The continuing tale of a weekend at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath.
Saturday 13th September
Having established the low likelihood of extracting sufficient funds from Mr F- to purchase something becoming, we decided to acquaint ourselves with the streets of Bath. Mrs H- had been more successful, and was now in possession of a bonnet so beautiful, it quite made me envious. In cream velvet, trimmed with a lightly checked inner fabric in the brim, I was tempted to stealthily remove it and speed away. Unfortunately, my shoes prevented such a nefarious turn of character, also concern that it would make our planned supper party a touch uncomfortable.
On exiting the Guildhall, we were besieged by delightful people all clamouring for photographs of us and with us. Needless to say, the gentlemen of our party were quite the most vain and precise when arranging their dress for such activities. We ladies simply posed ourselves so as to look delightful and amusing, while the gentlemen would settle for no impression less than that of peacocks at full plume.
We had heard tell of a pleasing tea-room at the Jane Austen Centre, to which we eventually repaired. After a short wait on some stairs, they were able to seat us at two separate tables, a blessing to be sure, for Mr Sm- was quite uncontrolled in his interactions with attractive Italian tourists seated nearby. Mr F- and I drank tea with Mr and Mrs H-, enjoying scones and carbonated beverages until quite replete. The outbursts from Mr Sm- had dwindled to an occasional call for ‘More buns!’ At least, that is what I believe he was requesting.
As the afternoon drew on, we decided that we could not stir from Bath without seeing the famous Royal Crescent. It was an unconscionable distant from the tea-room, and many steep inclines must be navigated before it came into sight. On arrival, we amused ourselves briefly in the Gift Shop at Number 1, The Crescent, purchasing saucy postcards and dithering over the magnets on sale. The gentlemen had removed themselves to an (it must be said) excrement-strewed park within the Crescent, where, once again, Mr F-‘s blanket did sterling work as a barrier between the ground and the ladies.
Here I come to the most shocking part of my letter. You may think it odd that it has taken so long to arrive at the defining moment of the entire weekend, but I hope that my discourse has enabled you to picture the scene. Four gentlemen standing, four fine ladies seated, all married to the gentlemen. A Spanish lady approached, asking for a photograph. We acquiesced immediately, for where was the harm? We had provided untold photographic opportunities all through the day to this point, without incident. The lady (although she proved herself to be unworthy of that title) stepped between two of the men. From our view on the blanket WE CLEARLY SAW HER LIFT THE TAILS OF MR SM- AND MR SC-‘S COATS. Before we could intervene, THERE WAS AN UNDENIABLE SQUEEZING MOTION. We ladies were simply aghast at the liberty taken with our menfolk. We expected them at any moment to spring away, loudly proclaiming her impudence, and calling for whichever man was responsible for her to take her in hand. Curiously, no such action occurred, save for a slight rising on tiptoe by Mr Sc- and a warm smile from Mr Sm-.
Of course, we quit the littered ground upon the instant and I coldly informed Mr F- that I wished to return to the Inn to dress for supper. The others in our party chose to obliterate the memory of ‘the squeezage’ in a local establishment which sold oblivion by the glass.
I was delighted to return to the calm elegance of our room, whereupon I proceeded to prepare my newest gown by flinging it at Mr F- and instructing him to help me climb into it.
To be continued…