Three garden parties in three weeks
A wonderful afternoon, in a lovely setting at Figs on the Funcho, Messines

Three garden parties in three weeks

On May 11, I eventually got to my Royal Garden Party that had been suspended for two years due to Covid. And it rained and rained and rained – typical England!

I took my mum, Marion Hughes, with me. Everyone’s finery was looking a little damp and windswept and there was a colourful array of umbrellas, but this did not dampen our spirits and long-awaited anticipation and excitement of eventually getting there.

We entered the palace and walked around the back to the gardens and lawns, found a place in line, just as the National Anthem started.

Three garden parties in three weeks
At the Buckingham Palace…

Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, was making her way along the row of guests along with Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

Camilla was talking to a couple in front of us, and turned and walked directly to us, hand out shaking hands. She stopped, spoke to us and asked about the ‘Alerta’ work. She was very interested!

We then had our Royal Tea, including cucumber sandwiches and Victoria sponge and scones with clotted cream. We were served tubs of ice cream by footmen on the lawns.

Sadly, because of the rain, we never had our walk around the gardens – we were cold and wet by this time.

Three garden parties in three weeks
A wonderful afternoon, in a lovely setting at Figs on the Funcho, Messines

Alerta Charity Jubilee Tea Party

Then, back to the Algarve and hit the ground running, finishing the preparations for the ‘Alerta Charity Jubilee Tea Party’ held at Figs on the Funcho in Messines.

There had already been a lot of planning and trips round the charity shops looking for china tea sets and collecting donations of china and raffle prizes.

I had asked Messines Bombeiros to help with the tables and chairs, and Messines Junta de Freguesia also helped with the loan of tables and delivering to the venue.

Three garden parties in three weeks
Delicious cakes and scones at Figs on the Funcho

A team of volunteers also helped, from weeks of baking, washing up before and after, setting the tables, to sandwich-making and keeping everyone hydrated.

Not only were we joined by some lovely people who bought tickets and made the day a huge success, but we were graced with the company of the ‘comandantes’ of both Silves and Messines Bombeiros, the president of Messines Junta Carla Benedito, the British Vice Consul in Portimão Clive Jewell, and His Excellency the British Ambassador to Portugal Chris Sainty and his lovely wife Sarah Helen.

Everyone had a wonderful afternoon, in a lovely setting, but it was all a huge success thanks to the dedication and hard work of all the volunteers.

Three garden parties in three weeks
Donations for the Bombeiros

Ambassador’s Jubilee Party

And finally on June 1, I was very honoured to be invited to the Ambassador’s Jubilee Party in Lisbon.

Another wonderful evening, which I attended with another of the ‘Alerta’ founder members, Louise Semião. There was a very interesting display of the Queen’s official visits to Portugal, including the actual Rolls Royce Her Majesty travelled in whilst here.

We met some very interesting people, and there was a surprise visit from the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Three garden parties in three weeks
The Ambassador’s Jubilee Party

Again, a wonderful day, making lots of memories, but, most important, being ambassadors of Alerta, spreading the word of the work we do, and raising vital funds to help the Bombeiros this summer.


Debby Burton is president of Alerta, forest fire alert association. Associação para Alerta de Incêndio Florestal –