"Only in London could we be dressed in 1930s frocks and walking to a tea-dance celebrating World Mosquito Day in the library of the London School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine," said Kelley.
What does one wear to a 1930s tea-dance and tiffin to commemorate Sir Ronald Ross's discovery of the link between mosquitos and malaria?
Wish I'd had more time to really think about it! There was this photo to guide us:
The dog's name was Binkie. Note that women wear hats at the table.
I have a nice hat, a very nice hat. Just like these ones. But wide brims suit me better so that's what I wore. And a dress that is afternoony and 1930s. Still! I wish I'd gone more Merchant Ivory, more tropical, more Poirot-in-India.
I met Kelley at Hummus Brothers in Holborn. Boy oh boy. You get fed there. And just because you can buy hummus in supermarkets does not mean that this stuff will be like that. It's really superb. Creamy and subtle and filling. Kelley shimmered in, attired in a bias-cut, dusk-purple silk dress that clung loosely like liquid. Sorry...it really did look marvellous. It's a great tribute to Kelley that "I got it at a Charity shop for five pounds" didn't make me hate her.
Around her neck dangled a tortoiseshell monocle on a lovely dusty-gold chain. How could one be more perfect for a 30s tea-dance amongst scientists?
I'm an Epilator-Procrastinator and so my legs needed a bit of cover. I needed M&S and their hosiery department, so we went to the School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine by way of Long Acre.
We were sidetracked by a sweet shop called Happie Loves It and I saw a dress that looked 50% Little House on the Prairie and 50% Stepford Wives. But once on, it has a way of making a girl look like an exotic concubine, wearing Zandra Rhodes in an early-70s edition of Vogue photographed by Sarah Moon.VERY nice indeed and I had to buy it. I wished I could have worn it to the dance, but my bra was black and obvious.
The London School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine has a shower in their loo. It is a light, airy building in the middle of Bloomsbury, and very nicely old. A man with a beard, wearing cream-coloured linen and a panama hat was signing the visitors' book, accompanied his wife who was wearing a cheongsam.
read the visitors' book.
Upstairs one walked through a tent made of mosquito netting, on which were pinned photos, bits of text and objects related to malaria-related activities by staff, alumni and students of the LSHTM from around the world.
The library was filled with cakes, tea, scones, jam, and people of all ages, and several students. Kelley and I met a really lovely doctor from Cambridge, dressed in a silk dress with a print of butterflies.
The scones were enormous.
The Rag Roof Productions team had written a piece about the discovery of the connection between malaria and
mosquitos, and it was told in an extremely entertaining way, with three of the actors playing Ross, Lady Ross and Sir Patrick "Mosquito" Manson. I was AMAZED at how fearless Ross was, eating dried-up mosquitos that he thought carried malaria, etc. etc. and just how much patience the whole process took. Well done Rag Roof Theatre!
Then came the dancing.
We were all of us shown how to do the Charleston, after watching a fearless demonstration by the professional dancers from Rag Roof.
We had more cake, then the dancers changed to 1930s clothes and showed us how to waltz. Then, as if they couldn't hold it in any longer, they demonstrated SWING DANCING.
Well, the hat could no longer stay on my head, nor the hair up.
Kelley was amazing.
I was hot. And I don't mean that in a sizzling sort of way, but a sweaty sort of way.
The event elegantly tapered off, we all went to the RADA bar just round the corner and had drinks at the prices obviously expected of luvvies, met the Rag Roof folk properly, and also the splendid Rebecca Tremain whose idea all of this was (and who owned the modern Binkie). Then Nidhi (the Cambridge GP), Kelley and I walked to Chinatown and had some truly incredible Dim Sum.
Kelley Swain is the Poet In Residence at the Whipple Museum of the History of
Science in Cambridge.
She has a blog.
The bouquets on the tables at the tea-dance were each six test-tubes tied together with string, and a flower in each.
A photo of Rebecca Tremain doling out the medicinal G&Ts.
The event was also covered by the New Scientist.