We had grown so weary of the usual 1924 party, of playing auction and fox-trotting to jazz records on the gramophone, of talking of Paul Morand and Buster Keaton, of discussing the future of the Liberal party and the latest thing in night clubs, that we decided to give an entirely new kind of party.
We staged the thing with great care. We ransacked the attics and gathered up the contents of the old forgotten glory-holes, and we instructed our chosen guests beforehand in the correct attire to be worn for the occasion, the kind of performances that would be expected of them, the musical instruments on which they were to operate, and the games they were to know how to play. The result was a delicious revival of some of our childish memories.
Most of the men turned up in side whiskers, with one or two with beautiful square-cut bushy beards, one with a well-waxed moustache, and all with winged collars. The women wore leg-of-mutton sleeves, and the once well-known bodice, that garment which defined the bust and left no doubt as to the correct position of the waist.
We had collected in advance several excellent specimens of the family photograph album, and an album containing brown and withered pressed flowers. We had dug out a glass-covered mass of waxed fruit, a couple of old yellow-backed novels, old halma and ludo sets, and a cribbage board. We had bought specially a brand new glass bowl, in which swam six gilded monsters of the deep, and a friend had found and sent to us two woollen-worked samplers and three genuine antimacassars.
With the properties all complete, the evening started off, and went with a swing. There was not a dull moment. No one was bored. Not one suppressed yawn did I observe during its progress. Our family, fortunately for the complete success of the party, had been brought up in the musical tradition of a past age. George played the violin, Bernard the ‘cello, and Kate as a child had been a noted performer upon the piano. Several of our guests we could rely upon for vocal contributions.
A Little Music.
We began with an instrumental display, Rubinstein’s Melody and Raff’s “Cavatina” being given in a perfectly correct if slightly amateurish manner by piano, violin, and ‘cello. Then a slightly throaty tenor rejoiced our saxophone-dulled ears with “O Star of Eve” and “Beauty’s Eyes.” This was followed by a duet version for soprano and baritone of “On the Road to Mandalay.” A guest then recited with much feeling and effect “Laska” and “The Wreck Off Mumbles Head.”
We then divided up into groups, and played whist with slow and solemn ceremony. When whist palled, ludo proved the most popular diversion; and cribbage, except for two of our elder guests who had boasted a great-aunt with whom they had become experts at the game in the days of long ago, was voted too intricate. We followed up the games with a charade in three acts, and the word we used was dandelion. This was an enormous success, because everybody guessed it at once.
Then we danced the polka and the mazurka, calling shame upon those who had forgotten the lore of their youth, that One-two-three hop, on the one hand, and One-two-three kick, on the other. The dancing grew wilder and wilder, and concluded with a spirited execution of that never-to-be-forgotten pas seul “Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay.”
We kept it up even to the refreshments, including among the eatables custards in red glasses with a ratafia biscuit on top of each glass and a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands, an ice-pudding, oranges, and nuts. The ladies drank port and the gentlemen drank sherry, and we parted in a glow of recovered memories. I, for one, slept deeply and profoundly, only to be wakened up in the morning by the strains of an unemployed band – that nightmare horror of the twentieth century.