Monday, 21 June 2010

Ladies who Lunch.

Like so many other things in life, this caught me unawares.
An enjoyable lunch with an interesting group metamorphosed in my mind into something else. A category: Ladies who Lunch, the implications being firstly Ladies and then Lunch.

Lady-like behaviour was an important factor in my childhood. Politeness, good table manners, social skills, knowing one's place. The opposite was 'common', which could involve shouting, pushing, wearing the sort of clothes that allowed flashing of the knickers, showing off, making onself conspicuous. Common always had charms.

A little later, incipient ladies were more specifically trained: doing the flowers, laying the table, using the correct form of address for a bishop. Ladies-in-training were made to walk around with books on their heads and were given badges as rewards for good deportment. Would anyone dare to treat any eighteen year old like that today? What was wrong with us I wonder now? Why was there not some sort of rebellion?
There wasn't.
We went overnight from being school-girls to being middle-aged ladies, wearing hats and gloves and rubberised roll-on corsets and suspenders and stockings (not, you will clearly understand, from even the remotest thought of kinkiness, but because tights were yet to be invented. Kinkiness had been invented, but was never spoken of. Teenagers had not been invented, either).
Common, meanwhile, was wearing bras with the cups stitched into rigid projectile cones and was smoking and gasping in the back row of the cinema. Common was likely to become pregnant any day or night, but Ladies did not fully understand about such things,and certainly would not dream of gasping at the Hunt Ball.
Common continued to exercise its furtive charms.

Lunch - proper lunch, something you sit down to eat off a plate, not something eaten on the hoof or at a desk from a paper bag - luncheon implies 'not working'.
Luncheon needs at least a double set of cutlery and matching plates and proper, starched damask napkins.
After-luncheon coffee requires matching cups and saucers, not chipped 'humourous' mugs with pictures of sheep and pigs. It will need a polished silver dish for the chocolate mints. Oh, heavens!
Ladies who lunch are at leisure in the middle of the day. They are free to enjoy like-minded company, an attractive starter, a light but beautifully presented main course with a chilled glass (or two) of Chablis, and an amusingly delicious pudding.

Ladies who Lunch are coming to my place at the weekend.
Too late in the day I realise I'm not a lady and I don't usually lunch.

The garden is out of control in the heat, and I am nearly defeated by it, but they will want to see it - and peversely, I will want to show it off. So (despite my promises to my sons) I have already clambered on the shed roofs to prune the vine, taken a machete to the bank at the bottom, and done my back in getting ground elder out of the rock garden with a crow bar. (Is there a manufacturer who makes lady-sized machetes, crow-bars and chain-saws?)

The Ladies will probably want to use the loo, which means I ought to scour the house from top to bottom. Really I should have redecorated and recarpetted.
I must find a cure for the dog's flatulence, (she's such a friendly old thing and loves company) and fill the house with flowers and scented oils in case I can't.

All I have to do then is cook a totally delicious meal that no one else has thought of, being at the same time sure that it will not cause allergic reactions or weight increase.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.


Jane said...

I always feel people should take as they find - and your garden is super. But when it comes down to it I always feel compelled to rush round clearing up too. Hope you do manage to enjoy the lunch, though.


Frances said...

In "Period Piece", the wonderful Gwen Raverat quotes her 5 year old grandaughter as saying: "Grandmama, I want to be a witch when I grow up. There are too many ladies, don't you think?"

There are, alas, not too many ladies these days....but maybe there are a lot more witches.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jane: Thank you. The anxiety-state is entirely of my own making, but I think it's common to lots of us, and totally unecessary for all of us!
Frances: I must look out for that. There's a lot to be said for the old 'good' witches, living peacefully with their familiars, gathering herbs and firewood and only occasionally frightening the children!

J. said...

I used to do all of that rushing around and was so tired I couldn't enjoy the social event myself, then I went to France and was so relaxed that when friends arrived for dinner I would hand the men the corkscrews and the women the grater and veggies and it was so much more fun. Although I do recall having to go and rescue the men from my elderly neighbour's house when her electric blew and they went round all macho and competent and ended up sozzled on her inexhaustible supply of cheap plonk. Happy days...

As for ladies, my old headmistress once told me I'd never be a lady if I persisted in galloping down the hall to assembly. She was right, it never happened, thank goodness

J. said...

ps I think I'd like to be such a witch

Isabelle said...

