While waiting to be called upstairs to the birthday dinner, guests mingled in a reception room hung about with photographs and portraits of Elisabeth from across her life. If I thought I was familiar with most of it, the startling freshness of her portrait as a debutante, a young woman about to be presented at Court, made me realise I have only ever known her as a "grown up". Of all the tributes paid the one I thought most apt had someone relating how they rankle to hear Elisabeth described as "a marvellous woman for her age".
"Elisabeth," corrected the speaker, "is a marvellous woman for any age."
My mother was one of the people invited to give a speech, which she did with assured sincerity, recalling when she was Elizabeth's manageress in the Dior room at Harrods. She had gone to work there when she needed a spell of "normal" life.
|Elisabeth as a debutante at court|
Next to the photograph above was a letter from Iancu (the familiar term for "Ion"). You may read how determined he was to win her, despite the many arguments against their union, not least that he was, by his own admission, "in for a risky sort of life":
|"They are right to be worried, and undoubtedly I'm in for a risky sort of life"|
In 1945 they did marry, for she was quite as determined to have him, and so they stayed until his death in 2000. There is too much to relay here of what happened in between those times, but some danger and despair would be experienced as a direct result of that strong-headedness. Undoubtedly she could have chosen a more tranquil and unchallenging union but as Taffy said the other day, "You have to go out on a limb to reach the fruit". In confidence I will tell you that Mr Wesley was moved to tears during the speeches, declaring later that you do question quite what you have done with your life in the presence of such quietly massive accomplishment. When Serban Lupu, the celebrated Romanian violinist whose talent was nurtured by Elisabeth and to whom she gave a violin made before Mozart was born, played his appreciation, Mr Wesley declared it quite definitely the Biggest Fattest Gypsy birthday party he had ever attended. Here is Serban playing the quintessential Romanian composer George Enescu's Sonata for Piano and Violin:
Below is a picture of Mr Wesley with one of Elisabeth's current daughters-in-law, the pulchritudinous Pamela who was formerly MRS DEMIS ROUSSOS (talking of massive, um, accomplishment) (and you thought I was going to say Big Fat G...) (you did).
And a pair of photos that will long be dear to me, of Mr Wesley and Elisabeth sharing a secret oath:
A few days after this, at Harriet's much less super-annuated anniversary, Andrea revealed that while taking her pre-soirée shower she had suddenly been consumed with the burning need to know the latest vis-a-vis Bedlam and Barneys department store. I confessed I had been somewhat at a loss to know how to broach the topic, which had indeed begun to hum here somewhat conspicuously in absence. For there had been a "rethink". It had been decided in the light of some "seasonal over-commitment" that we could get established first in London then re present for Spring / Summer 2012. The trajectory of the New York chapter had been so deliciously upward that it seemed to spoil the story to introduce a bump. "But you promised us a docu-blog and with such a platform comes responsibility!" Andrea reminded me. "It's important that the students [of life and fashion, if the two can be cleft sunder] understand there are false starts and stalled engines. You have to address this!"
"It's true," I concurred, "there is no conveyor belt to the top of the mountain."
"It's like the Jewish faith," nodded Chrissey designer-of-our-web-page-now-with-groovy-added-map-feature-so-at-least-one-thing-is-made-easier, "you have to prove you're worthy of admittance by persevering even though you may be turned away three times!"
"Oy-vey," my shoulders slumped but for a moment. "But Holy Moses you're right!" I rallied, and, regaining posture and composure, dialled Mr Bell direct.
It was a delight as ever to talk to him, and hear him say how really really REALLY proud of us he is, that one little bump pushed us into what has proven yet better momentum - the one that has created the shop; that we were not cowed by risk but galvanised.
"Spring is another season," he wisely intoned, before revealing he is coming to London in May to write the orders for Spring / Summer 2012 and that we shall get to welcome him through the door of Bedlam.
So the blossom that wraps the branches like cotton candy now will turn to sweet fruit soon enough. And day by day out along the limb we inch, ready to reach for it.