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The Event of the 1921 London Season

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posted by alias raaen99 on Sunday 19th of September 2021 07:07:07 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. Two of Lettice’s Embassy Club coterie of bright young things are getting married: Dickie Channon, eldest surviving son of the Marquess of Taunton, and Margot de Virre, only daughter of Lord Charles and Lady Lucie de Virre. Lettice is hosting an exclusive buffet supper party in their honour this evening, which is turning out to be one of the events of the 1921 London Season. Over the last few days, Lettice’s flat has been in upheaval as Edith. Lettice’s maid, and Lettice’s charwoman* Mrs. Boothby have been cleaning the flat thoroughly in preparation for the occasion. Earlier today with the help of a few hired men they moved some of the furnishings in Lettice’s drawing room into the spare bedroom to make space for the hired dance band and for the guests to dance and mingle. Edith’s preserve of the kitchen has been overrun by delivery men, florists and caterers. Yet it has finally all fallen into place perfectly just as a red and white striped marquee is erected by Gunter and Company** over the entrance and the pavement outside. Now we find ourselves in Lettice’s dining room, which has become the focal point for half the party guests as her dining table is given over to a magnificent buffet created by Harrods catering, whilst Dickie stands at one corner, thoroughly enjoying playing the part of barman as he makes cocktails for all his friends. Lettice sighs with satisfaction as she looks around the drawing room and dining room of her flat. Both rooms have a golden glow about them created by a mixture of electric light and candlelight and the fug of cigarette smoke. The rooms are populated with London society’s glittering young people, nicknamed “bright young things” by the newspapers. Men in white tie and tails with a smattering of daring souls wearing dinner jackets chatter animatedly and dance with ladies in beautifully coloured evening gowns with loose bodices, sashes and irregular and handkerchief hems. Jewels wink at throats, on fingers, dangling from ears and in carefully coiffed and finger waved hair, illuminated by the brilliant lighting. Bugle beads glitter as gowns gently wash about the figures of their wearers as they move. Everywhere gay chatter about the Season and the upcoming wedding of Margot and Dickie fills the air, the joyous sound mixing with the lively jazz quartet who play syncopated tunes lustily in a corner of Lettice’s drawing room. “Dubonnet and gin?” Dickie asks Lettice as she stands by the buffet and picks up a biscuit lightly smeared with salmon mousse. “Oh you are a brick, Dickie!” Lettice enthuses, popping the dainty morsel into her mouth. Accepting the reddish gold cocktail from him she adds, “But really, this is your party. You should be out there, socialising with Margot, not standing here making cocktails for everyone.” “Why should I bother going out there to socialise,” he waves his hand across the crowded room to the edge of the makeshift dancefloor where his fiancée stands in a beautiful ankle length silver georgette gown studded in silver sequins, surrounded by a small clutch of equally elegant young guests. “When they all have to come to me for drinks.” “Ahhh,” Lettice titters as she sips her cocktail. “So there is method in your madness, Dickie.” “Isn’t there always, Lettice?” he laughs. “Now, you are technically hostess of this bash. Go out there and dazzle everyone.” Then he stops and adds, “Well, not quite everyone.” And he blows a kiss to his fiancée whose eye he has caught from across the crowded room. “Alright Dickie,” Lettice laughs and she saunters off into the crowd, pausing to smile and say hullo and accept the compliments of her many guests. Suddenly she spots a beautiful woman in a pale pink beaded gown with dark finger waved hair framing her peaches and cream complexion standing docilely by the dancefloor watching the stream of passing couples dancing past in each other’s arms. She seems distant and remote, even a little sad, and far removed from the frenetic energy and jolly bonhomie about her. Excusing herself from the couple who are addressing her, Lettice slips over to her. “Hullo Elizabeth***!” Lettice embraces her warmly. “I wasn’t sure if you were going to