Tuesday, 26 June 2012

MIdsummer - tennis but not Wimbledon

We have some Midsummer-themed entries to mark the days around the summer solstice

the book:

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield

published 1930




[the diarist has been trying to sell some of her old clothes]

March 14th.--Rather inadequate Postal Order arrives, together with white tennis coat trimmed with rabbit, which--says accompanying letter--is returned as being unsaleable. Should like to know why…(Mem: See whether tennis coat could be dyed and transformed into evening cloak.)

March 21st.-- We go to a Sale in order to cheer ourselves up, and I buy yellow linen tennis-frock--£1 9s. 6d.--on strength of newly-arranged overdraft, but subsequently suffer from the conviction that I am taking the bread out of the mouths of [children] Robin and Vicky.

June 23rd – Tennis-party at wealthy and elaborate house, to which [husband] Robert and I now bidden for the first time. (Also, probably, the last). Am introduced to youngish lady in yellow, and serious young man with horn-rimmed spectacles. Lady in yellow says at once that she is sure I have a lovely garden. (Why?)

Elderly, but efficient-looking, partner is assigned to me, and we play against the horn-rimmed spectacles and agile young creature in expensive crepe-de-chine...

Play worse than ever, and am not unprepared for subsequent enquiry from hostess as to whether I think I have really quite got over the measles, as she has heard that it often takes a full year.

Conversation turns upon Lady B. and everyone says she is really very kindhearted, and follows this up by anecdotes illustrating all her less attractive qualities. Youngish lady in yellow declares that she met Lady B. last week in London, face three inches thick in new sunburn-tan. Can quite believe it. Feel much more at home after this, and conscious of new bond of union cementing entire party. Sidelight thus thrown upon human nature regrettable, but not to be denied.


observations: As Wimbledon gets under way, the mind boggles at the tennis-coat: what kind of sports garment is this that is trimmed with fur and can double as an evening cloak? Also interesting that the tennis party by no means feels it should wear white – it is a bit of a shibboleth in the UK that the white clothes tradition was of enormous importance and that it is an example of how the world is degenerating that the white is no longer pure. Yet the Provincial Lady is the height of respectability and good form, and yellow and fur do sound fun…

Links up with: Tennis at the Finzi Continis a few years later,
here and here. ‘Scrubby friends’ playing tennis are being put in their place (‘my dear!’) in this extract. Someone who plays tennis AND has a fur-trimmed coat: Gwen Raverat’s mother. The Provincial Lady has featured before, here and here and here. For more Midsummer entries click on label below.

Photo from
George Eastman House via Flickr.

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