Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Write … Edit … Publish … Bloghop / ISWG hop: Unmasked …

 

Ah ha … at last an invitation to a ‘Masked Ball’ … whew – how lovely … a family and friends gathering …

 


The War had been awful – food had been so scarce … the weather hadn’t helped any of us … at least the Autumn had been kind … plenty of berries around …

 


The gathering was fabulous … everyone had raided their dressing up boxes: no necessity to use since 1914 when the Great War was declared.  Lots of different sparkly, glittery masks … some full face, some half …


 Flouncy dresses, part-hidden corsets, colours of rich red, soft velvety green, purple lined cloaks … cloth-of-gold waistcoats, silver and black tuxedos … stoles, boas and wraps … all beautifully coloured – the War was over … time for some celebrations … even amongst the grief … 


… though rationing was still around – it was and had been so difficult to get any decent food – this family had been fortunate … things from the estate … 



What was on offer … the invitation was a Masked Ball Tea in the late afternoon to early evening … 




Friends and family gathered – the host and hostess happily welcomed everyone … feasting began … simple fare – sandwiches – savoury and sweet, some mishappen vegetables, seasonal fruits that had lasted … 



… plenty of sherry, port or brandy – from the cellars no doubt, pots of tea too – one could get water – even in War time … 




The glittering crowd … a diadem here, a glistening trinket there, dripping jewels from neck and wrists, gold watches secure in pockets … eyes twinkling hidden behind the masks …

 


The cacophony of laughs, whispered nudges, loud stories being told by men with stentorious voices …

 

At the end of the room on a dais – stood the table loaded with green boughs and ivy fronds from the garden, topped with the most wonderful looking cake – how they all longed for a slice of moist fruit cake … 





… full of dried fruit … softened in sherry or port … candied fruit, nuts, spices … all mixed together … mouths were watering – such treats unknown since the conflict had begun …

 


The host and hostess ascended the dais – held up the sword – which glistened sharply across the room – the noise of the throng slowly silenced …

 


The announcement to welcome everyone present … just noting that they’d decided to hold this gathering before Christmas to have a chance to see everyone – so there was nothing specific to celebrate – but the hostess had thought a moist fruit cake would be something wonderful to have …




… shot glasses were handed around, bottles of sherry, port, brandy, champagne, wines were offered up, more tea, and soft drinks were at the ready …

 



… ready for a slice of cake everyone … oh at last – the sword was released to his wife – she held it aloft … he bent down and with a flourish … unmasked the cake …

 


… what ….?!?!?!  the icing, decoration were just a sham cover … there wasn’t any marzipan either … oh dear, oh dear … 



Plaster casting
Quiet reigned over their friends … the host apologised … there really wasn’t any sugar for the icing … as he was a surgeon – they’d persuaded the orthopaedics department to make a food covering for the cake …

 


Sorry everyone – but sometimes life gets us unmasked … now come on enjoy the moist cake with a shot or two of the fermented intoxicant of your choice …


An unmasked story … in a pandemic year …


PS story based on Robert Graves' - whose wedding cake at the end of WW1 had a plaster cast instead of icing over marzipan!


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

53 comments:

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

You are a fountain of information, Hilary. I always learn something. I love your unmasked tongue-in-cheek story!

Yolanda Renée said...

You did a beautiful job! I know there are many folks who wouldn't eat a fruit cake unless a lot of doing without went before, icing or no icing. :)

The story is fitting, but I'm sorry blogger has frustrated you. It takes time to get used to and a lot of features I still haven't found, and I'm not sure they even exist. LOL

Have a great holiday! And a blessed New Year!

Chrys Fey said...

I'd love to see that glittering crowd and the dresses they wore. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joylene - thank you ... I got the idea from Robert Graves' whose wedding cake was 'covered' in an icing of Plaster of Paris - post WW1 ... just slightly adapted ...

@ Yolanda - I tried a 3rd time and essentially corrected the lay out - grief! I only do basic - very basic ... I'll get used to it sometime.

