The weather had been amazing. Glorious blue skies, bright sunshine, and the gentlest of breezes. Afternoon tea and scones had, as usual, gone down remarkably well, with everyone commenting on how fresh the strawberries had been.
Lady Salinger-Wallis, the Ladies Katherine and Alexandria Thrift and Lady Flora Shaughnessy-Vawes had retired to the East Lawn for a post-afternoon tea game of croquet.
“Do you know, Flora, I was only saying to the Ladies Katherine and Alexandria an hour ago that I haven’t played croquet for donks!” Lady S roared with her signature laughter.
“Donks, Gertrude?” Lady Shaughnessy-Vawes was somewhat perplexed.
“Donks!” Lady Katherine interjected. “Donkey’s years!”
“Ah. I see. And from what I remember, Gertrude,” Lady Shaughnessy-Vawes wore a wry smile, “From what I remember, you were never any good at it!”
“Well, we all couldn’t be the Circle Croquet Champion, could we, Flora?” Lady S laughed again and winked toward the Ladies Katherine and Alexandria. “Pass me my paddle. I’ll go first!”
The three Ladies watched on with amusement as Lady S missed the small wooden ball with her mallet on her first two attempts, and then, on her third, she clonked the ball with such force it flew over the hoop, traversed the lawn, and landed with a splash in the Koi Garden Pond. Lady S guffawed, causing Lady Alexandria to giggle also.
“Oh, Gertrude!” Lady Shaughnessy-Vawes complained. “Oh, Gertrude. You haven’t got much better, have you?”
“Well, one has other, more important, things to do than play crochet all the time, Flora!” Once again, she winked at the twin Ladies. Lady Shaughnessy-Vawes rolled her eyes, and was about to retaliate when a shout came from the back of the marquee.
“Lady Salinger-Wallis!” Bellowed Oswald, Lady S’s butler. “Lady Salinger-Wallis!!” He rang his small hand bell.
The four Ladies dashed over to where Oswald had been calling from.
“Oswald? What is it dear?” Lady S sounded concerned.
“Oh, your present has arrived, Lady S.”
“My present?” Lady S acted surprised, covering her mouth with her pale-blue-gloved left hand with over exaggerated movements. Lady Shaughnessy-Vawes rolled her eyes again and whispered to the Ladies Katherine and Alexandria “We have to go through this every year on her birthday. It’s her new car.”
“A new car? How lovely!” Lady Katherine exclaimed.
Lady S looked toward Lady Katherine with an over-acted look of shock on her face. “A new car, dear? Oh, how splendid!”
The group made their way to the top of the driveway, where they joined Viscount Woodrue, Sir and Lady Upchester and Princess Constance of Deva of Chestershire, who’d also gathered to see the new arrival. And pulling up to them, slowly, was a sturdy looking black car. Lady S peeked through her gloved hand. “Is it a Rolls? A Bentley? A Ferrari?” She positively beamed.
Sir Upchester sternly told the group about the car. “From the look of things, it’s a 1960s VW Beetle, somewhat modernised with dark glass windows and – oh, how ghastly – two fluffy dice in the window. It looks bloody awful, if you don’t mind me saying so…” Lady Upchester prodded her husband in his side with a whispered “Henry!”
“I like it! Lady Shaughnessy-Vawes surprised everyone with her statement. “I do. I like it.”
“Only you could have such a chauffeur-driven car, Gertrude.” Princess Constance thought the vehicle beneath her, but could see Lady S in it and being right at home.
The car pulled up to the group. The finish was a metallic black, and the windows were very heavily tinted. In the bright sunshine, they could clearly see their reflections in the body of the Beetle. They could also see the huge smile across Lady S’s face. She was positively beaming. She dashed around to the front of the vehicle.
“Oh just look at the beautiful registration number!” She guffawed. “LP0 KMN… it’s almost in alphabetical order!”
Edward Hamilton, Lady Salinger-Wallis’ chauffer, stepped out from the vehicle. “Happy Birthday, Lady S. You said you wanted something plain this year. Is this plain enough for you?”
“Oh, it’s simply stunning, dear. Stun. Ning!” Lady S clapped her hands in excitement. Eddie wished Lady S a quick happy birthday, and the group surprised themselves by spontaneously singing “For she’s a jolly good fellow” followed by three cheers. They were then ushered into Mid Manor for canapés and lemon tea. On her way in, Lady S thanked the group profusely. “Thank you, dear friends, for making this such a marvellous birthday… and Eddie, I love the car!”