dulieu
Celia has been sharing food, wine, recipes and friendship with Simon and Sue Gale for more than 15 years.
In a former life she was a mass caterer, working for large companies such as Selfridges, London; but after moving to the countryside with husband, 2 kids and dog, she resurrected her love of food, - particularly by entertaining her large extended family to lunches ,sharing informal get togethers with friends, and developing her small but productive kitchen garden. She is passionate about all things to do with food and wine; from where it is produced to how it arrived on her doorstep.
Celia’s love of meeting people, visiting places and trying different things has culminated in being invited to get involve with writing up the experiences of the Heart Kitchen and sharing her love of food with you through her ramblings.