I really enjoy a rich, rich fruit cake - but endeavour only to eat it at someone else's house! But it's even better with a layer of marzipan then covered in icing ... too good! How we kept ours til Easter I've no idea ... oh I guess we kids were back in school ... so not there to munch away.

@ Chrys - it'd be a lovely gathering to see wouldn't it - but I'm glad we're in the 21st century, though the moment isn't the best is it ...

Great to see the three of you ... take care, stay safe and here's to 2021 - Hilary

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great story and the perfect theme for a hop this year!

I remember when I was in preschool, birthday children were sung to and presented with a plastic pink cake that later returned to the storage closet for the next birthday child. I wasn't very impressed with this practice at the time! Must have been a weird 70s thing.

Jacqui Murray said...

I love the sound of this, Hilary. Now, the old style mask will have to be a hood!

Elephant's Child said...

Smiling - and remembering the stories where wedding cakes were clad in a decorative (non edible) icing, which could then be passed down to the next happy couple.
And loving the brave approach to the celebration.

Rhodesia said...

What a wonderful post and we are complaining about a year of being in lockdown. No shortages, no bombs, just having to be careful. WW1 was four years and WW2 was six years, we are all fortunate, and hopefully, within another 6 months it will all be behind us
Thanks for the reminder Hilary. Take care and have a good week. Diane

Anabel Marsh said...

A twist I didn’t see coming! Though I began to suspect there’d be no cake.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So it was a fake cake? Like cardboard?

Joanne said...

Oh too clever. I had my fork ready and my mouth watered. Excellent unmasking!

Sandra Cox said...

Loved this!
Interesting info on Graves' wedding cake. Who'd a thought?

Liz A. said...

At least the booze was good :)

Botanist said...

You had me drooling over the cake along with everyone else. When we make a rich fruit cake (or Xmas pud, for that matter) we steep the dried fruit in brandy for a couple of days beforehand. Result = one rich and moist cake, but don't drive after eating it :)

Denise Covey said...

So glad you posted your informative, entertaining piece, Hilary. Yolanda has added the link to the WEP website. Ohhhh a cake without icing. Hard to take! Perfect entry for our unstructured December challenge.

If you want to read my Venice story, here is my link:

https://dencovey.blogspot.com/2020/12/wep-december-challenge-pierrot-fool.html

Happy holidays my friend!

Hels said...

Thanks Hilary and Rhodesia,

No bombs and executions, and only 9 months of total lockdown so far whereas WW1 and WW2 lasted for many years. But many families still have no income, schools were closed for much of the year and food was limited to takeaway.

The food, drinks and clothes at the Masked Ball Tea sounded positively liberating.

Olga Godim said...

How sad - a make-believe cake. I suppose it was better than none, especially in their situation. After all, we watch baking shows, don't we, even when we can't taste those television cakes either.

Janie Junebug said...

Yours is an excellent story that's relevant today, with masks and shortages.

Love,
Janie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Elizabeth – thank you … your pre-school story is so sad … and at that age so miserably important – one wonders why they bothered … now – it just seems cruel – but interesting to know about!

@ Jacqui – yes the old opera style masks will appear as something else … a lot of people here are wearing bandana-style ones … I guess they could be bejewelled …

@ EC – I’d never heard of that tradition – passing down the covering … how interesting …
Glad you enjoyed my take on this prompt …

@ Diane – many thanks … it did remind me of those eras … and as you say we are fortunate to live today – despite the pandemic. They had the Spanish flu to deal with too … and with all the lack of understanding of shell shock etc … life must have been so difficult then. Let’s hope by Easter we’ll be seeing the light of the day …

@ Anabel – there was cake … but sugar icing wasn’t on …

@ Alex – no, the cake was real … and I suspect was well matured with cellar delights … just the icing was orthopaedic plaster of paris …

@ Joanne – thank you … I agree the cake sounds so so delicious … wish I had it here now …

@ Sandra – thank you … and I was bemused when I read about Graves’ wedding cake … and knew it was an ideal example to use for this post …

@ Liz – I’m sure the booze was very good …

@ Ian – yes I was drooling as I wrote the post … and like you we soak our fruits for the Christmas pud and cake … but thankfully don’t need to drive afterwards either.

