Hazel McHaffie

Bowling along

Imagine the excitement … you’ve had an invitation to one of the most high profile society/royal weddings of the year. OK, you may be one of 850 guests, nevertheless there are standards to maintain. You spend more on your outfit than your local council spends on its budget for waste disposal. Your fascinator/hat is handmade to match exactly the pure silk dress. Shoes, clutch bag … ditto. Even your underwear is top of the range. You’ve spent hours in the gym, with your masseuse, your beautician. On the day, the hairdresser comes to your house to be sure you have his undivided and timely attention. The result is … perfection. Elegance, style, poise – ticks all round.

Surrounded by the rich and famous, all likewise behaving as if being swathed in thousands is no big deal, you stroll nonchalantly along the road towards St George’s Chapel, four inch stilettos on treacherous paving clearly an everyday normality,  Next moment … a class-blind wind whips the said fortune of sanamay, feather and net from your head, rolling it along the gutter like a trundling hoop from the 19th century. Men in tails, policemen in white gloves, give chase. You stand exposed, careful coiffure cruelly ripped loose by the frenzied fingers of sister currents.

And that was the coverage that characterised the BBC news of the build up to the day when Princess Eugenie Victoria Helena, 9th in line to the British throne, became Mrs Jack Christopher Stamp Brooksbank.

The ceremony held no surprises.
Traditional music, archaic vows, intoned prayers (the couple appeared not to be listening half the time) … except perhaps Princess Beatrice (minus pretzel) occasionally emerging from a singularly awkward seat to tweak the train into line, and to read from The Great Gatsby.
The dress was vintage haute couture, designed to show off a flawless back and pay tribute to the brilliance of orthopaedic surgeons everywhere … except I rather think the NHS would prefer the money it cost.
The bridesmaids and pageboys were standard issue … except perhaps the priceless moment when Robbie Williams‘ daughter asked Sarah Ferguson if she was the Queen!
The whole shebang of famous faces were there … except the Duchess of Cornwall who apparently had an unbreakable prior engagement in Scotland.

But, for that one invited guest in head-to-toe navy blue, the day must surely be eclipsed by the ruination of her perfect look. All that thought, all that money, stolen by a puff of nature.

It felt symbolic to me. I wasn’t in Windsor (turned it down on the basis of more pressing commitments, you understand) but I spent the day of the wedding working on my novel, ratcheting up the tempo, hardening off characters, choreographing major clashes of bruised egos. And it’s as if a wind blew through my story, tossing out the superficial flummery, whipping out the loose strands, erasing the superficial smile, and getting right down to the bare bones of the plot. I’m excited all over again. But this time I’m rebuilding a much more robust edifice, using stronger fabric, reinforcing the foundations; one that should withstand the buffeting of critics. Plenty of hat-pins to anchor the false trails.

I hope to look back on it in years to come as a sensible use of resources rather than a nod towards fame and celebrity. My own personal survivor from the hurricane winds on that auspicious day.

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