Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Towards the End of the Season, Limply


In the novels of Jane Austen there is usually some reference to The Season – where the gentry head to Town, attend balls, horse-races, the ballet, parties and dinners, and try, to the best of their ability to marry off their marriagable daughters to young men of good fortune and pleasant personality. Today the season still exists, and, according to Wikipedia lasts from April to August, and includes events such as Glyndebourne, Royal Ascot, Chelsea Flower Show, Henley Royal Regatta and Wimbledon. Afterwards, today’s gentry head back to their country piles or to France while their children go to Ibiza, where they club senselessly, get photographed for Heat magazine with no knickers on or topless on the beach, and try to return without a husband.

The only season event I ever attended was the Henley Royal Regatta, to which I was invited by my totally lovely and rather posh cousins. I was doing my gap year of waitressing and partying and having inappropriate relationships in London and they took me under their wing, allowing me to arrive at their beautiful Surrey home, where I would warm my bottom on the Aga, be cossetted, fed and then sent back for another few weeks’ wildness in the capital. Thanks to them I am a whizz at croquet. These were the same people who took me to the ballet at Covent Garden (which I would never have been able to afford), and, despite having had a theatre supper beforehand, produced a picnic hamper full of delicious salmon sandwiches and champagne for afterwards, which we sat down and enjoyed at midnight on the Covent Garden cobblestones. They liked to do things in style. Henley was just the same – we cruised there in their Bentley with its cream leather and walnut interior. I was outfitted in a borrowed dress and a small and very cheap hat that I bought at Brick Lane (dress and hat being the appropriate outfit for ladies at the Regatta) and enjoyed an excess of champagne and watching strong men row boats in the rain.

Less glamorous, but equally demanding, is the Charlotte’s Web Family Season. It is six months long, and lasts from October to the end of March. I am relieved to announce that it is now drawing to a close. Since October we have celebrated the following:

  • One wedding anniversary
    • Cleverly planned for 1 October, so that’s it hard to forget. Thus far, we haven’t done so. We don’t go large but the occasion is marked and thusly the season opened.
  • Five birthdays
    • Two of these require full parties, with guests, cake, games, crafts and dressing-up. Since it is winter they are always, regrettably, indoors. The grown-up birthdays usually also require a party but we bailed this season and gave dinner parties instead.
  • Sundry German festivals, requiring the crafting of objects, the sourcing of costumes, the turning-up at and participating in parades, the eating of festival related baked goods, the singing of festival songs and the smiling and conversing with other festival participants. These include the Laternefest and Fasching (Carnival).
  • Sankt Nicolaustag
  • Christmas: the usual insane cookfest and eatfest and giftfest, plus assorted houseguests
  • New Year: ditto except minus the gifts
  • A week of skiing. One of the reasons we are in Europe is to offer our children chances to do things we which didn’t do growing up in Africa. Hence skiing. Last year, I found this such an exhausting experience, that I have avoided it this time, but my saint of a husband has taken his daughters off with a bunch of friends and they are turning into ski bunnies. Less of the snow eating this year, which is a good thing, both for their digestive systems and for the ski resorts. They need all the snow they can get.
  • Easter – two years ago, Ollie was born on 27 March, which was an Easter Sunday, so we include it in our Season. We celebrated his first birthday while skiing (ie he had a cake) but this year we will have to mark it with a party, a home-made cake and by inviting some of his little friends around. If we are very, very lucky they could play outside.

After Ollie’s birthday, we have six months off. No birthdays, no parties, no festivals for which we are required to craft anything. There will be no need to fashion pirate or Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cakes and no requirements for eyepatches or spangly crowns at the eleventh hour. I am looking forward to it – and summer – enormously. If you are looking for me in the six months starting April, this is where I hope you will find me, physically, spiritually, emotionally. Gin and tonic, anyone?


Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

21 thoughts on “Towards the End of the Season, Limply

  1. I am exhausted just reading about the season. And, yes, I don’t mind if I do have a G&T…

  2. Minus the assorted festivals and parades, that could almost be my six months from October to March, concluding on that same date with my brother’s birthday (he was born on Holy Thursday — none of it rubbed off on him, though). April through September does come as a huge relief!

    After all of that, you definitely deserve some downtime and a huge g&t.

  3. We have something similar to that, from the beginning of October, when my husband’s birthday is, to last week, which was my birthday. Two other family birthdays are within that time, as well as our wedding anniversary, Christmas, New Year… It’s a good job I’m antisocial! But I like the sound of having parties and celebrations. I’m beginning to ask myself why we never do anything on our birthdays.

    Kiko’s small friend’s birthday is three days away from Ollie’s, and he’s going to be two as well! It’s funny to think Kiko will be starting school at the same time as them. He seems such a diddle baby in comparison.

    Ooh – I also loved the sound of your Season in London, especially the salmon sandwiches (why do I always think about my stomach?!)

