Thursday, July 21, 2011

her ladyship in henley

no, this story is not about you, lady katherine p. besides it would be called her ladyship in horton, right?


henley-upon-thames, especially the upon thames part, with its river walk and regatta, is a rawther british town filled with brits, naturally, and also filled, unnaturally, with tourists like me. when i was there the week before the regatta (a great time to go if you don't like snobby mobs) i stayed at the phyllis court club. the room was quite nice; it had a great view of the thames, somewhat blocked, however, by the regatta tents. (not this view of the thames, though, because this is the henley bridge in town.)

phyllis court was definitely dominated by an aging crowd; there were an awful lot of old, slow-moving, white-haired members hanging out in the restaurant, bar and tearoom. i felt downright young in their midst while i drank my gin and tonic and had a look around. it is a very traditional club, a tad stuffy, with a croquet green (players are required to wear all white), a dress code (just like prep school—no jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, sports clothing, must have a jacket and tie in the main dining room) and room keys that are real keys on a wooden fob (no plastic credit card keys here).

at one point i left my husband and our host and meandered down the hall to find the ladies room. it no longer had the fabulous pink sofa, only a boring tannish one. too bad. when i finished drying my hands i stood at the mirror and put on a little bit of lipstick and turned to leave. an elderly lady came in just as i finished with the lipstick, and i mean elderly, 80+, and i mean lady as in "her ladyship". she was the loveliest 80+ year-old i have ever seen: tall, slim, white hair in a classic french twist, expensive silk dress, pearl earrings and necklace. in her face, the beauty of her youth was still easily visible behind the wrinkles. no question about it, she looked downright regal. i thought here we go. this one is going to be a real piece of work, a real aristocratic snob. she is going to stick her nose up in the air and walk right past me like i don't even exist.

was i ever wrong.

this genteel woman looked right at me with the most marvelous, twinkling blue eyes and a big smile, and with a very posh british accent said "a little dash of powder, a little dab of paint, makes a girl look like something that she ain't."

as i hooted with laughter, she emitted a delicate, crackly, old lady chuckle and told me in a firm, friendly voice about how her grandmother used to recite those words to her when she was a young girl just starting to experiment with make-up.

i thanked her for those funny lines, which i had never heard before, and wrote them down in a little notebook.

it only goes to show, you never know who you might meet in the ladies room and, more importantly, oftentimes things are not what they seem.

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