come along tonight considering everything that’s happened.” “I wasn’t sure myself, Lettice.” Elizabeth replies, a warm smile revealing a slightly crooked set of teeth. “But I couldn’t let Dickie and Margot down.” Then she adds quickly as an afterthought, “Or you, darling Lettice.” “Well, I’m glad you’ve come. How are you feeling?” “A little battered and bruised emotionally.” Elizabeth admits with a lilt of sadness. “But one mustn’t complain.” “I still don’t understand why you said no to his marriage proposal. I thought you loved Bertie****.” “I did.” Elizabeth remarks before correcting herself. “I do! But I’m afraid that if I said yes to him, I’d never, never again be able to be free to think, speak and act as I feel I really ought to. Besides,” she adds conspiratorially, glancing about her before continuing. “His mother terrifies me.” “She terrifies all of us,” Lettice laughs lighty as she waves her hand gaily about the room. “Now, what you need to pick you up and forget your heartache is one of these.” She points to the glass in her hand. “What is it?” Elizabeth asks, eyeing Lettice’s glass and sniffing its contents with suspicion. “A Dubonnet and gin. Dickie will make you one. Go and ask him.” Lettice grasps Elizabeth by the shoulder and sends her toddling across to Dickie as he stands behind a line of bottles and a beautiful arrangement of roses. “Lettice!” Margot suddenly calls from across the room, beckoning her over enthusiastically. “Lettice, darling!” Squeezing between small clusters of well-dressed guests drinking and eating or leaving the dance floor, Lettice makes her way over to her friend. “Hullo Margot, darling! Are you having a fabulous time?” “Fabulous isn’t enough of a word to describe it, darling!” she replies with eyes shimmering with excitement and joy. “Such a thrilling bash! I can’t thank you enough!” “Yes Lettice,” a deep male voice adds from behind her. “You certainly do know how to throw a party!” “Lord de Virre!” Lettice exclaims, spinning around. “Oh! I didn’t know you’d arrived. Now, who can I introduce you to?” “No-one my dear. My beautiful daughter has been doing an ample job of introducing me to so many people that already this old man cannot remember who is whom.” “Never old!” Lettice scolds, hitting his arm playfully as she curls her own through the crook in his. “Then if I can’t introduce to anyone, perhaps I can entreat you into eating something.” “Now that I won’t refuse, Lettice.” Lettice and Margot guide Lord de Virre across the crowded dining room to the buffet table weighed down with delicious savoury petit fours, vol-au-vents, caviar, dips, cheese and pâte and pasties. Glasses full, partially drained and empty are scattered amidst the silver trays and china plates. “Champagne, Sir?” Dickie calls out. “Good show Dickie!” laughs Lord de Virre over the noise of the party. “Playing barman tonight, are we?” “It’s the best role to play at a party, Sir.” He passes Lord de Virre a flute of sparkling champagne poured from the bottle wedged into a silver ice bucket. Behind him Lettice spies Elizabeth with a Dubonnet and gin in her glove clad hand. Lettice catches her eye and discreetly raises her glass, which Elizabeth returns with a gentle smile. “Now Lettice, darling,” Margot enthuses as she selects a dainty petit four. “Daddy has just reminded me of an idea we had a few weeks ago, which I meant to ask you about, but between all Gerald’s dress fittings and other arrangements for the wedding,” She flaps her hand about, the diamonds in her engagement ring sparkling in the light. “Well, I completely forgot.” Lettice tries not to smile as she feels the gentlest of squeezes from Lord de Virre’s arm and remembers the conversation that she and he had some weeks ago in his study. “What is it?” She glances between Margot and her father, pretending not to know what is coming. “Well, Daddy suggested… I mean… I was wondering…” “Yes, Margot darling?” “Well, you know how the Marquess is giving us that house in Cornwall?” “Yes! Chi an… an…?” “Chi an Treth!” Dickie calls out helpfully. “Yes!” Margot concurs. “Beach House! Well, it hasn’t been lived in for ever such a long time, and it’s a bit old fashioned. Daddy is kindly organising for it to be electrified, re-plumbed and have it connected to the Penzance telephone exchange for us.” Margot pauses. “And… well he and… we… that is to say that I thought…” “Yes?” Lettice coaxes with lowered lids as she takes