  4. I loved reading this post!

  5. Tesha, you’re welcome to join me for a G&T any day …

    Isn’t that weird, Kerryn and Helen, that the months around Christmas are particularly busy for you too? I am sooooo ready for something not involving birthdays or celebrations of any kind that require catering from me.

    Thanks, Jade.

  6. Weird. And so, so stressful. You could do what we did one year — escape to a whole other continent to avoid the birthday season (ten immediate family birthdays in Jan/Feb), reasoning that it was less expensive and far less strain on our mental health.

  7. Our family season is the exact opposite of yours – we are currently in a lull until May, when I have to come up with inspiration for treasure hunts every two months until October. The grown-up birthdays slot into the gaps in July and August, our anniversary is one day before yours, also easy to remember and we conclude with youngest’s birthday in October. Of course the Christmas season then kicks in to extend it all and Easter so January to March is our rest period.

    Nice to have posh cousins to give a taste of the high life, without having to live it the whole time. I used to wear Fred Bare hats from Brick Lane in my hat days – gorgeous soft suede ones..I wonder what happened to them.

  8. Oh, that sounds tiring.

    Our season should end with the DH’s birthday in April, but Joe had the misfortune of being born in August so he is all out there on a limb on his own.

    At least it’s in summer so we get to go somewhere fun as a family and pretend that it’s for his birthday. (How long do you think we can get away with that?)

  9. Kerryn, I love the idea of running away (with my family of course, not from them). It’s something I dream about. Perhaps we need to come caravan around Australia, starting October 2007!

    Kit, inspired by you, I was thrilled to be able to do my first treasure hunt with written clues this year. They loved it and stormed eagerly around the house. One little guy kept shaking his head at my surprising German grammar, but the rest didn’t care.

    Hmmm, Ash, I think at some point, he’s going to start asking questions.

  10. Children’s birthday parties must be particularly difficult inside – sounds exhausting!

    But do come and caravan around Australia – the parties will be so much easier.

    When I had my three years in London we managed both Royal Ascot and the Queen’s Garden Party (they invite a quota of Australians every year). Fun, but it felt like I was gatecrashing a bit. The Pimms was nice, though.

  11. Race you to the pool?

  12. Just let me know which pool you’ll be at. I assume Thomas will be there too?

  13. Why are everyone’s holidays mashed together like that?
    We’re pretty much packed from the end of August to New Year’s. It seems more people are born in August/September (9 months after certain festive dates?), but come on!!

    Right now I have 5 (yes, 5!) books based on Pride and Prejudice on my reading shelf, so your mention of “the season” gave me a bit of a thrill. My husband thinks I’m obsessed; I counter that it’s perfectly honest escapism. Plus I get to picture Colin Firth the whole time : )

  14. I love the idea of your season, Charlotte! We have a huge run of birthdays in August and another flurry around March. It does make for a complicated life. I have difficulty making a day of the week, a date and an event coincide….

  15. Season? What season? There is no season here the way y’all are describing it. Around here we have hunting season, which is when you have to wear international orange if you are walking in or near the woods so as to not be mistaken for a deer. We also have calving season, which is when people who raise cattle walk around their herd at least three times a day and sometimes once in the middle of the night to make sure that all the ladies are okay.

  16. Ms HMH, the season you describe also fits the gentry: after being in town for the balls and the races, they descend to the country where they hunt foxes and count their cows. Fits perfectly!

    Litlove, funny isn’t it, how all the birthdays come in groups? I know one family where all the women, children, grandchildren and even sisters-in-law have birthdays in the first week of May.

    Henitserk, I am so happy to oblige. Methinks Mr Darcy, sorry, I mean Colin Firth, deserves a post all of his own. You seem to be the expert …

    Emma and the Funky Uncle, I’d love a day at the pool with both of you and all your nearest and dearest.

    Ms Penguin, wow, what an experience! I’m sure the Pimms made up for feeling slightly like a spare part. Did you wear a frock and a hat?

  17. There is a story here in the Ozarks, which may or may not be apocryphal, regarding a young man in second or third grade. His teacher was trying to impart the concept of “seasons” to the class. She asked them if they knew the four seasons, and Johnny’s hand shot up. So she called on him, saying, “Johnny, can you tell us what the four seasons are here?”

  18. Dag nab it, I hate this keyboard.
    “I sure can,” Johnny replied proudly. “Deer season, turkey season, squirrel season and trout season.”

  19. I very definitely frocked up, with hat – and Mr Penguin had to hire a morning suit, for Royal Ascot (we had tickets to the Royal Enclosure). The Garden party was where I felt more of an imposter – full of very worthy people who had done things like saving children from burning buildings, and me, who had somehow worked the system to get in.

  20. Pingback: Whipping Myself With the Protestant Gene « Charlotte’s Web

  21. Pingback: Reading Firsts « Charlotte's Web

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s