By Kay Whatley, Editor
Representatives of the British Consulate visited Raleigh, North Carolina, on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, and took the time to have tea with local British nationals.
This “Tea with the British Consulate” drew dozens for high tea, with black tea, finger foods, and a brief presentation by Lady Claire Newman from the British Consulate-General office in Atlanta, Georgia.
British Consulate officials are in Raleigh this week for business and trade discussions, announcements, and to install Andrew Terrell as the new UK Consul for Government & Prosperity. This “prosperity office” is based in Raleigh. The week included visits by Atlanta-based Consul General, Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, to UNC, RDU, Quintiles, and other area businesses. Vice-Consul, Claire Newman, who supports British nationals in southeastern US states, pre-arranged the tea party for Raleigh-area UK citizens.
Close to 40 people gathered at Oak Park Tea Room to meet Vice-Consul Claire Newman and assistants including Brittany Rose. As each person arrived, they were greeted by a young American man, Garrett, costumed as a Beefeater. Many attendees stopped to have their photo taken with what a few called “the American Beefeater” and told tea shop owner, LouAnn, that they could have provided her with a British man if she’d asked. They encouraged Garrett to work on speaking with a British accent to fit his costume, and laughed together at the jest.
The atmosphere stayed light and happy as more people arrived for the tea party, including members of a local British “ex-pats” Meetup group and others invited through the Consulate Facebook page. The tea room filled with well-dressed and casual guests. Some tea party guests seem to know each other and greeted each other warmly, introducing those meeting for the first time.
Shortly after 4pm, LouAnn introduced herself as “Lady Lou” for the day, gave an overview of the food and tea — including Oak Park’s punny snack, fish and chips, a mix of fish-shaped crackers and potato chips which drew exclamations of “Aw!” and laughter from the crowd. Lady Lou set expectations by telling the crowd that while their tea time offerings were different — southern chicken salad, pimento cheese, a southern-style clotted cream, and sweet scones — than they would find at a British tea shop, she hope that they would enjoy this Southern-Eclectic-Victorian tea, which she explained as, “Southern means come as you are, eclectic means nothing matches, and Victorian means we try to have manners.”
Arrivals continued, many stopping to take photos with Garrett in his costume before joining the crowd.
Miss Lou then introduced Lady Claire Newman, who has been honored by the queen and is officially a Lady. Lady Claire then asked everyone to find a seat. The group sat, and the room buzzed with conversation while tea room staff served tea and plates of goodies.
With everyone settled, around 4:30pm, Lady Claire called for the group’s attention. She introduced herself and her team again, then explained that this week many UK-Raleigh meetings were schedule. She made it clear that she was not there to talk about Brexit, but to introduce her office to Raleigh-based British nationals so that they would understand what the Consulate provides them. She also expressed her excitement to see such a full crowd turned out to join them for tea.
For the next twenty minutes, Vice-Consul Newman detailed how her office assists the UK’s citizens abroad, reviewing the types of help they have given and make available. Their support includes services for British nationals who lose their travel documents, are arrested, become victims of crime, or find themselves caught in natural disasters. Lady Newman provided printed booklets, “Support for British national abroad: A summary” and US-UK flag pins for all. She also shared experiences assisting in her region — North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee — including visiting people in jail and traveling into disaster areas.
Lady Newman invited questions, and for over fifteen minutes answered all that were asked.
After the presentation and tea party, many stayed in Oak Park Tea Room until after 6pm, just enjoying the tea and conversations.
For British nationals unable to attend, information on the British Consulate and their offices in Atlanta and Raleigh may be found here.
A GlobalAtlanta article here covers the Prosperity representative announced on January 17, 2017.
Tweets from this week’s UKinNC activities may be viewed on their UKinAtlanta Twitter.
Oak Park Tea Room is on Facebook and oakparktearoom.com. The tea room is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am to 4:30pm. In addition to the black tea served during the tea with the British Consulate, Oak Park Tea Room offers a variety of fruit teas and Princess Grey tea.
Ed. Note: “Beefeaters” is the popular name for the ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London, officially named Yeomen Warders.