a gentle sip of her Dubonnet and gin. “Well, we… Dickie and I that is… well we rather hoped that you might consider fixing up a couple of rooms for us. Would you? I would just so dearly love a room or two decorated by you! Dickie even thinks that his father can pull some strings and get you an article in Country Life if you do?” “Oh Margot!” Lettice exclaims, releasing her grip on Lord de Virre and depositing her glass on the table she flings her arms about her friend’s neck. “I’d love to!” Lettice suddenly feels a gentle poking of fingers into the small of her back. Letting go of Margot, she stands back and looks at her, remembering the lines Lord de Virre asked her to come up with and rehearse upon agreeing to Margot’s request. “Of course, I can’t do it straight away, you understand. You know I’m currently mid-way through Miss Ward’s flat in Pimlico.” “Oh that’s alright,” Margot beams. “The modernisation isn’t finished yet, so we won’t even be going down there to inspect the place until after our honeymoon.” Lettice feels Lord de Virre’s prodding in her back again. “And I won’t do it for free, Margot. I have already given you a wedding gift. I’m a businesswoman now.” “Oh, well that’s just the thing,” Margot exclaims, clasping her hands in delight. “Daddy has kindly agreed to pay for it all.” Lettice looks up at Lord de Virre. He looks back at her seriously, but she can see a smile tweaking the edges of his mouth, trying to create a cheeky smile. She tries to keep up the pretence that she didn’t already know that Margot was going to ask her to redecorate for her and Dickie as she says, “Really Lord de Virre? All of it? That’s very generous of you.” “Not a bit of it, Lettice. This is a good, sound business transaction. You may send your quotes to me for consideration,” He ennunciates the last word carefully to stress its importance, more for Margot’s sake than Lettice’s. “Once you have seen the rooms as they are now.” “Thank you Lord de Virre,” Lettice replies. “Well Margot, I suppose that settles it then!” “Oh Dickie!” Margot exclaims, scuttling over to her fiancée. “She said yes!” “Who did, darling?” Dickie asks as he adds crème de menthe to colour his Fallen Angel cocktail a pale green. “What do you mean, who?” Margot hits his arm jokingly as she sways excitedly from side to side. “Lettice of course!” She looks back over to her friend standing alongside her father. “She’s agreed to decorate for us.” “Oh, jolly good show!” Dickie smiles. “Thanks awfully Lettice, darling! Now you’re the brick!” “Always Dickie!” Lettice laughs back. “Listen Dickie!” Margot gasps. “The band is playing ‘Dancing Time’*****! Come away from the bar and dance with me.” “You’d best not refuse her, my boy!” teases Lord de Virre. “It’s madness if you try. I never could!” The happily engaged couple hurry across the room, hand in hand, slipping between clusters of guests before disappearing into the crowd on the dancefloor as the music from the band soars above the burble of the crowd and the clink of glasses. “So, we finally have an official arrangement, Miss Chetwynd?” Lord de Virre says discreetly as he raises his glass towards Lettice. “I think we do, Lord de Virre.” Lettice smiles and clinks her glass with his as they toast their arrangement formally. “Your offer is simply too good to refuse.” *A charwoman, chargirl, or char, jokingly charlady, is an old-fashioned occupational term, referring to a paid part-time worker who comes into a house or other building to clean it for a few hours of a day or week, as opposed to a maid, who usually lives as part of the household within the structure of domestic service. In the 1920s, chars usually did all the hard graft work that paid live-in domestics would no longer do as they looked for excuses to leave domestic service for better paying work in offices and factories. **Gunter and Company were London caterers and ball furnishers with shops in Berkley Square, Sloane Street, Lowndes Street and New Bond Street. They began as Gunter’s Tea Shop at 7 and 8 Berley Square 1757 where it remained until 1956 as the business grew and opened different premises. