The year is 1935 and we are travelling across the Atlantic in RMS Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic. Yes, last weekend we hosted a murder mystery evening: The Porthole Affair.
Never done one before, and to be fair, we don't do a great deal of entertaining these days, so it became quite a big deal. I was playing the maid, 'Dawn Trodden' (oh, how appropriate) and my husband was playing the butler, 'Eamonn Etonion'. That gives a flavour of the calibre of the characterisation. Frilly apron and bowler hat at the ready, respectively, and three courses of food prepared the day before; we were ready to go. I had laid the table in the dining room early in the morning, and whilst we had perhaps not quite achieved the 'feel of Edwardian splendour' indicated in the murder mystery box of instructions, the scene was set.
But of course we hadn't factored in the little people. I picked Gilby and Gertie up from nursery on Friday afternoon as usual. Gertie had won a special prize for being a good helper and volunteering to buddy up with a new boy to help him settle in at pre-school, and the staff told me what a wonderful day Gilby had had, 'chatting' away to everyone with his baby-babble and general being very contented. Excellent. All going according to plan. I can work, have happy children and entertain. Go me.
On the way back we had to collect two of our guests from the train station: Auntie Bob (don't ask) and 1-year old cousin Milly. Uncle was arriving later on with Daddy, and all three were staying. Gertie had to give up her bedroom to allow this level of hospitality, but she did so with good grace and it was all turning into a happy adventure.
5pm. Now just to feed all three kids supper, get them into bed, and jump into ridiculous costume prior to the arrival of the other guests. Still going swimmingly.
It was at that point that Gilby decided to start vomiting, violently, in the fashion of a large hydrant gushing on free-flow. I got covered, and changed, three times. The kitchen floor took a battering. Auntie Bob was brilliant at entertaining the girls while I cleared up successive waves of sick. This, surely, was an unnecessarily realistic degree of preparation for the role of 'Dawn Trodden'?
Since I now had more than just carrot in my hair, a shower was required. I couldn't put Gilby down even for a second as he had gone all sort of floppy and pathetic as they do. He also wouldn't touch any food (understandably) but did want to suckle at the breast without taking very much milk. Brilliant. Torn between concern for my baby and the imminent arrival of five more guests, including the wealthy heiress 'Angeline Desguys', and the Russian-German-Jewish emigre, 'Esau Hytall', I didn't know what to do. Should we cancel? Call a doctor? Pour a large glass of wine? Laugh hysterically?
Well of course, then the door went. Toby O'Notoby and Ed Butte had arrived. Cancelling was now not an option. The phone rang almost simultaneously. Enid Ann Hallaby needed to know where to park her car as the driveway was full. The surgery was closing; no doctor until Monday morning. Large wine and laughter the only remaining options. We weren't a sinking ship yet. Threw some crisps in a bowl to keep the guests happy. Eventually got Gertie and Gilby to sleep. Rustled up a toffee sauce for the sticky toffee pudding. Hid wet hair behind frilly maid cap and got on with it. One moment scrubbing baby sick from the floor, the next dining amidst the great splendour of the Captain's quarters amidst one of the most fabulous ships ever built. Ish.
P.S. Gilby recovering well.