@ Denise – thanks for the info … I’ll be over to read everyone’s posts today or tomorrow: yours is up for me to comment on shortly!
I guess back after WW1 – they’d have been happy with the cake, and would have understood the covering … but as you say the taste buds would have been watering …

@ Hels – yes glad you picked up on Diane’s note of the WW1/2 eras … we do have it so much better now – even though it’s still difficult for many …
The gathering would have enjoyed the release of the evening away from the horrors outside – the bombed city etc … as you say liberating …

@ Olga – it was a real cake, just a plaster-cast covering … and the cake, as too the rest of the ‘goodies’ would have made such a change from the war rationing … but you’re so right we can drool over the tv food …

@ Janie – glad you enjoyed it … it fitted the prompt – with a gentle twist …

Thanks so much for visiting and ‘enjoying’ the unmasking of the cake … take care and stay safe - Hilary

bazza said...

Ingenious! Have you ever written any longer fiction Hilary? It might be very interesting to read!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s recklessly risible Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

David M. Gascoigne, said...

A highly entertaining and innovative post, Hilary, with glimpses into an era and its splendour that has perhaps passed for ever. The mention of sherry, which we buy only for cooking purposes, and a modestly priced Australian sherry at that, brings back memories of a visit to Britain, when I was taken to visit a venerable ornithologist of the region. He was probably eighty-five years old, and I at the time a mere forty, and he looked sage and profound, and was dressed in shirt and tie and a tweed jacket. But best of all, he served sherry, in the most wonderful little stemmed glasses, which he constantly refilled, good chap that he was. And then he told me that the glasses were Queen Anne, or something or other, and that he had bought them at an estate sale for a good price and that they were worth far in excess. I am sure that my hand was becoming unsteady from his constant volleys of the amber liquid, and I wishes he had not told me about the precious item I was holding in my hand. An earthenware cup would have been preferable right then. WhenI left, still able to walk I might add, and thankful not to be driving, he told me that he had always thought of Canadians as fine fellows, good eggs I think was the exact term he used, so I thought that my perseverance in matching him glass for glass was well rewarded. I shall have to go and buy a bottle of good sherry and relive the moment!

Anonymous said...

This was a great read, Hilary, and so timely too. I love that it was based on Robert Graves' wedding cake. How smart was he to use a plaster cast? I think many of us get creative when faced with challenging times. Have a great rest of your week!

Warmly,
Elsie

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I love your story! You always have informed material to read. I really like that.

Teresa

Keith's Ramblings said...

A lovely story Hilary, and you described everything so graphically! I almost wished I was there to enjoy a slice of fruit cake and a tipple!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Bazza - thank you ... no I don't write stories - believe it or not ... these WEP posts are my only foray into this sort of world - though perhaps I should give it a go and see what happens ... especially if as you say it might be interesting to read - thank you!

@ David - brilliant comment - I'm just glad I was able to write about 100 + years and bring the era to light a little. Yes I have stories re sherry ...

... but your story about your birder expert sounds delightful and one of those tales you can tell and retell. That era was fabulous if you could hold your sherry - but I can imagine him and you being regaled and refilled. Those precious glasses are 'worrying' aren't they but so beautiful to behold - perhaps not hold. But his home sounds wonderful too ... and I'm sure that must have been fascinating to see ...

I used to visit a friend's father, who was a vicar nearby here, on my way down to my brother's when I came over from SA - Mum would drive us down and call in with presents and letters for her parents. There was sherry ++ ... so I relate to your telling of your experience. But excellent your chap thought Canadians as fine fellows ... definitely agree there.


