As it is the year of Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee, and I’m of an age, Judith (mummy) flatly insisted that I host something of my own for London Hat Week. SNORE! I thought of hopping a plane back to my home in Los Angeles but as Daddy pointed out… it wasn’t that much of an ask.
Of course he was right, but I can tell you I had no interest in gathering up what would amount to an evening of shrill bursts and the too-loud chatter from the daughters of her friends along with a few of my school chums lumped-in to keep me from blowing my brains out. Alcohol was a must. As was limiting the total number. I agreed to the Calvary Club because it would tickle the heart of the grandfather I never met, and because every fashionable venue was booked.
I decided to impose a green-spin on things and asked that everyone recycle/reuse a previously worn hat rather than buy new. The idea came to me in the dressing room at Harvey Nicks whilst standing among a literal mountain of discards and trying to decide between Carolina Herrera and Huishan Zhang.
With dress in hand, I walked into Hélène Darroze to get a plate of pasta, only to be told they were booked. They weren’t. It was early and they knew me here, except everyone who knew me wasn’t in yet, so I had to put up with the indignity of having their ‘concept’ explained to me by the twenty-something who, more than anything, sounded as though she was trying to convince herself.
In our three Michelin-star restaurant, each dish is grounded in seasonal produce sourced from the farmers, makers and growers carefully chosen by Hélène. And every menu is a reflection of your personal tastes, as our chefs transform your selected ingredients into original works of culinary art. Pierre Yovanovitch’s cocooning interior sets the perfect tone for this intimate dining experience. Blush shades, curved lines, and deep velvet and leather seating reflect the restaurant’s warm, approachable ethos. A blue blown-glass chandelier and exposed wooden tabletops add a bold, contemporary edge. Almost every element is custom-made, once again placing craftsmanship in the limelight.
Defeated, I walked into the bar where I ordered Iberico ham, and a vegetarian club. If one arrives early enough one generally avoids the pre-theatre throng of tourists whom the management is happy to fleece with trendy cocktails costing upwards of £100. It is for this reason I didn’t flinch when I heard the gentleman to my left introduce himself. Mind you his accent sounded decidedly West County when he said, ‘Vegetarian? You should get the meat while you can!’
As he was paying his bill (and ostensibly leaving) I assumed it was safe to respond. But I knew what he was getting at…farmers from Norway to New Zealand were either paying taxes on livestock burps, or being asked to kill their herds in the name of saving our planet. I held up my hand and said ‘Before you get started I’m an environmentalist’.
‘Of course you are,’ he said. 'The ham should have tipped me off’.
‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘I’m also a vegetarian…mostly. But greenhouse gases are killing our planet!’
‘Well, we don’t agree on this’ he said, ‘but if you’re prepared to pay £400 for a pound for ham, you likely won’t mind when beef costs the same’.
‘If you’ll excuse me…’ I said, fishing a vibrating phone out of my bag and stepping away from the bar. It was my father, wanting to know if I was coming home for dinner.
‘OMG you called in the nick of time!’ I said, ‘I was just getting lectured by some stranger who doesn’t understand why we MUST eliminate much of the livestock if we have any hope of lessening greenhouse gases’.
‘Not a love match I take it?’ I ignored him.
‘ANYWAY’ I continued, ‘I found a dress for the thing mummy is making me do and in addition to requiring no new hats, I…’
‘Excuse me Jennifer…’ he pounced, ‘You do understand it is in fact—Hat Week?’
‘Yes, I’m borrowing something of Judith’s’.
‘And for the others who don’t have a mother whose shopping habits would supply the V&A?’
Again I ignored him. UGH! People would just have to manage. The man at the bar had gone and so I walked back to my seat and waited for Daddy to say something. And say he did!
‘Jennifer…’ He began in the softest tone, ‘I fear you’ve lost the point of the exercise. It is Hat Week. It is not Green Week, it is not Earth Day. You are hosting an event at a club that predates the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the Ford Model T. It also happens to be the year of the Queen’s Jubilee, and although her own son is your fellow green-nik, I can promise you this is neither the time nor the place. You will not be serving bugs, you will not be composting, and you will not be asking everyone to bring their own tin cups. Do you understand me?’
Gulp. ‘Of course I do’. I said, and downed the rest of my champagne.
‘After this event,’ he continued ‘you may go back to flying around the world in your design to save the planet. You may schedule whole tours to Sri Lanka to ask people how freeing it is to have only thirty percent of the food they previously enjoyed, and just how much they are enjoying that near-perfect ESG score that toppled their country. You can even go to Canada and convince farmers that a fertiliser ban is a win-win for those who want to spend less time harvesting and more time on yoga, but this week my dear, in your new dress and your mother’s repurposed hat, you will keep your eco-battle to yourself’.
Obviously he meant it. I wondered if he’d change his mind if I got Leo DiCaprio to come but I said nothing.
The event was a small disaster. Not enough of my friends, and I was clearly out-flanked by the enemy—the new crop of twenty-somethings. They knew of me and flattered themselves that they understood the challenges facing the planet but they were the worst kind of informed. They knew Bono, they knew Greta, they knew about my glamorous bug parties and they knew about the near-death incident with the composter.
It only took half an hour before the all-too familiar rise and fall of their high-pitched voices became the steady soundtrack for the evening. They’d also taken the ‘repurpose’ directive as an excuse to don any old hat that might be better suited to sifting rice in the Mekong Delta. The overall look was comical, with me, the elder, looking every bit the finishing-school instructor who needed to be put out to pasture.
This would not do. At their age I was already a lock for the Olympic Equestrian Team and had a firm understanding of the larger scheme. I led the auction of our hats for charity which finally managed to coax the men out from an ante-room. I was followed by the twenty-somethings who tugged at their too-short dresses and fiddled with their over-processed hair whilst saying nothing terribly bright. Alas. Not so easy as it looks I wanted to say. Just then my phone buzzed… it was a text from Leo. It read:
‘Sorry I couldn’t make it Doll,…raincheck?’
Oh how I wanted to share the text! But I stopped myself. I would savour it. I would invite these girls back when I had Leo. And I would serve them bugs!