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Cocktails Anyone?

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posted by alias raaen99 on Sunday 29th of August 2021 06:45:11 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. Today we are in the very modern and up-to-date 1920s kitchen of Lettice’s flat: usually Edith her maid’s preserve. However, this morning it has been invaded by two deliverymen from nearby Harrods department store. 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 the flat has been in upheaval as Edith and Lettice’s charwoman* Mrs. Boothby have been cleaning the flat thoroughly in preparation for the occasion. Today they will move some of the furnishings to make space for the guests to dance and mingle and roll up the carpets so Mrs. Boothby can give the parquet floors a good waxing before the first guest arrives. Lettice has fled her flat for the day to avoid all the upheaval and keep out of the way of her servants. The florist is expected at midday and the caterers from Harrods at four o’clock, but for now, all the alcohol for the party has arrived. “Cor! Would yer look at all that!” Mrs. Boothby gasps as she slips into the kitchen via the door that leads from the flat’s entrance hall and stares at the kitchen table. “I was hopin’ for a nice reviving cup of Rosie-Lee** before I starts polishin’ the dinin’ room floor.” “Not a chance I’m afraid, Mrs. Boothby.” Edith sighs. “Not until these gentlemen are finished. As you see, my table has been taken over by deliveries.” “’Scuse me, Miss,” a green liveried deliveryman mutters as he tries to slip unobtrusively past Edith, a large wooden crate of champagne bottles in his broad, muscular arms. “Sorry.” Edith slips a little closer to the stove and watches as the box is deposited onto the table with a soft thud and the rattle of bottles. “Cor! ‘Ow many people is Miss Lettice expectin’ tonight, dearie?” “About one hundred and twenty guests I think, Mrs. Boothby.” “Gawd knows where they’s gonna fit.” Mrs. Boothby casts her eyes to ceiling. She picks out a bottle from the crate. Looking at the label is starts to read aloud, “Da Rock… da Rockegree.” “De Rochegré,” Edith corrects her appalling French pronunciation. “You certainly know French champagne!” The deliveryman cocks his eyebrow in obvious surprise, but gives her a happy smile, revealing a neat set of white teeth as his blue eyes sparkle. “I work for a flapper,” Edith replies, blushing at the compliment, but daring to return his smile with a shy one of her own. “It pays to know.” “Right you are, Miss!” the deliveryman exclaims, tapping his finger to his cap. “’Scuse me, but there’s more where these come from.” And he walks towards the door that leads to the back service stairs of Cavendish Mews, slipping aside to let another Harrods deliveryman, older than him wearing glasses carrying a bottle of gin and a bottle of Cinzano, pass. “Humph!” Mrs. Boothby mutters in a disgruntled fashion, screwing up her nose and depositing the bottle back into the crate in a rather offhand way. “French!” she sniffs as it clatters back into the crate. “What’s wrong with French champagne, Mrs. Boothby?” Edith asks, thinking to herself that it’s unlikely the old Cockney woman from Poplar has ever had so much as a taste of French champagne in her life. “Well, it’s fancy ain’t it?” She crews up her nose. “And it’s foreign!” She glares at the offending bottle as its glass gleams in the morning sunshine pouring through the kitchen window. “I don’t like foreign. Give me a good pint of British beer at the ‘Appy Go Lucky** any day of the week.” “Well, if Miss Lettice and her friends drink it, it can’t be all bad, Mrs. Boothby.” The old woman gives her a doubtful look. “Well, nuffink’s as good as a nice reviving cup of Rosie-Lee is it?” she asked pointedly. “Oh, alright then. I’ll make you a cup,” Edith gives in. “But you’ll have to have it over here by the stove. There isn’t any room on the table, what with the champagne buckets, glasses and bottles in the way.” “Ta very much, dearie.” the Cockney woman says with a smug and satisfied grin. Edith busies herself using the small shelf on the right-hand side of the stove to make a pot of tea for herself and the charwoman. “Fetch me two cups, and the sugar bowl from the dresser, will you Mrs. Boothby?” “Right you are, dearie!” she replies cheerfully, pulling down two Deftware teacups and the sugar bowl. “You’ll have to settle for milk directly from the bottle this morning,” Edith mutters as she walks over to the food safe and withdraws a pint bottle of milk. “As I shan’t have the time, or it looks like the space, to wash a milk jug.” “I don’t mind, dearie! As long as I get my Rosie-Lee. I’m about parched, and I can’t be polishin’ the dinin’ room floor wiv a dry mouth.” Edith pours hot water over the tealeaves in the pot and stirs it vigorously before hitting the rim of the pot three times with her spoon. Turning back to the table, she sighs. “Where is all this going to go?” “Down the gullets of them rich fancy guests what’s comin’ tonight, I shouldn’t wonder!” The wiry thin Cockney woman bursts out laughing at her own joke, which turns into one of her bouts of fruity coughing. “Well said!” the first and younger of the Harrods deliverymen pipes up as he steps across the threshold of the kitchen through the service entrance. “You are a card, aren’t you mother?” “Mother!” Mrs. Boothby flaps her hand at him. “I ain’t your mother. Cheeky blighter!” The deliveryman deposits another rattling crate of bottles onto the kitchen table. “A dozen Deutz and Geldermann.” he remarks, looking to Edith with another broad smile. “Thank you.” she replies, daring to meet his eyes and smiling a little more broadly this time. Turning back momentarily to Mrs. Boothby she remarks, “More French champagne.” The two women watch the handsome deliveryman leave again, his broad shouldered bulk filling the doorframe. They remain silent for a few moments. “Well, you are a dark ‘orse, dearie!” Mrs. Boothby remarks, sizing up her companion with a wide eyed gaze. “What on earth do you mean, Mrs. Boothby?” “Well, look at you, all sweetness and innocence in your blue and white cotton print morning uniform, flirtin’ wiv the deliveryman!” “I wasn’t flirting!” Edith splutters. She spins around and starts pouring the tea, trying to hide the flush of colour rising up her neck and flooding her cheeks. “I was only talking, that’s all.” “You was talkin’, and smilin’, and flirtin’ my girl! Don’t you deny it!” The older woman leans on the shelf of the stove and peers from her vantage point up into Edith’s face, trying unsuccessfully to catch her eye, but clearly seeing her blush. “Oh, you do create something from nothing.” “And ‘ere I was, thinkin’ you was sweet the grocer’s delivery boy.” the older woman continues to tease, smiling cheekily as Edith squirms under her gaze. “Frank Leadbetter? Mrs. Boothby, you do talk a lot of rot!” She looks up, her face now quite scarlet. “I’m just being friendly is all!” “Aahh… friendly,” the older woman remarks with a cocked eyebrow and a knowing look as she picks up her cup of tea. “I see.” “Mrs. Boothby!” “Ahem!” The older of the deliverymen clears his throat, interrupting the two ladies. Turning around in surprise, Edith and Mrs. Boothby stare across at the skinny middle aged man who returns their gaze critically over the top of his glasses. Clearly embarrassed at inadvertently catching them in the middle of a very personal conversation, he smiles awkwardly at them. “Yes?” Edith asks, wiping her hands down her apron, but trying to hold his gaze with confidence she doesn’t now have. “Aahh, that’s the last of the delivery, Miss. If you could just sign here, Miss?” He hands her his clipboard and pen. Edith takes it from him and signs the form agreeing that the delivery is complete, without even glancing at the inventory. Anxious that he leaves so that she can recover her dignity, she thrusts the clipboard back to him. “Very good.” Taking it back, he tips his hat and mutters, “Good day, ladies.” Scuttling out the service door, Edith follows him, closes it behind him and snibs it. She stands with her back to the room for a moment whilst she regains her composure, taking a few deep and calming breaths, all the while feeling Mrs. Boothby’s eyes upon her. Finally turning back, Edith mutters, “Oh you are awful sometimes, Mrs. Boothby.” The Cockney charwoman smiles as she leans against the stove, her saucer in one hand and her cup raised to her lips. Lowering it to reveal a smile as mirth filled as her eyes, she says, “And youse a flirt, dearie.” She pauses, once again considering the young maid in a new light. “Still, I don’t blame you. Youse a pretty little fing, ‘though I suspect you don’t know quite how pretty you is. And,” She takes a deep sigh. “If I was firty years younger, I’d flirt wiv ‘im too.” She shakes her head and narrows her eyes as she glances towards the closed door. “‘E was a good looking fella, ‘e was.” Anxious to change the subject and salvage some dignity, Edith walks across the room. “Come on Mrs. Boothby, help me move these bottles off the table and onto the bench. I need to clean all these glasses and sort the crockery and the silverware before the caterers arrive this afternoon. I’ll never be able to do it without my table to work on.” “Is it worf a ‘Untley and Palmer’s to go wiv me Rosie-Lee?” “You can have two Huntley and Palmers of your choice from the special box I ordered from Harrods for tonight’s party if you do.” “Oh!” Mrs. Boothby beams in delight. “Ta!” The two women begin moving the bottles, Edith’s embarrassment gone, and Mrs. Boothby’s mischief abated, as they focus on the job at hand. *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. **Rosie-Lee is Cockney slang for tea, and it is one of the most well-known of all Cockney rhyming slang. This busy domestic kitchen scene is a little different to what you might think, for it is made up entirely of 1:12 size dollhouse miniatures from my miniatures collection. Fun things to look for in this tableau include: On Edith’s deal table is a panoply of bottles for the party. The Harrod’s crate, which I purchased from an EBay seller in the United Kingdom, is full of bottles of Deutz and Geldermann and De Rochegré champagne. All are artisan miniatures and made of glass and some have real foil wrapped around their necks. They and the various bottles of wine and mixers in the background are 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 champagne glasses are 1:12 artisan miniatures. Made of glass, they have been blown individually by hand by Beautifully Handmade Miniatures in Kettering and are so fragile and delicate that even I with my dainty fingers have broken the stem of one. They stand on an ornate silver tray that I have had since I was around eight years old. The silver cocktail shaker is also made by Beautifully Handmade Miniatures. The silver wine cooler in the foreground is made by Warwick Miniatures in Ireland, who are well known for the quality and detail applied to their pieces. On the first shelf of dresser that can be seen just to the right of shot stands the Deftware kitchen tea set. Each piece features the traditional painting of a windmill. To the left of the dresser, a spice cabinet with six marked drawers hangs from the wall. Also hanging on the wall are three copper frypans with black metal handles which, along with the copper kettle on the stove came from a specialist dollhouse supplier. Edith’s Windsor chair, just visible beyond the bottles, is a hand-turned 1:12 artisan miniature which came from America. Unfortunately, the artist did not carve their name under the seat, but it is definitely an unmarked artisan piece. In the background you can see a very modern and up-to-date 1920s gas stove. It would have been expensive to instal at the time, and it would have been the cook’s or maid’s pleasure to cook on and in. It would have included a thermostat for perfect cooking and without the need of coal, it was much cleaner to feed, use and easier to clean. It is not unlike those made by the Roper Stove Company in the 1920s. The Roper Stove Company previously named the Florence-Wehrle Company among other names, was founded in 1883. Located in Newark, Ohio, the company was once the largest stove producer in the world. Today, the Roper Stove Company is a brand of Whirlpool.

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