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A Long-Awaited Telephone Call

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posted by alias raaen99 on Sunday 12th of June 2022 08:57:39 AM

Cavendish Mews is a smart set of flats in Mayfair where flapper and modern woman, the Honourable Lettice Chetwynd has set up home after coming of age and gaining her allowance. To supplement her already generous allowance, and to break away from dependence upon her family, Lettice has established herself as a society interior designer, so her flat is decorated with a mixture of elegant antique Georgian pieces and modern Art Deco furnishings, using it as a showroom for what she can offer to her well heeled clients. After a busy morning working at her desk, writing a list of some final tweaks to her friend Margot Channon’s interior designs for her Regency country house ‘Chi an Treth’, Lettice prepares to curl up in one of her armchairs and enjoy her latest library book from Boots*, a new romance, when the telephone rings noisily on the occasional table beside her. BBBBRRRINGGG! Edith, Lettice’s maid, is putting glassware back into the cocktail cabinet in the adjoining dining room and looks up anxiously. “That infernal contraption!” she mutters to herself. Edith hates answering the telephone. It’s one of the few jobs in her position that she wishes she didn’t have to do. Whenever she has to answer it, which is quite often considering how frequently her mistress is out and about, there is usually some uppity caller at the other end of the phone, whose toffee-nosed accent only seems to sharpen when they realise they are speaking to ‘the hired help’ as they abruptly demand Lettice’s whereabouts. BBBBRRRINGGG! “Oh pooh!” Lettice cries. “And just as I was getting comfortable.” BBBBRRRINGGG! “This had better not be Mr. Fulton telling me that the lorry of furnishings and hangings and papers bound for ‘Chi an Treth’ has broken down between London and Penzance.” she grumbles. The silver and Bakelite telephone continues to trill loudly as Lettice brushes herself down and picks up the receiver. “Mayfair 432,” she answers without the slightest trace of irritation in her very best telephone voice. The line crackles for a moment before a clipped, upper-class male voice drifts down the line to the receiver at Lettice’s ear. “May I speak to Miss Chetwynd, please.” “Yes, this is Miss Chetwynd speaking,” Lettice replies. “Darling!” the unfamiliar male voice exclaims. Lettice reddens at the familiarity of the term and nearly drops the receiver in shock. “May I ask who is calling, please?” “Darling Lettice, it’s me,” the stranger on the end of the line says with a chuckle. When there is silence in response, he adds, “It’s Selwyn.” “Oh Selwyn!” Lettice gasps in sudden recognition, and sits up abruptly in her seat, her face going from trepidation to a beaming smile, her eyes sparking with happiness. Edith in the dining room, having put the glasses back into the cocktail cabinet makes to go, but Lettice waves her free left hand excitedly and beckons her maid over. Edith sighs but walks over reluctantly. As soon as she is within reach, Lettice reaches out and clasps her hand, encouraging her to stay, and refusing to let her go. She sighs again. Looking around the room she feels awkward as she overhears whisps of the conversation. She would much rather return to the kitchen and start cleaning the lidded serving dishes with Silvo silver paste, which is what she would be doing if her mistress hadn’t grabbed her as if her life depended on it. “Darling Lettice, I’m going to be up in London for a few days.” Selwyn announces cheerily. “When, Selwyn?” Lettice asks, almost too afraid to breathe. “Next week,” he elucidates. “Tuesday and Wednesday. I have the designs of a house I’ve been commissioned to build for an artist couple in Hampstead.” “How thrilling, Selwyn!” Lettice’s grip tightens around both the telephone receiver and Edith’s hand. “Yes.” he says with a light laugh. “They’re quite progressive with their desires for designs on a new home. I was rather chuffed when they asked me to design it for them. So, I thought I’d also run a few errands whilst I’m in town. I’ll be staying at the Saville Club** whilst I’m up from the country.” “Oh, so you’ll be quite close by then!” Lettice looks excitedly up at Edith, who awkwardly tries to evade her mistress’ eyes. “Indeed yes. Just around the corner, really. I didn’t want Mummy and Daddy to open the London house just for a few days” “No, I suppose that is wise.” “And I was thinking that whilst I was in town, we might fulfil those plans that we made at the Hunt Ball. “Plans Selwyn?” Lettice queries, a smile teasing up Lettice’s pale and full pink lips. Edith