Friday, 10 February 2017

A Very British Romance, part 10: High society

More from Margaret's story on Angus and Connie.
CantonVaud coat of arms, Les Archives cantonales vaudoises
CantonVaud coat of arms, Les Archives cantonales vaudoises
It is Saturday 10 February 1917 and Connie is writing to her dad. It will be no surprise to dads reading this that the first two pages are about money. Connie is having difficulty accessing her cash as the local Bank Cantonale Vaudoise needs authorisation from England that she has money to draw from, which could take two or three weeks. Meanwhile Mrs Leybourne and Angus are advancing her money. She has a journey of three to four hours to cash a cheque at the Banque Federale, Lausanne, which she can't do very often. She suggests that, '...someone had better tell Mr. Lambert at the bank [at home], that the Lausanne bank will be very little use, only when I am down there.'

As she says, 'Isn't it a good thing I get on well with my probable future relations? Mrs Leybourne is kindness itself, and certainly is a brick at giving Angus and I opportunities of being alone together, for when all is said and done, we are really just learning to know each other, and I think it will end quite alright. This is of course private, for the family only. Although in a lot of things our temperaments are different, we suit each other so far. A1.'

Mr Kirkup must be wondering, as he reads Connie's letters, if he was right to give her permission to undertake such a journey and on such an errand. His beloved only daughter stranded in Paris; the door to her sleeping car left open; un-attending attendant fast asleep; Angus continuing to hurtle down mountains regardless of his new status as an engaged person; and now Mrs Leybourne relaxing her chaperone duties. And to cap it all, the bank business to sort out. 'Dear old Dad'.

Connie’s Mother, on the other hand, will no doubt be impressed to know that she is 'now living in "high" society, or at any rate within sound of their aristocratic voices. The Dowager Countess of Stair and her daughter Lady Marjory Dalrymple are staying here... Lady Marjory is quite 6 foot 2 in height, isn't it awful?'

To quote an earlier letter, "What a cat Con is", you might think. 

The Earl of Stair (Major) [John James Dalrymple], his wife, and two of his children, have a tiny chalet belonging to the hotel up the hillside, 'I believe it has 5 rooms only, and the Earl laid carpets, hung curtains etc. and enjoyed it when they came a fortnight ago.'

Lieutenant Colonel Picot mentions that the internees' allowance, provided by the British Government, for accommodation was not considered sufficient by some Swiss hoteliers; they 'naturally' preferred to entertain those who could afford to pay more from their own private means.

'Lady Peak (biscuits), her son Captain Peak, and her daughter, have another little chalet; they are very nice and friendly. I'm supposed to be like Miss Peak, can't say I see it very much, she is much livelier than I am.'

Connie, Angus, Muriel, and Captain Jackson of the Buffs [Royal East Kent Regiment] have decided to get up a Pierrot troupe. They have also asked a Captain Brown to take charge of the electric lighting effects; he comes from Chicago and was in that line before the war. Connie has asked the boy called Nelson, who she previously had mentioned had lost his leg, to turn over the music for Mrs Leybourne. 'Poor boy, sometimes he looks very sad and sick when he sees us going off on expeditions. It is dangerous for him on his crutches on the snow, it is so slippy.'

Connie next describes one of their expeditions; lunch at Madame Pittet's at Chateau d'Oex, 'who must be making a fortune with all the British internees; everyone beetles up there in an afternoon.'

'When we got up to the run, we came across a Captain Barnes who offered us the loan of a luge to enter the races, so Angus entered in the men's singles, and Muriel and I in the ladies doubles.
I don't think we won anything, we laughed so much, we landed into the snow drifts four times at the side, jumped up and pulled our luge on to the track again and off we went bumping down.'

Afterwards they all went to Soldanelle, the internees' hospital - they had been invited by one of the officers, there were three officers and three ladies and they had a jolly tea.

She is getting very tanned and fit and the next day is Muriel's birthday, and she and Angus are thinking of going shares on a pair of skis for her.

'Heaps of love and kisses to you both… I'm so glad I have got all your photos out here (including Punch's).’

A note she has written in the margin of the first page of this letter says that,
'The snaps [she has sent] were taken with the little Brownie Camera I have bought, hope to send you more later.'

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