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Luncheon à la London

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posted by alias raaen99 on Tuesday 2nd of March 2021 11:30:13 PM

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. Today we are in Lettice’s chic, dining room, which stands adjunct to her equally stylish drawing room. She has decorated it in a restrained Art Deco style with a smattering of antique pieces. It is also a place where she has showcased some prized pieces from the Portman Gallery in Soho including paintings, her silver drinks set and her beloved statue of the ‘Modern Woman’ who presides over the proceedings from the sideboard. “Luncheon is served, Miss.” Edith, Lettice’s maid, announces in a brave voice, disguising her nerves cooking for Lettice’s father the Sixth Viscount of Wrexham as she drops a respectful curtsey on the threshold between the dining room and the drawing room. “What’s that?” Viscount Wrexham pipes as he sits up in the Art Deco tub chair by the fire that he has been comfortably installed in for the last hour and a half. “Luncheon, Pappa.” Lettice replies. “Thank you, Edith.” “Yes Miss.” Edith replies. She bobs another quick curtsey and wastes no time scurrying back through the green baize door into the relative safety of the kitchen. “Shall we go through, Pappa?” Lettice asks with a happy smile and an indicating gesture. The Viscount and his daughter stand up and stroll into the dining room, leaving their empty aperitif glasses on the low coffee table. Lettice takes her place as hostess at the head of the table, whilst her father takes his place to her left. “What’s this?” the Viscount burbles discontentedly as he looks across the black japanned Art Deco table. “It looks like luncheon to me, Pappa.” Lettice replies sweetly, aware that her answer will irritate her father. “Edith’s roast chicken. How delicious.” “I can see that Lettice.” Viscount Wrexham growls. “Don’t be obtuse!” “Then be more specific, Pappa.” “To be more specific. Why did that lazy girl just leave it in the middle of the table. Girl! Girl!” he bellows towards the door. “Come here, girl!” “Pappa!” Lettice exclaims. Edith hurries back through the door with a harried look on her face. “Yes, Your Lordship?” She makes a quick bob curtsey and gazes down at her fingers folded neatly in front of her. The Viscount glares firstly at her, then turns silently to glare at the food causing offence on the table. “Thank you Edith,” Lettice says apologetically in a soothing tone. “His Lordship was mistaken. You may return to your duties.” “What? I…” the older man splutters, turning his offended gaze to his daughter. “Pappa.” Lettice places her elegant hand with its manicured nails over her father’s bigger hand and waits until Edith has slipped back through the green baize door like a shadow. “Papa. You’re in London now, not in Wiltshire: in my flat, not in Glynes*. This is luncheon, à la London. And in London, in my flat, we serve ourselves luncheon on informal occasions. Would you carve?” She proffers the carving cutlery to her disgruntled father. “Well, I suppose someone must, since you see fit to deprive us of a butler,” he mutters. “Pappa, look around you. I live in a flat, not a mansion. I don’t need a butler. Edith does very well as a cook and maid-of-all-work. And I’d like to keep her, so please stop terrorising her by bellowing at her.” “What about for a dinner party! Don’t tell me you insult your guests as you do your poor Father by forcing them to serve themselves. You’ll never have a single client if you do.” “No Pappa,” Lettice sighs in an exasperated fashion. “Edith can wait table as good as any butler.” “Ptah! What nonsense! A girl waiting table. It’s like the war all over again.” “Or,” Lettice speaks over her father forcefully to prevent a tirade coming from his lips. “If needs be, I hire extra staff from a domestic agency in Westminster Mamma put me in touch with. It’s the same agency she uses when you both come up to London from Glynes.” She spoons some boiled vegetables onto her plate next to the piece of roast chicken her father placed on it. “Thinking of which, it was lovely of Mamma to send up some orange roses from Glynes.” “Yes, your Mother has done particularly well with the roses in the greenhouses at Glynes this year. They have protected the blooms from the Wiltshire cold and provided a profusion of flowers.” “They are beautiful.” Lettice smiles as she looks at the fiery orange blooms in the tall cut crystal vase on the table before her. “Well, your Mother and I both agree that this London flat of yours, like so much of London, lacks colour. It’s all black and white, just like those Bioscopes** you young people so adore.” “Nonsense Pappa! My flat has lots of colour. Just look at the art on my walls.” “Finger paintings!” he snorts derisively as he takes a bite of his chicken. “Your Mother and I agree about that too. Not to mention,” the Viscount pauses, deposits his cutlery onto his plate and turns in his seat to look behind him at the statue of the bronze woman reclining, yet gazing straight at him with a steely gaze. “Ahem.” “It’s called modern art, Pappa. And she is divine: the embodiment of the New Woman in bronze. Anyway, thankfully my clients happen to like my choice of ‘finger paintings’ and modern sculpture from the Portland Gallery.” “Aah, yes well,” the Viscount clears his throat and dabs the edges of his mouth with his blue linen napkin. “Thinking of clients. That brings me to the purpose of my visit.” “Of course. There has to be a reason beyond visiting your beloved youngest daughter just to see to her welfare.” “Now, don’t be like that Lettice.” He wags a finger admonishingly at her. “Many is the time I’ve come up to town just to have the pleasure of your company over luncheon at Claridge’s. No. No, your Mother, heard from… a friend, ahem.” The older man clears his throat awkwardly. “That you designed some interiors for the wife of that banker, Hatchett: the chorus girl.” Lettice purposefully lowers her fork. Picking up her glass of red wine she replies, “I did Pappa. What of it?” “Oh Lettice! Your poor mother and I were hoping that it was just a rumour.” “Well why shouldn’t I design