cannot help herself and turns her head back and stares, open mouthed, in astonishment at her mistress’ obvious attempt to be coy. Ever since she returned from Wiltshire after the Hunt Ball Lettice has done nothing but talk about the handsome young Selwyn Spencely, son of the Duke of Walmsford, who was an old childhood friend whom she hadn’t seen in years. The way she spoke, the man danced like a dream and swept her off her feet that evening. Edith narrows her eyes and shakes her head at Lettice. “Don’t you remember, darling girl, or had you had too much champagne?” His light-hearted chuckle emanates from his end of the line. “We planned to catch up when I was next in town if you were free.” He pauses for a moment and aside from a faint crackle down the line there is a palpable silence tinged with excitement and anticipation. “That is, assuming you’d still like to, of course, Lettice darling.” Lettice pauses for a moment, giving her maid’s hand another squeeze before swallowing. “Oh yes, I should like that very much, Selwyn.” She winks at her maid cheekily. “What days did you say you would be in town again?” “Tuesday and Wednesday. I was hoping you might be free for luncheon, or perhaps a cocktail?” Lettice takes a deep breath before replying, “Well, I’ll just have to consult my diary. I’ve just sent some furniture down to Penzance for the house down there I’ve ben commissioned to redecorate.” “Oh yes, I remember: your friends, the Channons.” “You do have a good memory, Selwyn.” “Well,” he pauses and chuckles, only this time a little awkwardly. “There are quite a few things I remember about you at the Hunt Ball.” Lettice smile broadens on her lips as she feels a flush fill her cheeks and redden her neck. “And we still have so much to catch up on about what we’ve been doing over the last fifteen years since we were children together.” “Yes,” Selwyn replies. “So, are you free on Tuesday or Wednesday, my dear Lettice?” “Well, let me just check my diary, Selwyn.” Lettice deposits the receiver on the surface of the black japanned table next to her novel and her cooling cup of tea. She reaches out and snatched as Edith’s other hand handing limply by her side and squeezes it as tightly as the other. She cannot help herself and let’s a quick little squeak escape her lips as she smiles up at her maid, who for all her attempts to be discreet cannot help but smile back. Lettice waits for a few more moments. Finally, when she thinks enough time has passed, she releases Edith’s left hand. The maid flicks her fingers back and forth, making sure the circulation her mistress cut off is restored to her digits. Picking up the receiver Lettice says, “You happen to be in luck, Mr. Spencely. I am free for luncheon on Wednesday.” “Oh hoorah!” Selwyn exclaims in delight. “Marvellous! I thought we might go to the Hotel Cecil*** for luncheon.” “Oh no!” Lettice protests in return. “Everyone I know will be there!” “You’d rather go to the Lyons Corner House**** on Tottenham Court Road?” Selwyn laughs good naturedly. “I’m sure no-one would know us there.” Lettice sighs. “It’s not that I don’t want to be seen with you, Selwyn.” “Then what?” “I’m sure you’ll think me mad, but I can assure you that Mater has spies in her friends and their friends and acquaintances, who are only too happy to report what her youngest wayward daughter and her flatter friends are up to. I know I wouldn’t enjoy luncheon with you if I was forever wondering whether someone was watching us and planning on reporting every thing we do and every word we utter back to her before the day is out.” This time when Selwyn laughs, it is a big, jolly guffaw. “Don’t laugh at me, Selwyn, please! I know I sound quite mad, but it’s true.” “Oh I’m sorry, Lettice darling. I know you aren’t mad. My mother does exactly the same and keeps tabs on all her children, so I know what it’s like. Now, if you told me that the potted palms in the Cecil reported back to your mother, well then, I would have to question your mental state.” This time the pair of them laugh together, Lettice’s filled with relief. “So, if the Cecil isn’t suitable this time, where do you suggest, my dear?” Lettice thinks for a moment. “What about the Metropole*****?” “I can’t say I’ve been there since the war.” “Oh it’s very luxurious and the food is divine. I went there not long ago with a client of mine.” “And it’s safe from your Mother’s spies?” “Well,” Lettice admits. “Nowhere is that impenetrable, however we are less likely to find ladies dining there as we would at the Cecil, and those that are, are probably more inclined to be interested in politics and affairs of state rather than who is dining around them.” “I’ll see if I can book us a discreet table, then, my darling girl.” “If