Last week, I received an e-mail entitled thusly:
“Congratulations aspiring scholar, Hendrick’s Schools await you Monday 20th February!”
Aside from a couple of missing commas in the above sentence (*ahem*), this was a beautiful sentence to read, for I had “applied” to attend Hendrick’s School of Wooing and Eluding at The Lonsdale in Notting Hill. Per the website:
Each Leap Year on the 29th of February, the normal rules of courtship are REVERSED
and a lady may freely propose to a gentleman!
Public knowledge of advanced courtship techniques and the means of their rebuffal are
at a perilously low level. Far too many young women run the risk of a Horrendous
Disappointment – and too many men may succumb to dread ‘Commitment’…
FEAR NOT! Hendrick’s is here to furnish you with the knowledge & skills you need
to trap your man, or retain your liberty, during this month of Reverse Courtship’.
This is the first proper Hendrick’s Gin event I have attended, having missed out on a Valentine’s Day event they had back in 2010 because I had mistakenly thought it was going to go on throughout the evening. Alas, it had finished, but one of the two top-hatted and waist-coated men at the door kindly gave me a rose as a consolation gift. The rose was taken along with me to the Duckie St Valentine’s Day Ball I had gone to later that evening.
However, this year, there will be no consolation gifts for me, as I had RSVPed properly! No, this year, it would be the the whole shebang! Whatever Hendrick’s had to offer! Which, as my friend and I made our way from northeast London towards Notting Hill, was anyone’s guess. Yes, courses in woo and anti-woo were to be given out, but for those of us who never attended any sort of finishing school, we had no idea really what to expect, aside from gin.
We both did hope for canapés, as it happened that we both had eaten sparsely that day.
Upon arrival to The Lonsdale, we were greeted by a woman who ticked our names off a list of pupils and gave us name tags. We were then greeted by a glass of Hendrick’s Gin and tonic. It has been quite a while, actually, since I’ve had Hendrick’s Gin, and I’d forgotten how nice it tastes.
Awkwardly for my friend Dan and I, there were no canapés.
I shall confess now that I slightly chafed a bit with regards to how the schools were divided between the genders. The ladies were to attend the Ladies School of Nuptial Conquest, whereas the men were to attend the School for Scoundrels. The Ladies School of Nuptial Conquest feature lessons, basically, in how to snag your man. As stated on their site, “Ladies! All the wily, seductive cunning of your femininity will be concentrated on one object.” The object in question, presumably, will be a wedding ring (or perhaps the man himself).
Intriguing, however I would have much preferred going to a School for Scoundrels. That just sounds way cooler, and although this leap year men may have to find ways to elude women on the “Day of Opportunity,” wouldn’t that mean women need skills to help them elude men the rest of the year? AND the other years that aren’t leap years?!
Women are in far more need to learn the arts of eluding! Well, albeit in this day and age there are many people who don’t even really bother with marriage, and relationships are far more complex than these playfully anachronistic presentations make out….
Maybe I shouldn’t take things so seriously.
Alas, I didn’t quite have the gumption to break the gender barrier, especially considering that the lectures were all in good fun and, well, they were giving us free drinks. But maybe next time I can fulfil my dream of being a lady scoundrel, or, as what might be a new term that deserves admission into the English lexicon, a “scoundreless.”
I had also pondered on “scoundrelette,” but “scoundreless” sounds so much better.
When the faculty assembled on the Preposterous Proposal Throne to announce the commencement of the evening’s courses, I dutifully filed in with the rest of the ladies for lessons in how to persuade a man into marriage. There were more women in attendance than men, although there were some, like me, who were unattached and had no plans to find a man to pop the question to. There was one woman in attendance, however, who was already married, so that was interesting.
Then further actioned out by members of the course. Some of the pupils did remarkably well in emoting and acting the part. I eluded being called upon to test my wooing and swooning skills, mostly because the event photographer frequently was sitting in front of me in a booth seat, which allowed me the ability to take pictures and finish the rest of my G&T, which had been generously topped up from a teapot prior to entering into the class.
Remember, there were no canapés.
After the classes were finished, I met up with my friend at the bar, where he had a cocktail in hand, served in a manly old fashioned glass. I was told it had absinthe in it by my friend, but it may have been The Last Word which has chartreuse, or perhaps a variant of it. Ladies were given a very lady-like pink drink served in a slim champagne glass, whose likeness I cannot find on the Hendrick’s site. Should anyone remember the name of it, I would be grateful. I do remember seeing lychee juice used by the brown-aproned bartender, as well as a bubbley of some sort.
The Hendrick’s folks were gearing up for a new cropping of eager students as we sipped our drinks, so we eventually made our way out into the evening, but not without snagging another delicious drink for the road. By this point, my friend and I felt positively preposterous because, as you may recall, there were no canapés. We went off in search of something to fill our bellies with and restore us back to a sense of sobriety, leaving the professors of Hendrick’s Schools behind to educate another group.
For any ladies wishing to engage in any preposing, Hendrick’s Preposterous Proposal Throne will be touring the city on the 29th for any woman wishing to put a ring on a man’s finger–or a woman’s finger.
Meanwhile, I highly encourage Hendrick’s Gin to develop a finishing school for aspiring scoundrelesses. I will be waiting.