On Saturday, 30th July, we all gathered in the garden at Antokol for the concert that had been arranged by Iza. I wanted to share my impressions of the day with you as it’s been a long time since we were all able to experience something so incredibly beautiful and uplifting. This was an afternoon not to be forgotten and we will all have the most wonderful memories to savour and smile about during the long autumn evenings. I can only hazard a guess at how much heart and effort the staff had put into conjuring up this afternoon but let me tell you all about it.
Tables were set up under the awning, beautifully laid and dressed with bouquets of garden flowers and leaves. The most exquisite Antokol porcelain was brought out, it decorated with flowers and roses, and each table had a different set with a slightly different design. Delicious cheesecakes and cakes decorated with fruit, were set out on individual platters… it was eye-wateringly colourful! Tables for three or even two people were placed along the wall, next to large tables for six relatives and friends. The guests, and above all, our dear residents, were seated at tables with elegant place cards, so no one was running around searching for a seat; it was all very organised from the very start.
Our hostesses and Izabella distributed coffee and tea, water and juices, and worked hard to ensure that everyone was served efficiently, elegantly and with a smile. But guess what else there was - our reliable Ms Danusia had set up a bar! But this was no ordinary bar; we could easily have been in Jamaica or sunny Spain. And then there were the drinks, fabulous non-alcoholic cocktails that tasted as good as they looked. Orange slices were hooked on the rim, lemons and strawberries dropped into glasses along with exotic stirrers, and those glasses well, they were BIG, just the way they should be!
We ordered the 'Blue Lagoon', but there were other colours and flavours too. it was quite beautiful! And Mrs Danusia was dressed in the black outfit of a waitress from the communist era of the People's Republic of Poland. With her white apron and lace headband, some of us were transported back to the 70s! Personally, I felt as if I were in a café in Busko-Zdrój. Ms Danusia’s imagination knows no bounds and she consistently performs miracles to keep residents busy and entertained.
On the lawn, surrounded by gorgeous flowers (from Chelsea this year), sat our friendly pianist. Before I tell you what she played, I absolutely have to tell you about the flowers in the Antokol garden, for no one has ever seen such a thing before! Petunias are literally cascading out of their pots and baskets; these flowers are giants! You can see that they like it here, after all they are constantly watered, sprinkled, moved to the sun and then back to the shade. They have been pinched and plucked (to encourage a second flowering once the first have withered a little), then they bloom like crazy. It was hard not to be impressed by this vision. It was in such a glorious setting, surrounded by our flowers and fruit trees, in the proximity of the vegetable garden (where there are beets, beans, carrots, lettuce, dill, tomatoes ... only Zosia and Pan Tadeusz are missing, a real Soplicowo!) to attend our concert. And what was the concert like? Wonderful! Wendy Norman, a former inspector (London Borough of Bromley Compliance Officer), who also used to inspect Antokol, and is now retired, played beautifully for us. We heard Elgar, Mozart, Schubert, Gershwin, Chopin, popular songs from English theatre and film productions, and all this took place in gentle sunshine and a breeze (which blew the pianist's notes, so the pages had to be held up). We also tried singing and even... dancing! What a magnificent day!
Dear friends, I've written this because I think you should know what a wonderful afternoon our residents and their families had at Antokol. And the staff who conjured it all up (because they too clearly enjoyed the day), and we, the invited guests - pleased and happy to be part of something really precious.
I must add that we also celebrated, as you know, (very beautifully and solemnly), the 25th anniversary of Sister Eliana's religious vows. I attended a concelebrated Mass followed by a festive dinner in the dining room. Sister was touched; she was presented with flowers and gifts and surprised by a musical performance. Our reliable Dr Stefan Rakowicz came with his accordion for just 15 minutes and, to the amazement of Sister (and all of us!) he played and sang from the very doorstep. And we with him. What kind of doctor would do such a thing! He made the time to come to Antokol between his duties and his patients, to mark Sister Eliana’s anniversary.
The more I look at the work of all the wonderful carers, the nurses, the nuns, the doctor, the cooks, Izabella the manager, Mietek the caretaker, Max wagging his tail, the more I realise that we have a real treasure here in London. I'm sure we all realise that.
Be sure to come to the next concert - you won't regret it! Our meetings, which are so necessary, do not give us the opportunity to see what life is really like in Antokol. It is only when you sit here quietly, stay and talk to everyone that this house really becomes a family home. It is as if it were our home. And imagine, in another week saxophones will be played here! It's going to be a real party!
Warmest greetings to you all.
Ewa and Janusz.