you would, Selwyn.” “Shall we say one o’clock then, my angel?” “Yes.” Lettice agrees. “Your angel…” she ruminates. “I’m sorry Lettice. I didn’t mean to be so intimate,” Selwyn stutters hurriedly. “I apologise.” “Oh please don’t, Selwyn!” Lettice assures him. “I was just thinking how lovely that sounds: to be your angel.” “So, shall we say one then on Wednesday,” he pauses. “My angel?” “Yes, one o’clock in the foyer of the Metropole Hotel. I shall see you then.” “And I shall be counting the minutes until then, my angel.” “Goodbye, dear Selwyn. Until then.” “Goodbye my angel, until then.” Lettice replaces the Bakelite receiver into the chrome cradle of the telephone. “Well!” Lettice gasps with excitement. “You’ll never guess who that was, Edith!” “I’m quite sure I couldn’t say, Miss.” Edith says with a downwards, disapproving look, hating having to be subjected to her mistress’ private telephone call. “It was Selwyn Spencely! You’ll never guess what’s he’s gone and done, Edith!” “I’m positive I’d never guess, Miss.” Edith replies, casting her eyes to the white painted ceiling. “He’s taking me to luncheon at the Metropole on Wednesday!” Lettice screams and jumps up and down, her long string of glass bugle beads jangling about in front of her as she wraps her arms dramatically around Edith’s neck and starts spinning her around. Edith stumbles and breaks away from her giddy mistress. “Miss! Miss!” she chides. “Calm yourself and stop that jumping, or I’ll have Mrs. Clifford’s maid from downstairs up here in a trice, complaining about the light fixtures shaking, or plaster dust ending up in old Mrs. Clifford’s lunch.” “Oh pooh old Mrs. Clifford and her luncheon!” Lettice laughs as she reaches out for her maid and starts dancing around with her again. “I’m gong to have luncheon on Wednesday with dreamy Selwyn Spencely, the most eligible and handsome young man in London!” *Boots the chemist was established in 1849, by John Boot. After his father's death in 1860, Jesse Boot, aged 10, helped his mother run the family's herbal medicine shop in Nottingham, which was incorporated as Boot and Co. Ltd in 1883, becoming Boots Pure Drug Company Ltd in 1888. In 1920, Jesse Boot sold the company to the American United Drug Company. However, because of deteriorating economic circumstances in North America Boots was sold back into British hands in 1933. The grandson of the founder, John Boot, who inherited the title Baron Trent from his father, headed the company. The Boots Pure Drug Company name was changed to The Boots Company Limited in 1971. Between 1898 and 1966, many branches of Boots incorporated a lending library department, known as Boots Book-Lovers' Library. **The Savile Club is a traditional London gentlemen's club founded in 1868, many of whose members have a common interest in the arts. Located in fashionable and historically significant Mayfair, its membership, past and present, include many prominent names. ***The Hotel Cecil was a grand hotel built 1890–96 between the Thames Embankment and the Strand in London, England. It was named after Cecil House, a mansion belonging to the Cecil family, which occupied the site in the Seventeenth Century. The hotel was the largest in Europe when it opened, with more than eight hundred rooms. The proprietor, Jabez Balfour, later went bankrupt and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The Royal Air Force was formed and had its first headquarters here in the former Hotel Cecil in 1918. During the 1920s, it was one of the most fashionable hotels in London and was filled with flappers and young men, representing the spirit of the Jazz Age. The hotel was largely demolished in 1930, and Shell Mex House now stands on its site. ****Built by the Salmons and Glucksteins, a German-Jewish immigrant family based in London, J. Lyons and Company opened their first teashop in Piccadilly in 1894. From 1909 they developed this into a chain of teashops. The waitresses that worked in them were commonly known as Nippies as they were forever on their feet, nipping in and out of serving tables. The company also ran high class restaurants, founding the Trocadero in 1895, and hotels including the Strand Palace, opened in 1909, the Regent Palace, opened in 1915, and the Cumberland Hotel, opened in 1933, all in London. The last Lyon’s Corner House, in the Strand closed in 1977. *****Now known as the Corinthia Hotel, the Metropole Hotel is located at the corner of Northumberland Avenue and Whitehall Place in central London on a triangular site between the Thames Embankment and Trafalgar Square. Built in 1883 it functioned as an hotel between 1885 until World War I when, located so close to the Palace of Westminster and Whitehall, it was requisitioned