Well, not quite the Moulin Rouge, Paris, but it was South Lincolnshire’s equivalent, courtesy of the annual Spalding Midsummer Ball.
Last year the theme was Boogie Nights and we disco-danced to The Real Thing under spinning glitter balls. This year the theme was very ooh-la-la with can-can dancers, a cocktail bar and sumptuous red and black decor. Each table had as a centrepiece a funky transparent leg filled with tiny LED lights. The corridor leading to the main room had been designed to look like the dressing rooms of the Moulin Rouge: individual tables adorned with mirrors, bottles of perfume feathers and sequinned gowns. An incredible amount of hard work by the committee to see that every detail was perfect.
Our annual jaunt to the ball, for what must be our 10th year in a row, is always the highlight of our dwindling social calendar. I still remember our first one: our table consisted of fellow parents from Rory’s primary school. Dougie didn’t pace himself that night and I watched, in shame, as he returned from a visit to the gents and proceeded to sit himself down at someone else’s table and start supping at their wine. Meanwhile the whole of our table waved to him from 10 feet away. He was hurriedly removed from the room by me and bundled into a taxi before he embarrassed me any further. The next year one of our friends created a special placard for the back of his chair to aid his navigation. I’ve kept my beady eye on the bugger ever since, although our pals think I don’t give the old boy any slack; they ask me every year if I’ve brought my big hook with me.
This year Dougie behaved impeccably apart from a worrying incident when his wedding ring became caught on a key-ring which is sewn into the lining of his sporran. Inevitably this precipitated raucous laughter and ‘got your ring caught in your sporran’ innuendo abounded. Meanwhile he was getting very hot and bothered, rummaging around in his crotch region for some considerable time and putting up with even more jibes as the chaps at the table were waiting for the seemingly reluctant scotsman to contribute to the kitty.
The evening didn’t go smoothly for me, either. Dressed in a black satin dress, complete with elbow-length black gloves, there was some debate on the table about whether I should attempt to eat the meal with gloves on or off. No-one was quite sure of the etiquette regarding this, although there were plenty of ribald comments regarding my need to be gloved-up for any frolics after the ball was over. I decided to keep them on for the starter then removed them when I paid a visit to the ladies as the idea of wearing gloves for that activity just seemed wrong. When I came out of the cubicle I noticed the dye from the gloves had seeped out onto my hands and arms: I looked ridiculous with black fingers and blue-black forearms. You should have seen me, standing at the basin for ages scrubbing away at them like a demented OCD sufferer. As the black dye poured down the sink, I suspect I was given a very wide berth by the other ladies re-touching their lippy nearby.
I stayed in the shadows for the rest of the evening, apart from a few goes on the Gift Tree where, for a tenner a pop, you were guaranteed a prize. I was angling for a Kindle, or even a teddy bear like last year, but came away with vouchers for a cut and blow dry, a portrait sitting, and a bag of Toyota car-cleaning products. Not a bad haul and happy to have supported the charities Action Medical Research, Macmillan Cancer Support and Spalding Special Schools Federation.
Verdict on the ball? One of the best yet. Room looked fabulous, seating arrangements much improved from previous years, food was spot-on with perfectly cooked chicken served to 500 guests and the biggest puds I’ve ever seen….and Dougie stayed on his own table all night. Result.