written by Lady Jane Willoughby Wordsmith
We have some wonderful women in Rutland Red Hatters: many gregarious and generous people. But how many of us would think it a good idea to celebrate a milestone birthday by inviting the whole Chapter round for a Hoot?
And stipulate the wearing of purple pyjamas?
I don’t think I would have the courage, but that’s what Elaine, AKA Angel Delight, did for our February get-together, and I’m still recovering from the excitement (and the champagne).
She likes to plan ahead, does Angel Delight, so the invitations to her 60th birthday Hoot went out long before Christmas. She said it was because she wanted to know how much champagne to buy, and plan it before she went off on a (birthday?) cruise with Mr Burgess.
As 2016 dawned and Elaine’s Hoot loomed I ransacked every charity shop in Rutland for purple pyjamas in my size, but to no avail. Instead, I mis-matched my ‘I survived a night in the forest’ lounging bottoms with a purple charity shop jumper. Others were more elegantly attired (not difficult) in floral PJs and silky numbers. Princess Purplina appeared to be modestly wrapped in a purple dressing gown, but underneath was sporting a sprigged cami and trews set which was quite frankly risqué, not to mention chilly on a rainy February night. A few Hatters were apparently wearing their husband’s or son’s PJs in various permutations of purple stripes and checks. And two or three had splashed out on brand new PJs from M&M Direct, so we had the edifying spectacle of Lady Luffenham and Upptown Girl who had come as identical twins, with Lady Big Bang of Pyrotechnica from Ketton in a toning number from the same season’s line. Sadly, they could not be cajoled into singing an Andrews Sisters number.
Angel Delight of course, it being her birthday and all, was in ‘reverse’ colours, ie a fetching red-and-white ensemble. She was ably supported by her sister Vicky the Super Sommelier who tirelessly poured champagne down our necks, and by other friends from her life in Whissendine, who had come to see what these mad women were all about, and gamely joined in the pyjama theme. Mrs Angel Delight Senior was also in attendance, but for some reason Mr Burgess was conspicuous by his absence…
So imagine my surprise when a personable young gentleman (younger than us, at least) in a suit turned up. I’m afraid my first thought was ‘strippogram’, but on checking, I could see that he was wearing socks, and if there is one thing I know about strippograms it is that they don’t wear socks! (Lady Jane’s useful tip number 37.)
The young man turned out to be Chris Stevenson, a fantastic magician who entertained us royally with card, coin and rope tricks. He also has a perverted gift with balloons and – though I missed this one – something funny to do with toilet paper. He was very, very good indeed: I don’t think any of us had a clue how he did it all, especially the cut rope tricks, and he had a great patter. I somehow think it was Chris’ first purple pyjama party, but we were gentle with him.
The kitchen table groaned under the weight of the buffet that was originally going to be DIY pizzas, but turned out to be a feast of eatables from smoked salmon starters to tiramisu by way of dips and crisps and savouries and salads. Thank you to whoever magicked up such lovely food.
And then the mystery of the raffle tickets that Elaine had given us all was revealed. Instead of throwing a party in the hope that we would all turn up with pressies for her (as I would have done),
Angel Delight had, in the preceding weeks, shopped her socks off and carefully wrapped dozens of parcels (in pretty purple and red paper, natch) as gifts for US. So as each raffle ticket was called out, we chose our mystery gifts and tore off the paper to reveal exciting, PROPER presents from lovely smellies to delicious edibles and sparkly wearables!
Thankfully, Queen Tess had organised our present to Elaine, which was a voucher for a day of pampering at Stapleford Park’s Spa. QT suggested that Elaine might like to tell us when she’d booked a date so we could do the same, ie buy our own day’s pampering and go along to share the fun… but if Elaine has any sense she’ll keep the date a secret, as I am sure she’d like to avoid a lifetime ban for bringing undesirables to a five-star hotel.
But the fun didn’t stop there, oh no! THEN we had a game of Bingo, with even more prizes! Sister Vicky swapped champagne bottles for a bingo cage and called the numbers in a most professional way. Some of us are yet to grasp the technicalities of Britain’s favourite game, so there were one or two Hatters carefully looking at lines down, not across, or trying to claim ‘house’ between two different cards… (naming no names Norma, Miss Cellaneous). We had a slightly alarming diversion when Tilley Tardy elegantly fainted (I blame the fluffy dressing gown she was wearing), but thankfully we had a Doctor in the House (kudos to Rufa Medica) and all was well…
At the last, the magnificent Red Hat cake (decked with a purple fondant ribbon) was cut and we once more sang Happy Birthday to Elaine, before departing into the rainy night, leaving her to do all the washing up!
Well, that’s what I did, but I hope some more thoughtful people stayed behind to help with the clearing up. So, Happy Birthday Angel Delight. THANK YOU so much for sharing your special day with all of us, and for making it feel like it was OUR birthday, and not only yours.