Well, last night was magnificent. Fraulein Hesser and I travelled down to Edinburgh for the Knights of Malta Ball at the Assembly Rooms in George Street. Our party was organised by Mr. Gerald Warner whose visceral lashings in print of all the senior hubrisarchs of our day are published in weekly in Scotland on Sunday. Alas, Mr. Warner was exposed to mumps recently, and thus could not come for fear of spreading the contagion, but he very kindly gifted us two tickets, for which we are extremely grateful. We toasted his health.
Abby and I arrived at the Assembly Rooms at about 7:15 and, after dropping off our coats, ran into Zygmunt von Sikorski-Mazur. He leads a double life as Knight-of-Malta/society-photographer, covering some St Andrews events, and was part of our party for the evening, so I introduced him to Abby. We made our way upstairs for champagne where we ran into the legendary Alec Tod (who happens to be an alumnus of our university), and discused papabile, the general election, Abby’s forthcoming journey from the Eastern Church into the Western Church, and the general shape of the world in coming years.
Alec introduced us to Fra’ Matthew (the Grand Prior of England) who was a perfectly jovial fellow. Upon learning that Abby calls California home, Fra’ Matthew recounted to us his tale of driving from Denver to the Golden State and, upon seeing the Pacific, taking off his shoes, rolling up his trousers, and running in.
We were then piped in to dinner, departed from Alec (who was seated at another table), and made our way to ours. The Warner Party, though lacking its fearless leader, was still formidable, being composed of Abigail and myself, the aforementioned Zygmunt von Sikorski-Mazur, Lt. Col. Jamie Bogle, a barrister, and his wife Joanna, whom I had previously met and greatly admire (both up from London and staying with Fr. Emerson), as well as two couples, Warwick and Jane Shaw and Gerry and Louise Henry, of whom I had no previous acquaintance but proved quite friendly.
Joanna was telling me of how they had been invited to Rome for the beatification of the Emperor Charles of Austria this October past, since she had written a short biography of the Blessed Charles. She was deeply moved to see Dr. Otto von Hapsburg, MEP, current leader of the clan and at least 90 years old, kneeling down to kiss the ring of the Pontiff who himself was named after the Blessed Charles (Karol being the Polish for Karl).
Jamie, Zygmunt, and Alec conspiring after dinner
The best aspect of the evening had to be the conversation, which was simply superb. Throughout dinner, Abby was on my left and Joanna on my right, and so this triumvirate of good times and common sense made for astute discussion. Joanna was further telling us of when Jamie was still in the Army in Berlin and they used to run banned books across into Poland. They even had to keep watch while their confederates painted pro-Solidarity slogans on walls. Gerry Henry, who was seated on the other side of Abby, informed me of an eccentric film I’ve got to see, filmed in sepia in the 1980’s, called ‘Sir Henry at Rawlinson End’, which imdb.com describes as “P.G. Wodehouse on acid.” After dinner, Alec came round to our table, enjoying a cigar, and we ruminated on the brilliance, charm, and singularity of St Andrews. It really is peerless.
The centrepiece of each table was a homemade knight’s helmet, which, upon our investigations, was made of altered plastic flower pots, cardboard, and aluminum foil. Despite the pleadings of his good wife, Mr. Bogle could not be brought to try the improvised helmet on, but graciously conceded to having his photo taken with it.
An altogether lovely evening. I even managed to accidentally reunite Joanna Bogle with an old friend of hers (Maeve Christie), but that’s another story. We got back to St Andrews in the hour of 2, so not all that late, though past my usual elderly-man-in-training bedtime. A shame that Gerald Warner couldn’t be there, especially since he organised our whole party, but perhaps next year. And hopefully then we can get Tori Truett, Rob, Maria, et alia up too. Good times, good times.