I think I remember that G Raverat believed that tigers lived on top of her wardrobe at night. Not so good.

Can we all come to lunch? Oh no; I have to work. Ah well. Enjoy it.

Zhoen said...

I have 15 minute friends, one hour family, one day guests.

I can get the place presentable in 15 minutes for friends, an hour for family, and good enough to have guests in one day.

My mother tried to instill ladylike behavior in me. Never quite stuck. On the other hand, I never had a reputation for being 'fast.' I was never one to be confined to two arbitrary options.

leslee said...

I always thought that the ladies who lunch didn't work and thus had attendants for such matters as scouring the house and whipping up a delicious meal. (sigh) Ah well, if any of your guests fusses she deserves to have the dog sit directly under her chair.

Enjoy! The anticipation of these things is always daunting but the event itself will no doubt go just fine.

Relatively Retiring said...

Julie: do the French have proper luncheon every day? And a bit of a snooze afterwards? Such a civilised way to live.
Nowadays I seem to have become one of 'those' witches. A few centuries ago I'd have been a candidate for dunking and burning.

Isabelle: a pity you're working. Another time, maybe?

Zhoen: I love the 15 minute, one hour, one day rule - but you don't have a garden. Sensible lady!

Leslee: the dog-under-the-chair would be a real killer technique!
And, yes, I'm having quite a problem finding ths right staff.
I know I'll enjoy having guests. I always do. I might even be honest with them about what we're all doing to each other - because I'm sure we're all doing it. (Re-staining the garden furniture today.... nearly there!)

pohanginapete said...

I love this. Things like "Kinkiness had been invented, but was never spoken of. Teenagers had not been invented, either."

Preparation might be fine (in moderation), but once the guests arrive, anything that takes one away from enjoying them should be eschewed.

Beer and conversation will do fine for me. But you know that :^)

herhimnbryn said...

Obtain a round box of brie. Wrap it in foil and sling it in the oven (med heat) for 25 (ish) mins. Sling 1-2 baquettes in for 5 mins.
Prepare a tomato salad (finely sliced onions, toms and torn basil) drizzle with olive oil lemon juice.
Remove brie from oven and unwrap. Serve with torn baguettes, to dip in melted brie. Tom salad to accompany. Chilled white wine would help things along.
This never fails. (and no-one will notice the flatulent hound).

Or you could be very Australian and ask each person to 'bring a plate'(with food on it to share).

I'll shut up now.

Relatively Retiring said...

P.Pete: many thanks - but perhaps you didn't attend attend a school like mine? Perhaps you never got your Deportment Badge and never served dainty afternoon tea to a Bishop?
Or did you? I'm not that sure about your uncle, now I come to think of it. He certainly knew how to treat a Bishop!

HHnB: what a seriously good idea! Many thanks. I'll know what to do for you next time you're round this way.
You haven't met my dog!
Hope Bryn is making the most of your homecoming.

J. said...

Do the French still stop for lunch? Of course, shops shut, people go home or their employer takes them to a restaurant, it's obligatory to feed your workforce at lunchtime. I'm not sure about the snooze but my friends in the village certainly retired to bed after lunch and none of we Brits would dream of disturbing them. So much more civilised than a packet of crisps and a sandwich eaten at my desk!

Relatively Retiring said...

Julie: wonderfully civilised, and needing a leisured evening to go with it.

marigold jam said...

Have just come over via your comment on Jeeeandme and fell about laughing at your Laides who luch post. Being of a certain age and growing up knowing that the worst crime one could commit was to be common I identified with it all!! I will certainly be having a look at your blog in future.


Relatively Retiring said...

Jane: thank you for your comment. Not being Common dates one a bit, doesn't it?
Your blog is beautiful and should be used the the English Tourist Board.

J. said...

on the subject of retirement you may enjoy reading this post from a very good writer and a great thinker

Love Julie

Relatively Retiring said...

Julie: thank you for the link. What an interesting writer.

Avus said...

Why did some of this have a familiar ring to it? Ah, yes - of course! When it is Mrs Avus' turn to host the book group.
(Delighful image, by the way)

Relatively Retiring said...

Avus:I wonder why men don't 'do' Book Groups?
Glad you like my garden. It's a bit more yellow now.