by the government. It reopened after the war with a luxurious new interior and continued to operate until 1936 when the government requisitioned it again whilst they redeveloped buildings at Whitehall Gardens. They kept using it in the lead up to the Second World War. After the war it continued to be used by government departments until 2004. In 2007 it reopened as the luxurious Corinthia Hotel. This 1920s upper-class drawing room is different to what you may think at first glance, for it is made up entirely of 1:12 size dollhouse miniatures including items from my own childhood. Fun things to look for in this tableau include: The black Bakelite and silver telephone is a 1:12 miniature of a model introduced around 1919. It is two centimetres wide and two centimetres high. The receiver can be removed from the cradle, and the curling chord does stretch out. The vase of yellow roses and lilies on the Art Deco occasional table is beautifully made by hand by the Doll House Emporium. Lettice’s tea cup and saucer is part of a beautiful artisan set featuring a rather avant-garde Art Deco Royal Doulton design from the Edwardian era. Lettice’s romantic novel is a 1:12 size miniature made by the British miniature artisan Ken Blythe. Most of the books I own that he has made may be opened to reveal authentic printed interiors. In some cases, you can even read the words, depending upon the size of the print! I have quite a large representation of Ken Blythe’s work in my collection, but so little of his real artistry is seen because the books that he specialised in making are usually closed, sitting on shelves or closed on desks and table surfaces. This novel is one of the rarer exceptions and it has been designed not to be opened. Nevertheless, the cover is beautifully illustrated. What might amaze you even more is that all Ken Blythe’s books are authentically replicated 1:12 scale miniatures of real volumes. To create something so authentic to the original in such detail and so clearly, really does make this a miniature artisan piece. Ken Blythe’s work is highly sought after by miniaturists around the world today and command high prices at auction for such tiny pieces, particularly now that he is no longer alive. I was fortunate enough to acquire pieces from Ken Blythe prior to his death about four years ago, as well as through his estate via his daughter and son-in-law. His legacy will live on with me and in my photography which I hope will please his daughter. I hope that you enjoy this peek at just one of hundreds of his books that I own, and that it makes you smile with its sheer whimsy! Lettice’s drawing room is furnished with beautiful J.B.M. miniatures. To the left of the photograph is a Chippendale cabinet which has been hand decorated with chinoiserie designs. It also features very ornate metalwork hinges and locks. The Art Deco tub chair upholstered in white embossed fabric is made of black japanned wood and has a removable cushion, just like its life sized equivalent. The Chinese folding screen in the background I bought at an antiques and junk market when I was about ten. I was with my grandparents and a friend of the family and their three children, who were around my age. They all bought toys to bring home and play with, and I bought a Chinese folding screen to add to my miniatures collection in my curio cabinet at home! It shows you what a unique child I was. In front of the screen on a pedestal table stands a miniature cloisonné vase from the early Twentieth Century which I also bought when I was a child. It came from a curios shop. Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects. In recent centuries, vitreous enamel has been used, and inlays of cut gemstones, glass and other materials were also used during older periods. The resulting objects can also be called cloisonné. The decoration is formed by first adding compartments (cloisons in French) to the metal object by soldering or affixing silver or gold wires or thin strips placed on their edges. These remain visible in the finished piece, separating the different compartments of the enamel or inlays, which are often of several colours. Cloisonné enamel objects are worked on with enamel powder made into a paste, which then needs to be fired in a kiln. The Japanese produced large quantities from the mid Nineteenth Century, of very high technical quality cloisonné. In Japan cloisonné enamels are known as shippō-yaki (七宝焼). Early centres of cloisonné were Nagoya during the Owari Domain. Companies of renown were the Ando Cloisonné Company. Later centres of renown were Edo and Kyoto. In Kyoto Namikawa became one of the leading companies of Japanese cloisonné.

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