@ Elsie - so pleased you enjoyed it ... and yes I thought I should add the note in about Robert Graves - he actually was quite ill during and after the War - he had shell shock - so it was his or her family that sorted those finer details out ... but as you say a creative answer to the lack of sugar rations.

@ Teresa - thank you ... I'm just delighted you enjoy visiting and commenting - so pleased ...

@ Keith - thank you - just glad I covered the bases and the scene could 'easily' be imagined. I can tell you - I've been wanting a slice of very rich fruit cake and tipple since writing this!

Thanks so much for visiting and commenting - compared to 100 years ago - - we are lucky ... as they had the Spanish flu as well as the War and post war effects. Take care and stay safe - Hilary

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Well, they managed to pull off everything else.

Toi Thomas said...

What a lovely story and so relatable to this year despite the historical setting. I love the ending and knowledge gained. It's always nice to learn something new. While I don't hate fruit cake I wouldn't normally eat it unless I made it myself, but then I haven't been rationing that much for that long.

H.R. Sinclair said...

Really nice! Thank you! The PS at the end was interesting too!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Diane - yes ... it was a good afternoon tea post WW1

@ Toi - thank you ... yes I thought the tie in was so appropriate for what we're going through at the moment - not nearly as bad though. I wouldn't have thought of the story - but for the Robert Graves' tale of his wedding cake. A rich fruit cake is something I love - but haven't cooked one for years ... I enjoy others though!

@ Holly - thank you ... excellent you noted the PS.

Thanks everyone - lovely seeing you all - take care - Hilary

Nilanjana Bose said...

I always learn something new over here! Had no idea about Robert Grave's cake having a plaster cast.

Your flash was marvellous - great build up and descriptions, made me want a slice of that fruit cake myself! Life wasn't easy a 100 years ago, was it? I always think that every time someone says 'good, old days'...a lot of those days weren't all that good, really.

Season's greetings to you and all the very best for 2021!

Inger said...

In times of trouble people step up and become creative and innovative. And it's such fun to come here and learn about things. Thank you for taking the time to do the research and share the information you gained with your readers. Love it!

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

well I learnt something whhich his good so thank yoou

D.G. Kaye said...

Clever and entertaining Hilary. You have the makings here for an interesting tale! Food for thought. Hugs xx

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Nila - thank you ... it was something I spotted when I was glancing through an article and being me - it resonated ... so here I could bring it into the story.
Thank you re the flash ... gungy fruitcake, meeting up - all things we'd love to have at the moment. Life back in WW1 must have been terrible - but humans have a way of being positive with laughter and smiles ... and sadly, despite all the horrors, life for those living goes on. Thanks for your thoughts ...

@ Inger - many thanks ... you're right in times of trouble people do step up becoming creative and innovative. Thankfully I just had to dredge my memory bank re the Robert Graves' cake and unmask it as a story here ...

@ Jo-Anne - that's great you learnt something ...

@ Debby - thank you ... it was fun to think about ... certainly food for thought - whether for writing further is another distinctly not very prominent thought!

Thanks so much to you all - always delighted to see you and for you commenting ... take care in the build up to Christmas ... and all the best - Hilary

Marja said...

Sounds like a great party. I love dressing ups and masks. Makes me think of Carnaval lol. The food might not have been excellent but when food is scarce it tastes even better. Love nuts and fruit. The fruitcake looks a bit like the Christmas cake here of which I am not a big fan. A bit heavy. Very well written btw

Lynda Dietz said...

An acquaintance of mine told us about having a plastic wedding cake when he got married in the 1970s in Japan. He said there was only a small wedge that was actual cake, and the rest was decorated plastic tiers. Apparently, it wasn't really tradition over there. The photos of it were pretty, but he said looks we're about all it had going for it.

mail4rosey said...

