Monday, 15 August 2011

Forties at the Churchill War Rooms

Oh the self-promotion doesn't stop. In this case I didn't mind so much. I'd been invited.

It was Friday’s “Late at the Churchill War Rooms”, and it was recommended that one dressed 1940s, but not compulsory. Well I’m representing the Lovely Parlour Band

and and our future gigs there so I did my best with the Bombshell Dress by Folter and some silk flowers and a snood hand-knitted by the SNOOD LADY who is utterly marvellous. Go to Really, do go there. She is over eighty years old, knits snoods the way HER grandmother taught her, and you just send her a cheque and a note to say which colour and she will knit you one and send it to you.

The biggest issue people have with this blog seems to be that I don’t post enough photos of myself. Which means that I must take them with a self-timer and feel a complete chump as my bemused neighbours walk past. Or even worse, wander around these

events with a camera asking others to take my photo. Which I won’t do. In any case, here’s the 40s get-up as I left the house. I didn’t go straight to the event but first sang

for some lovely people at the St. Mary’s Hospice in Chiswick. Utterly gorgeous place, and
friendly sweet people. There were two enormously fat dogs following the Anglican nuns around and being rewarded with gifts of cake which seemed to be in excellent supply. St. Mary’s was built to specifications advised by Florence Nightingale. It has a wonderful garden. I sang songs from the thirties mostly. A lady said that she
hadn’t heard most of them for sixty years, and that she felt young again.

Two hours later: the War Rooms were just off Whitehall and security guards along King Charles Street wished me a nice weekend as if 1940s platform heels, full makeup, snood and silk flowers were normal attire for a day at the office in Westminster. I told them about the event and they didn’t know about it. Appropriate for the War Rooms, which for the whole of the war nobody knew existed except for those who worked there.

It is an atmospheric place, beautifully run and with passionate and kindly tour-guides. Most people dressed up for this, making an excellent effect, though I'd say six out of ten dresses were fifties. A trio of girlies sang Andrews Sisters things, and there was a room full of swing-

dancers, carrying on as if they’d not stopped since the Fabulous Fifties at the London Museum.

A really entertaining, and quite rare film called “A Welcome to Britain” was shown, starring, and written by Burgess Meredith in 1943. It was a guide for U.S. troops on what to expect and how to behave. Highly recommended. Bob Hope made an appearance and the crowd roared.

His quickfire humour translated well to our times, but Beatrice Lillie’s “Fairies at the Bottom of our Garden” did not. Not a smile from anyone. Meredith shows in the film that you’re not to make fun of Scots soldiers’ kilts, eat too much when invited to someone’s house, flash your money around or expect cold beer. And that you must develop a liking for tea. Also there’s a moment where he informs us that if you come from the deep south you aren’t to be shocked when black soldiers are treated by the British with equal respect as the white ones. “There’s no prejudice when it comes to...dying,” says a U.S. General from South Carolina, awkwardly.

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