interiors for her? I’m an interior designer and she needed some rooms redesigning.” “Lettice! You know perfectly well why. I shouldn’t have to spell it out for you. You aren’t a child anymore. You know your position in society. Be an interior designer by all means, but at least stick to your own class and be a society interior designer, my dear.” “That doesn’t pay the bills, Pappa.” The Viscount looks askance at his daughter. “For shame, Lettice!” “Pappa, I’m a businesswoman now. I must talk about money. At least the Hatchett’s paid for my services.” “You’re of age now Lettice, and I pay you a damn good allowance that should more than cover your expenses, and maybe even extend to getting a decent butler rather than a maid. Frocks, even the ones you like, can’t be that costly, surely.” “Pappa, it’s not so much about the money. It’s about the success of my business. I want to do something with my life. I can’t be a successful interior designer if I provide my services at no fee. I’d be a sham!” “Well what about that cousin of your Mother’s in Fitzroy Square? Cousin Gwendolyn wasn’t it?” “Pappa, the Duchess of Whitby still hasn’t paid me a third of what she owes for the redesign of her small reception room. I’ve sent her two reminders which she has politely ignored. She is never at home when I visit, and she is evasive to say the least over the telephone.” “Oh.” the Viscount looks down at his plate. “Well… well, I’ll talk to your Mother about talking to Gwendolyn about that.” “It would be even better if you did Pappa.” Lettice raises her glass of claret. “She is more inclined to listen to you, as head of the Chetwynd household.” “Oh, very well Lettice.” he sighs and clinks glasses with his daughter. “Thank you Pappa!” She leans over and pecks her father on the cheek, sending a flush of colour across his cheeks and the bridge of his nose. “You are a brick!” The two continue to eat their luncheon from Lettice’s gilt blue and white Royal Doulton dinner set in an avant garde Art Deco pattern. For a short while the companionable silence is only broken by the sound of cutlery against crockery. “Your Mother is right. I never could say no to you, Lettice.” “You have to have a favourite Pappa.” Lettice smiles happily. “Why shouldn’t it be me?” “It should be Leslie, as my son and heir.” “Oh, he’s Mamma’s favourite.” Lettice flaps the remark away with a flick of her left hand. “We all know that. We’ve always known that.” “Well Lettice, as I said before. Just remember your position in society. Your Mother and I, we’re prepared to tolerate your wish to dabble in this business folly of yours before you settle down and get married, but please be a society interior designer and design for your own class. Be discerning with your choice of clients. Hmmm?” He smiles hopefully at his daughter. “We’ll see Pappa.” Lettice replies, a smile dancing on her lips as she sips her glass of claret. *Glynes is the home of the presiding Viscount and Countess of Wrexham, the grand Georgian family seat of the Chetwynds in Wiltshire. ** The Bioscope is an early term for what became by the mid 1920s a motion-picture theatre or cinema. The Bioscope was a hand-driven projector with a low-watt bulb placed behind the reel. Originally a Bioscope show was a music hall and fairground attraction. Mary Pickford was the original Bioscope Girl, so named because of the Bioscope films she starred in during the Great War and early 1920s. Lettice’s fashionable Mayfair flat dining room is perhaps a little different to what you might think, for it is made up entirely of 1:12 size dollhouse miniatures I have collected over time. Fun things to look for in this tableaux include: The roast chicken, tureens of vegetables and the gravy boat of gravy on the table all came from an English stockist of 1:12 artisan miniatures whom I found on E-Bay. They all look almost good enough to eat. The 1:12 artisan bottle of Pinot Noir is made from glass and the winery on the label is a real winery in France. The bottle was made by Little Things Dollhouse Miniatures in Lancashire. The wine and water glasses, carafe of water and the vase are all 1:12 artisan miniatures too, made by Beautifully Handmade Miniatures in Kettering in England. The vase is especially fine. If you look closely you will see that it is decorated with lattices of fine threads of glass to give it a faceted Art Deco look. The orange roses in the vase were also hand made by Beautifully Handmade Miniatures. The Art Deco dinner set is part of a much larger set I acquired from a dollhouse suppliers in Shanghai. In the background on the console table stand some of Lettice’s precious artisan purchases from the Portland Gallery in Soho. The pair of candelabra at either end of the sideboard are sterling silver artisan miniatures from Karen Ladybug Miniatures in England. The silver drinks set, made by artisan Clare Bell at the Clare Bell Brass Works in Maine, in the United States. Each goblet is only one centimetre in height and the decanter at the far end is two- and three-quarter centimetres with the stopper inserted. Lettice’s Art Deco ‘Modern Woman’ figure is actually called ‘Christianne’ and was made and hand painted by Warwick Miniatures in Ireland, who are well known for the quality and detail applied to their pieces. ‘Christianne’ is based on several Art Deco statues and is typical of bronze and marble statues created at that time for the luxury market in the buoyant 1920s. Lettice’s dining room is furnished with Town Hall Miniatures furniture, which is renown for their quality. The only exceptions to the room is the Chippendale chinoiserie carver chair and the Art Deco cocktail cabinet (the edge of which just visible on the far right-hand side of the photo) which were made by J.B.M. Miniatures. The carpet beneath the furniture is a copy of a popular 1920s style Chinese silk rug hand made by Mackay and Gerrish in Sydney, Australia. The paintings on the walls are 1:12 artisan pieces made by Amber’s Miniatures in the United States. The geometric Art Deco wallpaper is beautiful hand impressed paper given to me by a friend, which inspired the whole “Cavendish Mews – Lettice Chetwynd” series.

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