Browsing Tag

Hunt Ball


Easter Comes Early

I was sure Saturday evening’s expedition to Toffdom’s Rural Headquarters, the Hunt Ball, was going to spoon feed me material for my next blog post. Surely it would be chock-a-block with eccentrics and their accompanying outlandish behavior, which I’ve grown to know and love in my year in the Cotswolds. I was wrong. The most outrageous thing I witnessed all night was a drunken nineteen year old who sucked face with her paramour on the dance floor for three consecutive songs. As husband is fond of saying, youth are so boring. We were home in bed by 1:30AM.

Well rested and hangover free, we made it to church the next morning for the first time this year. We were greeted by the usual suspects, six elderly ladies and one fifty-something man who surely attends in part out of civic duty to the golden girls of his village. The upside of a measly church population is everyone gets a job. Jean says Mattins, the lady who drives her Nissan Micra like a bat out of hell for the one block between her cottage and the church reads the Old Testament verse, the lady with the Danish accent the New Testament, the gent takes the offering and rings the bells, and Dorothy, in her orange pea coat, recites the Collect. This last one is my favourite. Dorothy’s prayer reads like an uber letter to Santa Claus, her requests ranging from a pony (“good health for the Queen”) to a trip to the moon (“peace on earth in our time, Lord”). I say this not to poke fun at her earnest and child-like approach, but rather in humble admiration of a person who has managed to retain these qualities after eighty years.

I on the other hand am totally godless. That’s the only way I can explain why Jean’s Lenten sermon made me think of the saga of our local Chinese takeaway, Dynasty. Jean was preaching about when Jesus had to prepare the disciples for the fact he was going to die. They responded with the textbook five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — not unlike my fellow villagers and I when faced with the recent shuttering of Dynasty. But then, last Thursday night, we had a bit of an early Easter miracle here in the Cotswolds. Husband, playing the unlikely herald, burst through the backdoor of the cottage asking if I wanted to hear some “fantastic news.” He was so jubilant I was sure that Inspector Closseau, his workplace nemesis, had been fired. But no, he brought good tidings that that the Dynasty woks are firing once again like a phoenix risen from the ashes. Just like that, Kung Pao Chicken Friday nights are back! I suspect Jean would fail to appreciate my loose interpretation of Easter theology, but it is nearly spring and I’ll take my themes of rebirth and renewal where I can find them.


High Society

I woke up humming tunes from High Society, which husband and I went to see last night at the cinema in our local country house hotel. I’ve decided it edges out Love Actually as the best rom com ever, what with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and Grace Kelly (in the best Grecian toga bathingsuit cover up EVER), not to mention the totally awesome mid-century patio furniture that features in most scenes except the ones in the library where a bar magically appears when you tug on a tome of Darwin. The movie is unfettered by political correctness allowing Grace Kelly’s character, Tracy Lord, to get plastered the night before her doomed wedding and snog both her ex-husband, played by Bing, and the paparazzi man, played by Frank. (As a trivia bonus I now also suspect I know where the porn star, Traci Lords, took inspiration for her name.)

Tonite is the Cotswold Hunt Ball and I fully expect, nay demand, all kinds of equally unpolitically correct and fabulous behaviour to be on display. I’ve procured a long evening dress with relative ease following my panic last weekend, thanks to a sale at Ghost. Undergarments have been trickier. Despite bragging about my Trinny and Susannah Miracle Pants in my last post, the truth is I bought an imitation “slimming pant” that was half the price. I tried on my dress yesterday and found to my horror that said girdle, while very effective at squashing in the right places, created just the merest hint of, gasp, back cleavage. As if the indignity of needing to purchase a “slimming pant” wasn’t enough. I was never very good at physics but I vaguely remember something about mass displacement—it’s got to go somewhere—so I guess the formation of a small ass on my upper back stands to reason. Looks like today’s agenda will feature a mad dash to the lingerie department at House of Fraser. That elegant pencil Grace Kelly never dealt with the challenges of back cleavage, but then again, she probably never went to the Hunt Ball either.


Spring Is in the Air

Saturday the weather was mild enough to coax us on to our bikes for our inaugural ride of 2009. Snow drops are blooming and the daffodils are threatening to burst forth by next weekend. The hunt was out which would have been nice if we had seen it, but our timing was off and so it just meant lots more horse shit and cars on the road toting the binocular and camera slinging masses.

It’s a good thing we made the effort because unbeknownst to us it was Chris’s last day at the post office in G.P., which was our first stop on the bike ride. Chris runs a little cafe in the corner of the shop, and Saturday morning coffee and a paper there are a long standing Cotswold tradition for us. It was on her brown leather couch that looks out across the village green where, leafing through The Guardian, I found husband his current job, a fact I don’t mention given his disgruntled state over the continuing presence of Inspector Clouseau. Chris tried to soften the blow of her decision to leave — she said it had been on the cards ever since the post office hours were cut last year — with promises of bacon sandwiches from the new owner, but we were crushed. At least we got to say goodbye. And we’re bound to see her one Saturday enjoying a bacon sandwich since she still lives in the village.

At the end of our bike ride we stopped into the wine bar for a coffee where M. the barman enquired if we’d like to attend his hunt’s auction that evening, a last minute replacement for a couple who’d fallen ill. We didn’t know until we arrived at the town hall later that evening that entrepreneurial E. the bird plucker was his considerably younger date. I couldn’t help thinking this was bound to end in tears, but I was too distracted by the assembled company to let my judgements get the best of me. This included an Austrian count who is tall and pointy, as an Austrian count should be, and seemed to have donated every other lot in the auction. There was also a ginger haired man of indeterminate age who specialised in horse breeding data. He was like a Wall Street analyst of the horsey set, equines instead of equities.

When it came time to bid, husband came close on a lot for a day’s gate shutting, which I assume is a useful service when you ride horses across the vast plot of land that makes up your family’s estate and you don’t want to get off your horse continually to close gates. The lot didn’t specify where said gate shutting was to take place, and husband and M. thought it would be hilarious to have the donating family come up to London and spend the day closing front gates up and down our road. Husband bailed at £200 which left him with precisely that amount to purchase a life coaching session, exactly the kind of namby pamby, L.A. thing to ruin one’s reputation at an event like this, and the taint by association heaped on our host was exactly what husband was going for. It was very poor value indeed considering a week at a villa that sleeps fifteen in the Dordogne went for under a grand.

The true value of the evening came from E., who provided the information heretofore unknown to me that the hunt ball next Saturday was a floor length dress required kind of event. This sent me into a mad rush on Sunday during which I momentarily considered having my mother FedEx me an old bridesmaid dress, the only long dress I own, never mind the chiffon and rhinestone scattered flutter sleeves. Presented with this plan my mother, who just happened to be bruised and ace bandaged from her most recent bout of plastic surgery (neck and eyes touch up to her now nearing a decade old face lift), shrieked that said dress “looks like a sack” on me. Unlike my mother the only thing that will be giving me any kind of lift with my evening gown are my Trinny and Susannah Miracle Pants, the British equivalent of Spanx.

The last time I faced this kind of formal wear emergency imposed by the regulations of British society was two years ago when, two days shy of Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot, I happened to hear mention of the fact that a lady’s hat had to cover her entire head to enter the Royal Enclosure. The reasonably priced number I had settled on weeks ago, somewhere between a “fascinator” and a beret in scalp coverage, was on the cusp of unacceptable. On a frenzied death march stopping in every milliner within a mile radius of Oxford Street I parted ways with a considerable sum of money for what can only be described as a hot pink, highly feathered pimp hat. May my evening gown for the hunt ball be as fabulous.