We went to a lunch party today. It came as a rare shock to the system, and I was able to catch up with most of my ironing first since I couldn't risk going and getting myself filthy in the garden for the three hours of the morning before we had to go out. I put on a skirt I have not worn for so many years I can't remember the time I last did wear it, and an ivory crepe blouse (only viscose, but still crepe) bought last year on the basis you should seize the moment when the shop has the thing that you want. I tried putting on a proper bra instead of my normal cotton camisole, before deciding that it was too ridiculously uncomfortable and I was supposed to be going out to enjoy myself, and switching back to a clean vest. I dug out a greenish blue cardigan bought about fifteen years after I bought the skirt but which fortunately went with it anyway, since I settled into a palette of colours I liked about twenty years ago. I put on a pair of black Majorcan sandals that did not hurt my feet, and emptied the contents of my usual satchel into a black leather handbag. I fastened a pendant of blue and green Roman glass around my neck and with rings on my fingers and Murano glass studs in my ears hovered warily until it was time to go out, in case a cat should come near me and get its claws tangled up in the crepe.
It is fun to dress up once in a while. It really is once in a while, which is why most of my dressing up clothes are anything up to a quarter of a century old. Shin length florals may even be in fashion at the moment, I'm not sure, but the great thing about giving up on fashion and buying things in a cut that suit you in a fabric that you like is that you can go on wearing them more or less for ever. I settled for a summer look that would let me hover in the background as an extra for more or less any costume drama set between the wars, and will stick with it.
It's just as well it was a longish skirt, because my legs have collected an amazing collection of scratches and scrapes, given that I always garden in long trousers tucked into short wellington boots. There is a three inch scratch down my right shin and a shorter, more mottled one on my left calf, though the enormous bruise on one knee has faded. I am fairly sure I caught the knee as I climbed over a wooden picket fence to weed by the oil tank, but goodness knows how I scratched myself though the trousers. There are a lot of brambles, I suppose, and as the Systems Administrator pointed out most people's normal gardening kit does not include a pick axe. Stuff happens. Somebody I was sitting next to at lunch showed me her permanently twisted and swollen finger, the result of an old injury sustained while trying to load a horse into a horse box.
It was a very fine lunch, and I should have liked to see the magnificent sausage meat and apricot pie before it was cut into lots of pieces, the handiwork of our hostess and not a catering company. Beyond the world of the Ocado delivery van a lot of skilled cooking still goes on among the middling classes of the Essex-Suffolk borders. It isn't even that people could not afford to buy pies if they wanted to, but a sort of pride and pleasure in knowing how to do that sort of thing and doing it well.
The only trouble with going out to lunch is that the rest of the day is wiped out. The SA was driving, while I had one glass of white wine, but after the pie and the cold salmon and the six different kinds of salad and the half of a hard boiled egg with its yolk scooped out and mixed with spiced mayonnaise and the miniature onion bhaji and the slice of crusty bread from a proper local baker, after the fruit salad with flavoured yogurt followed by the second helping of fruit salad, my theory that I would make up the rest of my new beehive frames when I got home seemed quite unrealistic and the SA wasn't heading out to the workshop.
The cats were sitting in the hall looking stern, because they had been left all day with biscuits but no lunch at lunchtime, and no human company, and now here we were pitching up at gone five, hands smelling very faintly of our hosts' black Labrador, who with impeccable manners had been forensically examining the grass under the tables all through lunch in search of crumbs.