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Gunter's became a fashionable light eatery in Mayfair, notable for its ices and sorbets. Gunter's was considered to be the wedding cake makers du jour and in 1889, made the bride cake for the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Louise of Wales. Even after the tea shop finally closed, the catering business carried on until the mid 1970s. ***Elizabeth Bowes Lyon as she was known in 1921 went on to become Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions from 1936 to 1952 as the wife of King George VI. Whilst still Duke of York, Prince Albert initially proposed to Elizabeth in 1921, but she turned him down, being "afraid never, never again to be free to think, speak and act as I feel I really ought to" ****Prince Albert, Duke of York, known by the diminutive “Bertie” to the family and close friends, was the second son of George V. Not only did Bertie propose to Elizabeth in 1921, but also in March 1922 after she was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Albert’s sister, Princess Mary to Viscount Lascelles. Elizabeth refused him a second time, yet undaunted Bertie pursued the girl who had stolen his heart. Finally, in January 1923 she agreed to marry him in spite of her misgivings about royal life. *****’Dancing Time’ was a popular song in Britain in 1921 with words by George Grossmith Jr. and music by Jerome Kern. This rather splendid buffet of delicious savoury treats might look real to you, but in fact the whole scene is made up on 1:12 scale miniatures from my miniatures collection. Fun things to look for in this tableau include: On Lettice’s black japanned dining table delicious canapés are ready to be consumed by party guests. The plate of sandwiches, the silver tray of biscuits and the bowls of dips, most of the savoury petite fours on the silver tray furthest from the camera and the silver tray of Cornish pasties were made in England by hand from clay by former chef turned miniature artisan, Frances Knight. Her work is incredibly detailed and realistic, and she says that she draws her inspiration from her years as a chef and her imagination. The cheese selection on the tray closest to the camera were made by hand by Beautifully Handmade Miniatures in Kettering, as are the empty champagne glasses all of which are made of hand blown glass. The bowl of caviar was made by Karen Lady Bug Miniatures in England. The tray that the caviar is sitting on and the champagne bucket are made by Warwick Miniatures in Ireland, who are well known for the quality and detail applied to their pieces. The bottle of Deutz and Geldermann champagne. It is an artisan miniatures and made of glass and has real foil wrapped around its neck. It was made by Little Things Dollhouse Miniatures in Lancashire. Several of the other bottles of mixers in the foreground are also made by Little Things Dollhouse Miniatures in Lancashire. The bottle of Gordon’s Dry Gin, the bottle of Crème de Menthe, Cinzano, Campari and Martini are also 1:12 artisan miniatures, made of real glass, and came from a specialist stockist in Sydney. Gordon's London Dry Gin was developed by Alexander Gordon, a Londoner of Scots descent. He opened a distillery in the Southwark area in 1769, later moving in 1786 to Clerkenwell. The Special London Dry Gin he developed proved successful, and its recipe remains unchanged to this day. The top markets for Gordon's are (in descending order) the United Kingdom, the United States and Greece. Gordon's has been the United Kingdom’s number one gin since the late Nineteenth century. It is the world's best-selling London dry gin. Crème de menthe (French for "mint cream") is a sweet, mint-flavored alcoholic beverage. Crème de menthe is an ingredient in several cocktails popular in the 1920s, such as the Grasshopper and the Stinger. It is also served as a digestif. Cinzano vermouths date back to 1757 and the Turin herbal shop of two brothers, Giovanni Giacomo and Carlo Stefano Cinzano, who created a new "vermouth rosso" (red vermouth) using "aromatic plants from the Italian Alps in a recipe which is still secret to this day. Campari is an Italian alcoholic liqueur, considered an apéritif. It is obtained from the infusion of herbs and fruit (including chinotto and cascarilla) in alcohol and water. It is a bitters, characterised by its dark red colour. The vase of red roses on the dining table and the vase of yellow lilies on the Art Deco console are beautifully made by hand by the Doll House Emporium. Also 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. ‘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 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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