I’ve decided Britons are in unknowing and desperate need of another holiday. To be sure, Thanksgiving has merits on its own, but I do like the way this November holiday serves as a sort of buffer between Halloween and Christmas. Even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, isn’t nice to know there is something that will delay somewhat the run-up to and commercial onslaught of Christmas?
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. What I don’t like is the flurry of Christmas lights and decorations in late October. By the time December actually rolls around, you are just sick and tired of it all.
Christmas has come to Barford in a very sweet, restrained and utterly Barfordian way. No lights or excessive decorations just yet. We are easing into Christmas here in Barford. The holiday season ‘kicked off’ last night with an amateur choral concert at St. Peter’s Church given by the Wellesbourne Choral Society called “Swing into Christmas.”
The singers did a beautiful job, and it was a lovely evening, though hearing those familiar American tunes (“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” & etc.) left me pining (as always) for St. Luke’s. In fact, I sat there quite tearfully, missing the magnificent, choral magic of St. Luke’s professional choir. What a treat they were every Sunday. I’m sure, as much as I loved it, I took it all very much for granted. My thoughts drifted to the wonderful Christmas Eve service I will miss this year, and walking home after in the crisp, cold New York night with my BFF, “Boy Genius Playwright”. Tears welled up in my eyes as I considered how I have yet to feel “liturgically” at home here. Though the complimentary wine at the interval/intermission did go some way to ease the pain, as did the company.
The D.E.B. and I are becoming known and recognized in the village. (I should add, a couple we met recently remarked, “Oh, we’re new here, too.” They’ve been here for two years.) Anyway, it’s nice to go places and have people recognize and remember you by name, like Mr. and Mrs. MacBeth, whom we sat behind at the concert last night. And yes, they are related to the Macbeth Macbeth.
It was splendid start to the season, and I do feel very Christmasy at last. And it’s all go from here! Today was the Barford/St. Peter’s “Christmas Fayre”. Father Christmas, tombola (a sort of non-raffle raffle), lots & lots of mulled wine, mince pies, hot chocolate…and the D.E.B. bought me a lovely antique brooch. Which I am planning to wear next week when we go to…
“The Nutcracker”! I am a “Nutcracker” addict! I love it. At one time, I had the goal of landing myself in the Guinness Book of World Records as “The Person who has seen The Nutcracker more times than Anyone Else.” I first saw it as a child at Ballet Arkansas. I was transfixed. Since then, it has become a sort of Christmas tradition for me, and one that the D.E.B. thankfully supports. We saw it together last year by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, and this year we are seeing it at the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Our good friends, Fiona and Gavin are joining us, and the four of us are making a night of it. Fiona’s like me - any excuse to dress up is a good one!
Speaking of dressing up, I have decided that I need a tiara. Shocking, I know, that I don’t already own one, but I don’t. And why should brides, ballerinas and beauty queens have all the fun?
So, being the “outlandish, yet practical” girl that I am, I decided that if I wanted a tiara, I needed some place to wear it. Thus began the quest for a gala event that would be tiara-appropriate. Yes, I know that scores and scores of people wear tiaras as an everyday accessory, but I’m in it for the overall glamourous ambiance. And nothing says “tiara appropriate” more than a New Year’s Eve Ball.
This is another reason why I think Brits need another holiday before Christmas. Bookings for the most splendid formal New Year’s galas go very quickly in these parts. The original plan had been to go out as a “gang” of three couples. But, by the first week of November, it was “every couple for themselves” and the best I could do was to get the D.E.B. and myself on countless ‘wait lists’ throughout the county!
To my mind, the best affair in Warwickshire will be the white tie, “Black & White Masquerade Ball” at Coombe Abbey. Can you hear the sound of me weeping into my champagne glass? When I phoned Coombe Abbey in the first week of November, and they had one, yes, one place left. For a split second I did think, “Well, I could sit on the D.E.B.’s lap…”
Here’s the thing. I bought this dress in the West Village, on the edge of Soho. A designer sample sale. An Italian designer sample sale.
I was heading home from St. Luke’s along Bleecker Street, one bright, sunny, summer, Sunday afternoon. “Bella, bella!” A voice called out to me. A tiny Italian man, with a measuring type around his neck, “Please come in, and try.” How could I resist?
Rita Hayworth. That is who sprung to my mind when I saw “the dress”. It was the color of wood smoke, or fog in autumn. Classic, 1940s lines, floaty silk chiffon, with a satin panel rippling down the front from the plunge neckline. I put it on, and immediately felt tall, thin and screen-siren gorgeous. I stepped out from the makeshift dressing room, and everyone gasped: “Molto bella.” I had to agree, and I had to have this dress. How’s this for frugal: a $2,000 dress for $100.00? Only in New York City.
This dress is now in my closet in Warwickshire crying out to be worn, and it deserves a tiara! And a tiara it shall have. And an event worth of such an ensemble.
The D.E.B. looks stunning in a dinner jacket. I think men—British men, at least—secretly enjoy getting dressed to the nines as much as women do. It gives them a chance to live out those “Bond, James Bond” fantasies.
So, without much convincing the D.E.B. has agreed that a formal event is a “must do” for New Year’s Eve. And our plans are to go North to Cumbria. Formal attire, dinner and dancing, bagpipes at midnight, fireworks across the bay, bacon butties (sandwiches) at 3 a.m., and warming whiskey nightcaps at bedtime. Sound perfect to me. Now, I just need to find that tiara.