Oh my gosh about the cake!!! They're pretty, but I think I'd rather just skip it entirely. ;) Here to wish you a wonderful day!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Marja – in my make believe – it was a wonderful party! That’s fantastic you enjoy dressing up … it’s never been a favourite of mine … but I enjoyed writing the post. It was intended to be a rich, rich fruitcake – which I adore in tiny doses/slices/ a slither! Thank you re the write up …

@ Lynda – I’d never heard of the wedding cake secrets before – hidden under plastic covers … but obviously something that goes on. The Japanese one would leave us English participants a little disgruntled … still tradition is tradition – but your acquaintance puts it well!

@ Rosey – it was fun to read … and so useful for this prompt post. It’s only the homemade ones that are the best – I think … and has to be full of fruit without much cake!

Thanks to the three of you … we’re getting ever closer to that Christmas time of cheer and cake … stay safe, take care and all the best - Hilary

Victoria Marie Lees said...

A very interesting story, Hilary! The photos are, once again, beautiful. You know, I never liked fruit cake. I think it's because I don't really care for the dried fruit. Or is the fruit called "candied fruit" for fruit cakes? I always enjoy your posts, Hilary. Have a beautiful holiday, my dear!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Victoria ... just glad the photos fit the story line. I know some people don't like dried fruit ... we have (nowadays) cake fruit mix, and often add in glace cherries (I love those!). We usually don't add in candied fruits. Back after WW1 then I'm sure they used dried and some candied fruit - but sugar was in short supply ... I'm just happy you enjoyed it - thank you ... take care - Hilary

Susan Scott said...

No marzipan? Off with his head! Amusing story thank you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan - nope ... no marzipan - I have to have a small fix every Christmas ... but glad you enjoyed 'the story' ... take care - Hilary

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

I have to say that these descriptions of fruit cake make me think I should revisit my childhood shunning of such... though of course I still think that if I’m going to have sugar, it should include chocolate :D

Nice story!

Donna Hanton said...

This is such a unique twist on the prompt. Your description of the cake (as it should be, not the unmasked one) reminded me of Christmas at my grandmother's house.
That gathering, in all its glory, must have been so welcome after four years of war. As tough as this year has been, it's not been that!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Thanks Rebecca - I'm glad the post took you back to your childhood ... however much you don't crave fruitcake now ... but yes chocolate too - so good ... I try and avoid. Glad you enjoyed the tale ...

@ Donna - great to see you ... and thanks re the uniqueness of the 'take on the prompt' ... and the fact the post took you back to your Christmases with your grandmother ...

Exactly - we're not struggling compared to those who had to endure any war ... but the WW1 and WW2 here were awful ...

Take care both of you ... thanks for being here - all the best - Hilary

Bernadette said...

Somehow I was just as disappointed as the crowd when the cake was unmasked :( It sounded SO mouth-wateringly good.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bernadette - thanks for calling in and seeing the unmasked cake ... bet the cake was good, even without the marzipan or icing! Lovely to know you enjoyed ... all the best - Hilary

L.G. Keltner said...

Sometimes you're forced to do the best with what you have. Hopefully they still enjoy the rest of the celebration. Great writing as always!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Laura - great to see you ... and thanks for coming by - and yes in times of shortages we can do with very little and make do - I remember after WW2 my parents really did a great deal. Just glad you enjoyed the story and I'm sure they enjoyed themselves! Take care - Hilary

Deniz Bevan said...

Ooh, that was a surprising twist! Hope they still managed to have a fun masquerade!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deniz - it felt like they were having a good party ... but after WW1 I guess they'd be happy to be entertained, wined and caked! - even without the icing.

Poor Robert Graves had a bad war ... and suffered mentally ... but I just liked the concept of a masked cake ... fitted the prompt.

All the best for the year ahead - Hilary

Sanhita Mukherjee said...

Wonderful. Hard times can probably best be remembered as hardened plaster cast.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Sanhita - yes hard times for so many at the moment ... a slice of fruit cake with friends would be just wonderful! All the best - Hilary