In 1741 a remarkable woman died here in Edinburgh. Her name was Signora Violante and she had been quite the girl back in the day.
She had been a theatre impresario, a queen of the stage and a world-famous slack rope dancer. She would descend above the audience’s head, dancing a minuet, and with a child attached to each ankle. Well, good childcare is so hard to come by, even today.
She packed in the life acrobatic and become an incredibly fashionable dancing teacher. Well, slack rope dancing is a young woman’s game, and anyway, the kids probably got fed up being slung about at mum’s work.
When she died, her wardrobe was listed. There we find that she had even kept her stage clothes, although she had long left showbiz. Red breeches, and a red velvet jacket shot through with gold thread.
I’m willing to bet she couldn’t bear to part with them. They probably brought back happy memories of her days among the acrobats and jugglers.
C’mon, ladies we all have them. In your wardrobe somewhere there is that summer dress from the truly great holiday, or there’s a T-shirt you wore to that concert where you met someone special and perhaps not even the one you got married to.
Perhaps you’ve got a ridiculously expensive pair of shoes you bought for a wedding. We were all shocked when platforms came back into fashion, so you hang on to those ankle strapped stilettos, sister, their day may come again. It’s not just memories, it’s practicality.
Do you suppose that’s why Maggie Thatcher held on to all her old stuff, then? She doesn’t seem to have thrown anything away. Why else would she hang on to the first suit she wore when she and Denis got the keys to Number 10? Did she think powder blue shoulder pads and Princess Di necklines would make a comeback?
Did she keep all her old handbags, some still with the blood and hair of various EU heads of state buried in the stitching where they got savagely handbagged at those endless European summits they all went to? Do you think she would take them out of a winter evening to stroke and smile over the day Jacques Delors had been reduced to a snivelling wreck in the corner?
The V&A down in London is getting them now. They are going to put them into an exhibition. Of all the sights and wonders of that there London town, that’s one I can miss.
Helpful hankies have unhappily fallen out of fashion in Leith
She was dressed to the max. The fake tan glowed (apart from the bit under her chin where she had missed) the hair was immaculate and the long red nails looked like she’d just ripped a small mammal apart with her bare hands.
Her accessories were carefully chosen, from the knock-off designer bag to the casually slung scarf.
But oddly enough, she had neglected to complete her ensemble with a hanky or two.
The noises she made were quite remarkable. Indeed, I imagine there are gentlemen walruses, who have very good hearing by all accounts, who believe there to be an attractive lady walrus unaccountably trapped on the Number 22 bus, crying out for a soul mate.
The racket of sneezing,coughing and a sort of rattling gurgling noise continued all the way to the top of Leith Walk, when finally, another passenger offered our style queen a hanky, only to have it icily refused.
So there we have it. Hankies must be out of fashion. She looked like a girl who knows.
Coughs and sneezes do spread diseases
The grumpy Yorkshireman and I are simultaneously suffering the first cold of the winter.
It’s my fault. I brought the contagion into the house. I’m thinking of having a sort of airlock device fitted that can disinfect people as they come in, perhaps give them a quick blast with Dettol.
What might be easier, and cheaper in the long run, is bringing the old fashioned paper hankies back.
Coughs and sneezes do actually spread diseases. It’s not just a nursery rhyme.
Lady in red ready for a comeback
Speaking of dresses you just can’t part with, and with the American Presidential election in full bally-hoo, I have a sneaky feeling that the most famous soiled frock in US history is about to make an appearance.
Somewhere in Monica Lewinsky’s wardrobe there lurks a red dress, and I bet the living Mr Potato Head that is Donald Trump would love to pull that particular sartorial skeleton out of the closet.
Mind you, she might just have had it cleaned after all, or perhaps she’s keeping it as a family heirloom, to be passed down the generations.
What on earth would the Antiques Roadshow of the future make of that? “Well it’s a fairly ordinary late 20th century dress, and it’s stained, I’m afraid. What’s that? It’s what? Well, that changes everything...”